The Italian Affair Complaint - The Long Dark Night of the Stomach

Review by cheshirecatz on 2006-09-30
GLASSBORO, NEW JERSEY -- We always enjoyed dining in this family owned restaurant close to our home. The food is excellent and the atmosphere relaxing. Our family has had a number of Christening lunches there. It is rather expensive, though, but often on pay day I treat myself to dinner there.

This evening my sister and I stopped there after a hectic day, greedily looking forward to a delicious dinner. But our experience left a bad taste in our mouths that unfortunately ruined the taste of the food.

We were immediately escorted to our table and our water glasses filled. So far, so good. I quickly picked out my menu selection and then took a look at the large wine list. The gentleman who brough us to our table immediately rushed over and asked if I wanted to order wine. I said no, but I did want a cocktail. I was polite, although I had had a rough day and I wanted my drinkee. And (like Wednesday in the Addams Family, I wanted it NOW). He snatched the wine list out of my hand, said that he would send us a waiter and vanished in something of a huff.

"Don't you know who that is?" My sister asked "It's the owner, not a waiter. You shouldn't have asked him for anything."

Well, excuuuuuuuse me. I had been under the impression that a person who gave you menus and showed you to a table might be interested in helping a customer obtain food and drink. Silly me. Apparently I had made the mistake of not only asking the owner to do something for me, but I had showed no interested in buying an expensive bottle of wine. Henceforth our little table was consigned to the outer darkness in Restaurant Hell. It just took a while to figure that out. My sister and I can be touchingly innocent about things like that.

We sat and we sat and we sat. While all around us waiters and waitresses appeared at other tables, took orders and reappeared with food and drink and baskets of yummy little Italian rolls. Were we invisible? Did we smell? I had used my deodorant that morning. I surreptiously sniffed my arm pits. Maybe it had worn off.

Finally, my sister tired of my whining and went off to find the owner. She is a schoolteacher and much more assertive than I am. She returned with the news that he apologized and would send a waiter right away. We rejoiced. At last I could have my drink and my gnocchis with spinach. But, alas, our excitement was premature. Because we sat, and we sat and we sat...

"Let's go to PB's." My sister finally said. PB's Diner was Glassboro's other premiere eatery. The food was overall tasty, the service generally good and the prices reasonable. But, I wimpered, they didn't have gnocchis with spinach and cream sauce. And most of the waitstaff at PB's didn't have a clue how to make a good wine spritzer.

Finally, a waitress appeared. She was very sweet and apologized for keeping us waiting. It was "alright" we muttered. It really wasn't alright but we wanted food, not revenge. Besides, she had the deer in headlights looks of a new waitress and we didn't want to scare her away.

We gave our orders and she actually managed to write down all my sister's instructions. My sister can never just simply order something. Her sauces have to be on the side, her salads must have no tomatoes or onions but instead extra croutons and she never wants dressing with her turkey. She also insists on asking the waitstaff if a particular dish is good. I keep trying to explain that they will all lie to her because 1: they will not say anything bad about anything their employer cooks because they want to keep their jobs and 2: they want her to just hurry up and order something. But she is a trusting person and keeps asking.

Then it was my turn. I happily ordered my wine spritzer and gnocchis and spinach in cream sauce, all unpleasantness behind me. I didn't even mention the fact that we never received a basket of the yummy rolls.

The waitress murmured something into her pad.

"What?" I blared. My order was simple. Why did she look confused?

"They are not serving the spinach." she whispered.

"What? Why not? It says SPINACH right on the menu!"

My sister kicked me under the table. "Spinach, spinach" she hissed. "Remember E Coli? Nobody is selling it."

"But that is just RAW spinach" I wailed aloud. "Cooking it kills the E Coli."

Oops. The waitress looked shocked. Mentioning E Coli out loud in a restaurant is the show stopping equivalent of passing gas. I slumped into my chair, chastized, and ordered the penne with asparagas and rose sauce. And we sat in pleased anticipation. And sat. And sat....

Galaxies turned and suns were born and died. At last our drinks and salads arrived but not the yummy rolls. I asked for rolls and was assured they would be right out.

Life continued all about us. People who came in after us dug into their calamari and mussels. Thank goodness I had my wine spritzer. It was excellent, just tart enough, and I finsihed it quickly. At some point in the long, dark night of the stomach our waitress appeared. "Your dinners will be right out" she said hastily as she put our rolls down and fled, The poor thing probably felt that she had been assigned to the Donner Party.

Yet we were treated to the sight of the owner, who managed to visit every table in our area except the Plague Table. He spent about 10 minutes with the couple at the table next to us, who were clever enough to order a bottle of wine. Those people practically had their feet kissed. The owner promised them their food would arrive any second (and it did even though they arrived after we did) and to let him know if they had ANY problems at all. All I wanted was another wine spritzer but fat chance of getting that. A bus boy took pity on us and filled our water glasses.

And then, at last, the food arrived! It was piping hot and tasted wonderful. But, alas, there was a bad taste in my mouth. I felt that we were not welcome in this restaurant. It was like sitting in somebody's living room and suddenly realizing that you had outstayed your welcome and they couldn't care less if you stayed or left and never came back. Nobody asked us if we wanted another drink, or coffee. And I wanted to throw the yummy rolls at the smug couple and their expensive bottle of wine. I had received better service in Friendly's Restaurant in Glassboro (and Friendly's is a story unto iself) and paid much less. My sister and I asked for boxes for our left overs and sullenly scraped our plates into them. This is a rather tacky thing to do in a posh restaurant as the waitstaff is suposed to do this for you out of sight, but we just wanted to leave. My sister and I took bets as to how long it would take for the check to arrive. I forget who won. I told the waitress how disappointed we were and she apologized over and over and we gave our usual generous tip anyway because we wouldn't be back.

On the way out I decided to say something to the owner. But he was busy with his wine bottles and I didn't want to bother him.
Comments:5 Replies - Latest reply on 2006-10-03
Posted by Harold on 2006-09-30:
Thanks for sharing your story. The way you wrote it was funny, but the situation was not. The owner needs to lighten up. As the owner he should be delighted to help you and serve you and if he is not or if he is selective in who he wants to serve because they buy more and spend more, then shame on him. As far as saying anything to him on the way out it probably would not have made any difference. Chalk it up to experience I guess and maybe better luck next time.
Posted by *Brenda* on 2006-10-01:
FYI they said on the news that cooking it may not kill the e-coli that was in the contaminated spinach. Be careful! :)
Posted by S. on 2006-10-01:
Chessie, have you contacted Random House? Someone told me they specialize in fiction. :)
Posted by cheshirecatz on 2006-10-01:
Ponie, why in the world would you think I was making this up? If I was I would come up with something more original than just being ignored in a restaurant.
Posted by caa on 2006-10-03:
Love the commentary. I'm sorry you were treated so poorly. A good owner/manager will pitch in and will be concerned for every patron.

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