Sunday, September 16, 2007 by Ospite.

Friday night was chaos. Complete and utter chaos.

Half of the line was new and half of the line was veterans. What was causing the disastrous debacle? New "roll-outs."

We've been bought out and our menu changed a little. The staple chicken parmesan dish has been drastically changed and it's become wildly popular. On top of that, the ticket time for the dish has been extended to 16 minutes. So on a Friday night when the kitchen has underprepped the chicken parms, is training a pack of newbies, and the host staff was compiled of 3 girls lost in space, it was a wonderful addition to the mayhem that the foodrunners were also new and didn't remember table numbers.

Can you tell the Trattoria just went through a hiring wave?

Included in this onslaught of fresh meat were: 2 new dishwashers, 3 new waiters, 2 foodrunners, 4 chefs, 3 hostesses, and a bartender.

The groove was off enough that the regulars were curious about the air of confusion. To the ones I new relatively well, I went right ahead and explained. For the irregular customers (and I do mean irregular) there was a lot of ignoring going on.

One bizarre table after another...

(the woman who winked at me while her husband and son weren't looking, and had to yell at her mother because she forgot her hearing aid)

(the big Italian-American guy who tried to coach my Italian to impress his tiny blonde trophy girlfriend despite the fact he americanized every diphlong and couldn't roll his r's)

(the arrogant prick that sent back two glasses of Ecco Domani merlot because it "didn't taste right," but the third glass from the same bottle was "excellent." It's a $5.50 glass of wine.)

...was just icing on the cake.

When it was time for me to be cut from the floor I was overjoyed until I realized the girls cut the floor too early and without asking how far to cut. So I was assisting at the podium to finish filling the floor and a 4top with two college girls in volleyball hoodies came almost running in with two remarkably well-dressed parents almost skipping in behind them. I jumped at this table. Two starving athletes just out of a game with parents in from out of town? Gold.

Sure thing, this one night-redeeming table ordered wine, two appetizers, four entrées, three desserts and coffee. The ease of this table was briefly interrupted though by the one really big thing that went down..the thing that I'd never seen in our restaurant before:

Stefano, new dishman number 1, was on pan detail pulling dirty pots and pans from the window between the external kitchen (The Line) and the prep/dish section of the kitchen (The Kitchen). If the chefs aren't caferul, they spill oil and remaining food on the floor in the precarious area making it dangerous for the guys in the back. Stefano speaks primarily Spanish.

Jack, new chef number 1, was on sauté detail, closest to the window. He needed extra space on the window so he shoved pans out of the way. Stefano was below cleaning the spills so he wouldn't kill himself. At a particularly ill-timed moment, Stefano ducked out of view and Jack tossed a pan with olive oil through the window. It missed Stefano by inches, he jumped up and started yelling. Jack yelled back, pissed because Stefano wouldn't do his job "properly." One yelling in Spanish and one in English, on The Line that technically is almost on the dining room floor. Finally Jack took a handfull of mushrooms and hurled them through the window. Stefano stormed off.

This was recalled to me by one of the chefs standing right there, I heard the tumult from across the dining room, excused myself from the table, and went straight for the kitchen. At this moment I walked in, followed by the General Manager, two waitresses, and Jack who was coming to find Stefano. Stefano was coming across the Kitchen with a hateful look in his eyes. Right between them was the GM. As soon as Jack saw the look that said Stefano may be a foot shorter but he'd clearly kill him, he stepped back.

"Listen man, I'm sorry. I crossed the line." At this point he raised his hands forward, which Stefano took as a forceful gesture. He stepped forward, threw a cup of Coke in his face and shoved him right in the solar plexus so Jack doubled over, falling into waitres A who I caught, and placed to the side. Here's where those of us who have worked security in the past clicked from restaurant mode to bouncer mode. Dishman 2 pulled off his apron and came up behind Stefano. I threw my towel from my shoulder, dropped the apron and stepped up behind Jack. Jon threw off his towel and came up behind the GM.

The two fighters took one step in, realized that the other 4 of us all moved in at the same moment, and time just stopped. Everything froze. No one spoke. Jack leaned in, Stefano leaned in, and Dish 2 and I moved simultaneously, taking the shoulders of the guy in front of us pulling him back, both taking hold from under one arm, across the chest and over the far shoulder stealing their balance. The GM jumped in,

"Alright alright. Back, guys, back. Jack, get your ass on the line, Stefano, come with me. NOW!"

I walked back onto the floor and completely forgot about the drinks for Table 61...the last 4top with the volleyball players. As I approached I realized that the younger of the girls and I have mutual friends. (why it didn't click before is beyond me)

She called me by name and asked slowly, "Um...what just happened?" I realized my tie was all crooked, my towel and apron both gone.

I literally pulled up a chair, sat down at the head of the table, and recalled the entire night's events to their eager ears. When the tale was done, I continued the service and they finished their meal plesently. I had done all my sidework and there was nothing left, so they asked me to join them while they ate dessert. I gladly complied, giving my night a pleasant finale. Well, ultimately, the finale was the 30% tip.


Blogger Manuel said...

Tremendous story! Damn glad you didn't jack it in! Oddly enough I had lady volleyball people all day yesterday. Legs longer than me and cute as kittens.

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for still posting!

I have one thing to say for slippery tile on a busy night: Salt.

Even the cheapest ceramic tile, covered with oil, will be completely useable, if you just sprinkle salt on it.

Makes it a bit of a pain to clean up, but it beats the crap out of trying to clean an oily floor mid-shift.


7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can never leave us, you write too damn well.

Love ya! ~ Shari

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Ribeye of your Dreams said...

I enjoy nights like that every weekend. My night cooks are like children. One half of them are veteran cocaine addicts, the other veteran drunks. They combine their efforts to screw up all of our food. I have 20 minute ticket times on side items, on a slow night.

I am a server too, a cocktail server for a reasonably busy restaurant with a game room/bowling alley/dining room/and billiard room, in nashville, formerly known as Jilians. It's not so much fine dining as fun dining, but we have our problems just like anywhere else. I started a blog too if you want to check it out, I've added your page to my blogroll as I've found it to be awesome.
Add me if you'd like =)
Thanks for reading, and KEEP UP THE AWESOME WRITING!

11:05 PM  

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At your service, Ospite

I am not in the restaurant business, I am in the people business. I use every opportunity to people watch, because to me, even the most mundane is fascinating.

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