Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's opening night tonight 15/05/09

When I organize things, everything is planned in advance and sorted out ahead of schedule, guaranteeing a calm running order for the event itself. But here in Sicily there is no such thing as forward planning. Everything runs on the basis that things can only be achieved at the last minute and only if you stress people enough to do things for you. It certainly doesn’t feel like we are opening tonight.

There is still a mess in the bar area; workmen’s’ tools, painter’s pots and brushes, things the previous manager left behind. We have been to the supermarket and vegetable shop and cash and carry to do the massive shop and compare prices. The cooks are hard at it in the kitchen, the first frowning and looking meaner by the minute, the second talking non-stop in his high pitched monologue.

The restaurant outlet calls us with the disappointing news that the blackboards won’t arrive in time despite reassuring promises to the contrary. They were to go behind the bar with the tapas and wines on them. Quite a novelty since blackboards are not used much here, but often a focus-point in a tapas bar. Anyway, the excuse is that the suppliers in Palermo didn’t have the right size and so rather than send on the smaller size they waited to hear back. The outlet had arranged for them to arrive yesterday with another order they had put in, even though we ordered them over three weeks ago …

The barman arrives and fills up the fridges with beers and juice and starts setting up the shelves: the left hand side with wines, and filling in the right hand side with rums, whiskeys, vodkas etc …

The man comes with the till and sets it up in the midst of all: drills from the last switches and lights going up, friends and gossips coming in for a sneak preview, family coming in to give a hand and see how we are getting on. Instead of showing us the simple basics of entering the data for a drinks bill or restaurant bill, he goes into the complications of making out a tax receipt which requires special codes. I have already said I don’t want to be on the till at the beginning, as I have seen how impatient Sicilians get when in line for something, and don’t want to have to deal with crowds of drunk people waiting impatiently. However, the till man has decided to tell me exclusively how it works, as if this will be my special job. It is all too much; so far none of the men (lawyer, accountant, contract lawyer, suppliers etc has wanted to have much to do with me, preferring to deal with my husband, and anyway all the technical explanations are wasted on me.

The three waiters arrive and start setting up tables and sorting out their own table at the side of each of the three rooms with cutlery, glass, napkins etc. One of them has also brought the menu, which looks good thankfully. All the names in Spanish and Italian, with the rigorous description of each dish. Such a lot of work.

A final check on the kitchen – surprisingly calm – and we’re off to get ready.

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