Saturday, November 21, 2009

Desserts .. waitressing skills .. music .. smile! 22/05/09

We have a little issue about the music. I am the one with the huge music selection on the iPod and cds, but when I put on nice background music for diners(bossanova, flamenco fusion, Feist, Ceu, Bebel Gilberto …) mi marito often switches it to something more lively like house or hip hop. I don’t think that music is ideal for eating, though it may well be OK after midnight on Friday and Saturday night. As soon as mi marito sees a few men come up to the bar though he reaches for the CDs and sticks on something loud and pumping. Or simply turns up the volume. So we have this farcical situation whereby he turns it up and I turn it down and he fires over dirty looks. The barman asked once to put on his music and then knew better than to interfere.

Unfortunately we can’t seem to agree on this; he says he knows what he is talking about and I should just let him get on with it, but I feel strongly about it since it creates the ambience. On that subject, he is obsessed with the lighting and says we haven’t got the lights right yet, so any time he goes out he comes back with new lamps or lighting experiments. Let him get on with the lights and leave me to the music, I reckon. Our ‘locale’ is no longer the place of DJs on a Friday night – I had said that when the DJ was there for the opening night –I asked him to stick to his chill out selection instead of the pumping volume he put on as the night went on. OK to have the dj but he brought a dodgy crowd and people drank too much and got rowdy. That is not what we want. I think sometimes mi marito is too stuck with the memory of what it once was.

Setting tables, clearing tables, resetting tables, carrying glasses and plates to the kitchen and meals upstairs, cutting bread, making sure no one is stealing … hmmmm. This is the new life. The waiters tried to teach me how to carry three plates, but my hand doesn’t seem to have the necessary flat bit at the palm for carrying the second plate on one arm! But I managed to carry three desserts on one tray also holding the wineglass down with my thumb. Required real muscle power in the arms. It is better if I take the orders at the tables, but this also requires great concentration. The menu being new, the customers have lots of questions and I am still getting used to the strong Sicilian accent here. Plus they really stare when they realise I am foreign and this puts me off my little speeches about the tapas and what to recommend. I am also quite slow as I have to do a double check at the end to make sure I have taken everything down correctly. Cocktail orders are the worst because they invent all sorts of things and ask for them to be really strong too! Dessert orders are best because all the desserts are made on the premises. I asked my mother for foolproof recipes that the cooks couldn’t possibly get wrong. She is the best cook I know, a true Pachamama and expert at desserts. We serve our lemon cream in a cappuccino cup with chopped strawberries on top and thin biscuits on the side and it looks lovely. Her chocolate mousse is to die for, but I have noticed that mi marito has sneakily given the aiuto cuoco some kind of ready made cocoa mixture to speed him up. There is no need for it, the guy just needs practice. There were supposed to be round little meringues with fruit in the centre and cream on top, but the aiuto cuoco can’t get the meringue right, he always over cooks or undercooks it … so we crumble the good bits and make the strawberry fool instead, looks amazing in the wineglass. I have finally gotten the aiuto cuoco to understand that artificial spray cream is not on. How he could even dream of it is beyond me, they are obsessed with cream in Sicily.

Our friend Gianni from our local cafe down the road said I see you are more relaxed today, you need to relax a bit more and you’ll be fine. I asked what he thought about people smoking inside and how to deal with rude customers and he said 'you as a woman can be sweet and make yourself understood, don’t be arrogant to dogmatic as that won’t work with the locals.' My cugnata (one of our waitresses) said she had said ‘Guys, you know you can’t smoke inside’ and she had got the whole ‘Who the hell are you’ chat, and she simply said, that is irrelevant but you know I can get a fine if you smoke and the guy pulled out a police ID and said I will never get fine (abuse of authority!), and she said ‘I thought of saying you should be giving the good example' -but I just said - 'but if you smoke others will smoke and then what will I do?’ And eventually he went outside. So I will have to work on this pleasant attitude to creepy smokers in my restaurant. I am probably a bit teacher-like in my attitude. But Gianni said, you have the fabulous smile, you will make it work with that alone. Use it! When you are at a loss, smile! Nice to get encouragement and not just criticism. And Sergio, one of mi marito’s mates on Sunday night, asked him, ‘Who is the girl with the wonderful smile over there?’ and mi marito said proudly, ‘That is my wife’! At a certain point in the evening, I will spot his arm extending towards me as he is chatting to some nicely-turned out couple, and it is the signal that I am to go over on cue to the ‘Let me introduce my wife’.

Our male waiter asked me for a mirror in the staff toilet – ‘Lola, te lo dico a te, ma non sarebbe possible avere uno specchio nel bagno?’ I couldn’t help but laugh, these vain Italian males. 'Gioia, you want to check how handsome you are; but don’t you think there are enough mirrors here, can’t you manage with all the ones in the restaurant? (there is a huge one opposite the bar and two old Sicilian style ones in the other two rooms). He laughed but two minutes later he said, it isn’t for narcisismo you know, as if he was embarrassed I'd caught him out.I said, of course it is!

I had to make my first cocktail today, and what was it – a tinto de verano! The guy asked for a sangria so I made that instead. The desciption sounds a bit like a drink your grandfather would have in Sicily (red wine with lemon soda or gaseosa lemonade, since older people drink their wine watered down like that) rather than the ultimate refreshing drink for summer in Spain. Also I explained it was with vino tinto (instead of vino rosso), slipping into Spanish by mistake and the man laughed, since tinto means off!

A nice couple came back, and were all delighted that I recognised them ( I was delighted myself, at the moment everyone just looks the same to me).I had seen them on Saturday night. They enjoyed all, especially the tapas so that was encouraging.

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