Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tricky customers and male egos 28/05/09

Negative vibes last night in the kitchen. Mi marito said, ‘I don’t even go there any more if I can avoid it, I don’t like the atmosphere.’ They were all shouting at each other when I arrived and then hushed up when they saw me. I think we got the whole kitchen wrong. I don’t like it, even the aiuto cuoco with his earnestness, he hasn’t got good ‘manualità’ as they say here, he doesn’t manipulate the food well, his plates are graceless and unpalatable looking.

A highly strung girl came in (she had come in for the opening and been super-enthusiastic), with her tangoed fake tan and tight clothes and complexes, accompanied by a minute girl with her minute dog. They sat at the table next to mine (I was eating), greeting il barman effusively. She gave me a brief smile and then checked – just checked, not really expecting a negative, ‘It’s OK to have the dog here, vero, he’s just piccolino.’ The barman says ‘Not at all, no probs!’ I leaned across and said, ‘Maybe next time it would be better to leave your little dog outside when people are eating.’ Now, no doubt I was too direct for the delicate Sicilian soul, and no doubt I was annoyed with the barman for not referring to me – but I think it is fair comment. I thought it was very unusual to expect to bring a dog into a restaurant, however tiny. But I should have seen that this girl was trouble. She had the face of many years of discontent and abusive sunbed use. So she went into convulsions of disgust at having been spoken to about her minute dog and moved a couple of tables down and engaged il barman in an urgent discussion about how a dog is allowed anywhere.

My other unfortunate moment of the night was when I accused three respectable ladies of scarpering without paying the bill. Well, not exactly. But there were three glamorous blond highlighted buxom dames at table 7 in the corner who appeared to heartily enjoy their meal; when they left I checked on the table and couldn’t see the conto, and then they asked if they could go out the garden gate and I remembered mi suocero saying so many people had done a runner out the gate, so I suddenly felt over-suspicious and checked again if the money was there – no sign. So I went down after them and asked mi marito if they had paid (as sometimes people just pay at the till) and he said they hadn’t, so il cameriere went after them and checked and I came too and apologized, I said I couldn’t find it, and they laughed and said they had left it on the next table, and joked that they could hardly do a runner in their high heels and with their significant weight. How was I to see it on the next table? It is true that mi marito’s family endless stories about how often people used to try and do a runner, has probably made us a bit paranoid. Hilarious. In my defence, it is also true that when you first move to a foreign country your parametres for sizing people up go slightly haywire, and I still haven't quite figured people out yet here.

Il cameriere was stressed and agitated again last night, constantly checking his mobile and smoking a lot. Problems keeping up with his two girlfriends, his ex-wife and his two young children. He keeps telling me about the women who want to sleep with him. The highly strung bronzed minute dog woman was all over him on leaving and I said, ‘Oh was she on about her friend’s dog again?’ and he said, ‘Assolutamente! Not at all!’ unconvincingly, then added cautiously, ‘We did always used to let people in with their dogs though.’ (He had worked for the mi marito’s family when they were running it, but it was more of a pub/trattoria then) and he said, leaning over the counter towards my husband, but so I could hear, ‘Tutte vogliono trombare’ (they all just want to sleep with me)!

Il barman still thinks he is the prima donna. He started on again about the Vileda cloths we should get for cleaning glass and I went to the kitchen to get the ones I had got at the Cash and Carry and produced them. He didn’t look one bit pleased.I cleaned the counter because it was all paw prints, and he said he had cleaned it at the beginning of the evening. Sure that’s great, but the point is it needs to be cleaned all the time, after customers have been there. I pointed it out to him, look how dirty it is here! Right in his area too in front of where he serves! Mi marito had a spritz (white wine with Aperol or Campari, very refreshing dry cocktail) and I noticed il barman had put on a sliver of cucumber skin like I had suggested (we got them like that in Florence in a bar we used to go to for the aperitivo and the smell of the fresh cucumber as you sip your drink just completes the pleasant experience). Mi marito said, ‘Oh, I like the cucumber’ and il barman said, ‘Yes, I always make it like that now,’ without so much as a flicker of recognition towards me. I had a sip but then suggested using shorter straws too, because with the longer ones you don’t get the smell, the whole point is that you get the scent of the cucumber as you sip your drink and it all makes for a refreshing experience. Mi marito sipped as I suggested, with the shorter straws, ‘See, now you get the smell, don’t you?’ I said, and he nodded and told il barman to use the shorter straws. Il barman nodded his head in agreement; anything for mi marito.


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