Sunday, August 1, 2010

Work Inspectors on the prowl

Last night, Friday night, again our aiuto cuoco is off – this time at a theatre performance where he plays a crucial part in the play apparently. We are going to have a serious talk to him about responsibility tonight. Then our waiter asked us for a loan of €2500 at the end of the night. What? What do these people think we are made of? Do they think that having 4 or 5 tables a night with moderately priced food and then selling cocktails for a few hours puts us in a position to offer bank facilities? Don’t they realise that we have big overheads? That we constantly pay, then owe then pay then owe our suppliers? He wanted the money to buy a scooter! These Sicilians ragazzi have not learnt basic work and responsibility ethics (I blame the indulging parents). Mio marito explained that the thing to do was save his wages and in October he would be able to buy a scooter. But he wants to go to Ibiza in October he says, on holiday. Ah yes, but at the age of 20 you can’t have it all, my friend.

The perfidious Inspettori di Lavoro were on the prowl last night. We got the warning from the bar next door that they were at the restaurant in the piazza just below our house. It has just recently opened, so like us last year, they were getting the full works. I walked down through the piazza to get a look at them so we would be able to identify them if they came our way while mio marito got out all the contracts and wages details. Even though everyone is in legal employment with us we still felt nervous. We had to tell the cook to get out of the kitchen because he is still on trial and doesn’t want a contract until August for reasons of his own. So mio marito was the official cook, with the dishwasher giving a hand and my sister-in-law doing most of the cooking. How are the gambas pil pil done, she came down to ask. Just garlic, white wine and chilli pepper? I took orders and tried to steer everyone towards panini, piadini or pasta or steaks which were within our competence – starting with the house antipasto, which most people went for too ( a fabulous mix of Sicilian seasonal treats, such as the caponatina, the parmigiana, stuffed aubergines, courgette roulades etc). Luckily, for the night that was in it, most people followed my advice. I had to offer the swordfish rolls (already made up earlier and just requiring the grill) instead of the swordfish tortino, which we didn’t know how to make, and we called in the cook briefly to do a prawn and courgette risotto and tagliata (beef steak). But the table in question, a Danish family, said it was the best food they had eaten on their holidays, and if vegetarian food was always this good (referring to the antipasto), that they would all become vegetarian! They said I was the first person who spoke English they had come across in two weeks’ holidays.

Meanwhile the Napolitano cook was stealthily monitoring the Work Inspectors' movements. He'd phone us every so often to update us, talking in such low spy-level tones, a mix of neopolitan dialect and RĂ©sistance urgency, that I could hardly understand him. An easy night's work for him. When the Work Inspectors drove off - five of them in total, serious (state money-making) mission, he donned his chef-gear again. 'Phew! Just as well we had all the antipasti prepared!' he said, sweeping his hand around the assorted dishes. Now let's get stuck in to work.' 'We've done it all,' said mio marito. And his sister whispered that her mother had prepared all the antipasti.

Apart from the newly opened restaurant, the work inspectors went to the noisy bar next to it and fined them for not having a permit for their musicians to play on the street (another state tax), and also visited a posh restaurant below the castle, where they had a heated discussion with the managers which nearly came to blows. The argument was keenly observed by bored locals delighted with the spontaneous entertainment.

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