Sunday, June 26, 2011

Friendly carabinieri!

We haven’t even had any hassle from the carabinieri this year – touch wood. They have called in a few times on their beat, but fortunately on both occasions the dj had just stopped so there was no music on. But we can’t really be faulted on that since we have music inside only, while the four other bars within a 100metre radius all have live music outside … which doesn’t go down well with the neighbours. It is completely illegal to play live music at the volume they do, in a residential area, but this hasn’t stopped anyone until now.

The mayor called a meeting of all the bar/restaurant owners and said we were to be mindful of the neighbours and keep the music at a lower volume – but it wasn’t a definite prohibition, certainly not enough to prevent any of our competitors from having live music at the weekend. The mayor says he will now be responsible for issuing permits for live music etc, which is as it should be, but we are not convinced he will be attentive to the other borgo issues. The rubbish collection problem was not mentioned. Stagnant overflowing skips festered all week across the road from our restaurant, the fetid stench invading our front terrace and bar. And there is never any street cleaning. The scirocco south eastern wind has been blowing up dust, sand and dirt for a month now and the streets are filthy with litter, but still no street cleaning. The dirt gets into the house as well, even with shutters; it’s enough to leave the window open for half an hour to have a layer of dirt across the tables, floor etc. I want those superb lorries with the hose that clean the streets at night in Spain.

The carabinieri have another target though: the bar that opened last summer in the beautiful old square with the church below our restaurant. The owners put out tables all over the square, catching many a tourist who doesn’t know that we have beautiful terraces at the back. He also plays live music in the piazza at the weekend, which reverberates between the two churches and shakes the foundations of the houses all along the street. So the police have visited the restaurant several times saying people are complaining. They even took the manager away to the police station for a good talking to, where he apparently insulted the superintendent. The police then gave him a hefty fine for not having paid for the right to have tables out on the square. It’s a lengthy process, which we gave up on; we thought it would be nice to have tables on the small square in front of our restaurant, but not worth the bureaucracy and queues and endless paper pushing. So now there is silence in the church square, no tables, no live music. I’m sure once the permit comes through he’ll make up for it.

Meanwhile my husband was summonsed to the police station, without being told why. We wondered about music but thought it couldn’t possibly be. It turned out to be an investigation into our DJ; since he works in the marines, he isn’t allowed to have another job. The carabinieri made a huge deal out of it, had mio marito swear not to perjure etc, wanting to know when the DJ played and for how long etc. But mio marito told them he plays for us for free; he’s a good, clean-living guy, our DJ. As if they haven’t anything more serious to be doing … eh, preventing drug trafficking, mafia dealings, street patrol at night in the borgo … The best of it was, the superintendent complimented mio marito on his manners: ‘Yours is the only locale where we have had no problems. You and your staff are always polite and compliant.’ It is probably the only drug-free, underage-free, Mafioso-free place in town, judging from reports of other places. We worked hard to keep the low-lives out, not easy. Nice that the police, finally, have recognized this. Someone once joked that it was the restaurant with the highest percentage of third level education, since we and our staff all have degrees and masters. Not that university education necessarily means good manners prevail, but a little bit of intelligence, as opposed to hot-tempered resistance, goes a long way when dealing with the carabinieri.

Tutto va bene

Dare I say it? Things are going well at Pachamama. We have a good team in the kitchen and in the sala and all work more or less in harmony. It is a relief to feel so secure at the start of the busy season – and a novelty, looking back to the previous two years! I can see it in our attitude to potential customers; no longer are we falling over ourselves to explain our menu and ethos, we are assured, friendly and confident in recommending our place.

Our aperitivo is the best in town, reflected in the numbers on a Sunday evening and also the increase in party bookings wanting aperitivo-style service. We went to another bar in the centre for a friend’s birthday and after an hour of waiting there was still no sign of the aperitivo. The sangria that my friend had ordered wasn’t ready when we arrived so she asked for a few bottles of wine, but when they emptied there were no waiters around to bring more. At ours we agree a number of bottles beforehand according to the size of the group so the bottles are all ready on the tables once the party arrives, and we allocate a waiter to attend … no comparison. Made us feel good though!