Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recall That Restaurant (Boston Review)


Walking on the sunkissed, cobblestone streets of The North End in Boston, my father was stressing my brother out, endlessly wondering in circles trying to find a place to eat for dinner. Now, my dad has a tendency to play the game of roaming street corners in order to find the very best restaurant. At this point, my brother, mother and I were tired, dehydrated and starving for some good, authentic Italian food. Most of the eateries displayed menus consisting of chicken francese, eggplant parmesan, etc. Let me tell you friends, this is NOT at all Italian cuisine. I was shocked to run past a Sardinian specialty restaurant as well, for The North End mostly consists of fried meatballs, salami, over-stuffed cannoli and fake gelato.

When a restaurant is empty, that usually implies that there are no customers. Hence, a bad vibe (at least that’s what I had always been taught). My father, very hopeful and convinced, spotted a restaurant tucked in the corner on the outskirts of the main drag. The lights were dim, it was about 7:00pm at night and the staff members were outside relaxing, waiting for people to walk in. I am use to avoiding these locations because when servers stand outside, they usually try to persuade people into their facilities, which is quite annoying. Yet, we gave the restaurant a try and I crossed my fingers that we’d be investing in a good meal.

The owner of the restaurant is a native, off-the-boat Italian. My father and I speak a bit of the language; therefore we were much more respected than the other Americans in the restaurant. However, the owner was a bit rude and asked if we were associated with a big-shot politician in Italy because we looked related to him. When we said no, the owner shook his hands and praised the Lord. I’m assuming if we had been related, our table would’ve gotten thrown out of the restaurant.

The menu itself was simple and highlighted typical Italian dishes, utilizing fresh, foreign ingredients. For example, when we ordered the “bruschetta” appetizer, chunks of heirloom tomatoes and freshly torn basil appeared on rustic bread. My mother and brother ordered the fusilli pasta in a light, brandy cream sauce which was delectable. I regretted ordering the spaghetti carbonara because my father’s trout was perfectly cooked, lightly seared and drizzled with lemon juice, thyme, brown butter and white wine. I had never tasted a piece of fish so perfectly tender
and juicy for its small, slender size! Dessert was wonderful as well, tiramisu with anise liquor.

For the V.I.P.s at dinner, the owner presented them with shots of limoncello to celebrate the night. When customers entered the restaurant without a reservation, the owner, his server and runner (their whole staff) would ask the guests to wait. If they were impatient, the owner would say, “Mi dispiace. I am sorry, we are fully booked.” And if the customers solicited some more, begging for the open table to sit at, the owner would throw them out of the restaurant, back on the main street. Regardless of where you came from, if you had no respect for the owner, his staff or food, you were not welcomed to be a part of the experience. This act can be argued, but as with every Italian, it all comes down to respect.

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