Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I stayed too long at the table 1

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions then the road to the restaurant manager's office is paved with a lack of intention. You see I worked in restaurants all through college and after graduation thought I'd seen the last of them but I was wrong. After two years of toiling away in a windowless office with only my smokeless ash tray and Lotus spread sheets for company I'd had enough of accounting and when I got fired for having a personality conflict with the boss it wasn't hard to convince myself that I needed some time off from the corporate world. Of course I still needed to pay my bills and the New York restaurant scene with all its excitement and glamour beckoned with her bedroom eyes, waiting to suck me into to her endless orgy of fast cash, hot girls and free flowing boos. And that's how I ended up tending bar in an Italian restaurant on Manhattan's Upper East Side back in 92'. The Pasta Brokers I doubt if anyone remembers it any more but at the time it was smack dab in the center of a glamorous and vanishing scene, the world of the stylish gangster. I sort of fell into the job....It was about three weeks after being terminated from McKinsey & Co and I was just starting to get anxious about my prospects, you see back then the job hunting process was a lot different than it is today back then the want ad's were in print. In New York there were four major newspapers; The Post and the Daily News, neither of which was any good for job hunting, The New York Times which was great but half the Corporate jobs advertised were thinly disguised employment agencies and the Restaurant jobs which came out on Sunday were generally filled by Tuesday. The Village Voice now, that could be a Gold mine for the right guy, unless of course it was a dry week in which case you'd see a lot of the repeat ads, and when a place has an ad out for the same job every week it starts to seem a little fishy. I did apply to one of these places once, went down for a cattle call, to Uncle Charlie's,  a big place down on Greenwich that turned out to be a gay leather bar, they didn't even offer me the job. It was after this dispiriting incident that I began the direct canvas, pavement pounding approach which eventually yielded results.
A hot summer day in July it was when I wandered into the front door of Pasta Brokers, a Salamander Pink Painted restaurant on York Ave and 62nd Street, an upscale, residential neighborhood in Manhattan. It was mid-day too late for lunch and too early for dinner and the place was empty save for a chunky middle-aged guy sitting at the end of the bar in a bow tie and black vest, he was reading a newspaper and didn't even look up as I approached. I coughed politely and smiled and he finally did look up, in fact looked me up and down. 'How you doing?' I asked politely, 'I'm looking for a job, do you know if they need a bartender?' The guy didn 't answer me, what he did do was remove his bow tie and vest and push them into my hands before scooping up his newspaper and walking out the door. I stood blinking and bewildered for a minute then I felt the presence of some one close by, I looked over to my left and there was a small, white haired fellow in a waiter's uniform standing close, staring quizzically. I made eye contact, picked up intelligence and humor and when he spoke it was with a strong Italian accent; "Hey, what happen to Frank?"
"I shrugged."
"You know how to make a Negroni?"
I looked around and noticed that the place was not as empty as I'd first imagined, there was a raised platform in the back and there at a long table covered in burgundy sat a group of about ten guys in expensive suits. I looked back at the old man and nodded, with his hands he indicated that I should put on the vest and the bow tie. And that's how I got into the restaurant business.