Paolo’s Ristorante : Part 2

In case you missed it, Part 1.

Olive tapenade was a staple at Paolo’s. When a table was first seated, you would bring them an upright container of warm breadsticks rolled in poppy and sesame seeds, and a ramekin of tapenade.

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This was a huge pain in the ass, primarily because there were many people/cheap fucks who would come and make a meal of them, ordering the smallest, cheapest, 1/2 order of a salad and then ask you for free refills of breadsticks and tapenade to accompany their river of free iced tea refills every time you walked by. This was the table everyone dreaded. You would run more for this table than any other, the check would be about $5, and they would leave you a tip of loose change. There was a woman we all knew as “The Paolo’s Salad Lady” who did just that, every day. If you were friends with the particular host or hostess, they would know better than to seat her in your section, but if you were on the flip side of that coin, it was the perfect way for them to let you know just how they felt about you on that particular day.

“Tapenade is a traditional Mediterranean olive dip, made from roasted eggplant, chick peas, green olives, roasted red pepper, garlic and olive oil.” Yes, I still remember because I probably recited that line no less than eighty thousand times. It was indeed delicious, we all snacked on it incessantly, but some of the magic died when scooping tapenade was part of your sidework. Even if something is a culinary delight, when you see a 20 gallon lexan full of it, the dream is shattered. For this particular sidework, you would have to go into the walk-in, drag out the heavy ass fucking lexan filled with the sticky puke green shit, and with an ice cream scoop, fill however many trays of ramekins denoted. Each tray held about 25 ramekins, and you may have to fill 5 trays for a Tuesday night, or 15 trays for a Saturday, then cover each tray with industrial saran wrap, and place a few stacked trays in each of the 3 servers station refrigerators. Sometimes I’d be halfway through and Sho would walk by and empty the coffee grounds into the entire lexan of tapenade. Other times he would just flip a tray upside down. Once he poured an entire pitcher of iced tea over all the trays I’d just scooped. Fucker.

Sidework: The dreaded tasks that you had to complete and get signed out on before you could leave at the end of your shift.

In addition to scooping tapenade, there was coffee/tea, which involved making fresh decaf and regular in all of the big industrial machines, then you had to do the same thing with the iced tea, and refill all the pitchers around the dining room.

There was slicing lemons/servers stations, which also sucked.  You had to cut both wedges and wheels and fill huge containers with them, then replenish all of the server containers around the room, along with the containers of fresh mint, and bowls with blocks of parmesan and new graters, which was gay.

Then there was the bitch mother off all sidework, cappuccino station. Mother fuck, the cappuccino/espresso machines sat on a black granite counter in the middle of the dining room. It was always sprayed with scorched milk, grinds, and everything was always empty. You had to wipe down everything, refill all of the mugs, the espresso pods, replenish all of the sugars and sweeteners, refill the little creamer containers on trays like the tapenade then cover and refill all of the servers stations. You had to fill all of the spoons, napkins, and biscotti. Inevitably, just as you thought you were in the home stretch, someone would get an order for cappuccino’s and they’d fuck the station up all over again and you couldn’t get signed out until it was clean. It was the absolute worst and took forever.

When a table of 6 all ordered cappuccino’s on a Friday night, that shit was sure to throw you directly into the weeds. This usually happened just as you’d been triple seated by a new hostess, and had a brain on the verge of dementia maxed out with the orders/demands from impatient patrons who had obviously never worked a hot minute in the service industry. The amount of time necessary to froth each milk, make the espresso and delicately pour it in as not to disturb the foam, then delicately sprinkle with cinnamon, was pure jaw-grinding hell. Then, each stupid cup had to sit on a saucer that was covered with a napkin, with a coffee spoon and a stupid biscotti. One of them took at least 2 minutes if you were meth-head fast, 6 of them made you want to curl up in a tiny ball on the marble floor and cry.

God forbid someone would ask for hot tea. That was THE WORST stupid ass production. It took an entire tray just to carry one fucking tea set up over to the table, and if an entire douchy table ordered them, you might as well just walk out the front doors and never come back. You had to take the glass mug, on a napkin covered saucer, a spoon, the sugar/sweetener caddy, the metal pot filled with hot water, lemons, and the stupid enormous wooden box like the one your grandmother kept her silver in, with divided velvet sections inside to hold all of the different teas. Locating this box was a game of Where’s Waldo. After the 5 minutes required to set everything up, you would then go to the table, set everything down, then open the box and present the selection while each person acted as if choosing a tea was the most important and head-scratching decision they would ever have to make in their lives. All of the servers would laugh when they saw you frantically trying to assemble the hot tea set up, “Oh shit, hot tea’s on table 42, bet they want more breadsticks for dessert, too.”

Another fun fucking part of the job was folding napkins. Everyone had to do it, and again, depending on the day, it could be 20 or 80, and it always sucked. You weren’t allowed to fold them during your shift either, but if it was slow, everyone would, and then stash the piles somewhere to retrieve at the end of their shift in order to get out of there sooner. Of course almost every time Sho was working, he would stash piles everywhere because he was a cheating sneaky fuck, then as I sat folding, ready to stack my final 10, he would walk by and knock them all over and laugh so loud that you couldn’t help but laugh, through your tears.

There was a nimiety of farcical prerequisites that went along with working at Paolo’s. For example, in addition to the breadsticks and tapenade, the iced teas had to be adorned with not only a fresh lemon wheel, not wedge, but with a fresh sprig of mint. Not only did we have to offer fresh ground pepper out of an opulent and oversized pepper mill, but miniature cheese graters filled with blocks of parmesan had to be presented with every dish, “would you care for fresh grated parmesan? How about some fresh ground pepper?” How about my freshly grated BFA with a side of my freshly ground dissatisfaction?

There was a group of us that all hung out together, outside of work as well. We would always go for drinks after shifts, be it at one of the local bars along the the street, or back at someones house until the birds chirped. We would all do shit together on our days off while the rest of the world worked nine to fives. I will use monikers where I have been asked to do so. There was myself, Sho, Little Rimmer, Slick Vick, Linseed Oil, Fettucini Carbonara (which is a ridiculous nickname but he asked for it,) Grand Maryner (because he pronounced Grand Mariner this way to a table and never lived it down) and Kenny G. There were more, of course, but these are the main characters with whom I am still friends, and who will not be pissed at me for writing any of this shit…I hope.

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more to come…

9 replies

    • The cappuccino thing? Try church rush on a Sunday night at Carrows. Twenty people at the table and ALL of them order shakes and can’t understand why you can’t magically make them all appear on the table at the same time, like we were fucking McDonalds, or something.

  1. Hot tea setups are the worst. I refuse to order hot tea unless I am at a coffee/tea place because I know what a pain that is–especially if the server is supposed to bring out the damn wooden box of shit for people to choose from for their tea bag. (LOL tea baggers) I worked at a place that served everything from lobster to milkshakes. Fucking milkshakes made by hand. I would usually lie and just say the machine was broken to not make one. A table that orders milkshakes isn’t going to tip you anyway.

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