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Monday, January 16, 2012

The Damned

There is an entire group of people in New York City who never eat at home, i.e., they eat out every meal, less perhaps a quick snack or light breakfast. This city, better than anywhere in the United States, easily enables such a lifestyle with its staggering array of choices in restaurants, both in number and type. And for a very large number of New Yorkers, particularly living in Manhattan, restaurants are literally steps from their home. Being able to walk within a neighborhood such as the Village, for example, with its plethora of eating establishments, is one of the great joys and perks of being a resident of New York. For many visitors, restaurants are the number one reason to be here.

However, these establishments have to be staffed, and we are talking about a lot of staffing. For most, there are a number of driving forces in being a waiter: a large number of establishments to choose from with lots of job openings, potentially higher pay than many unskilled jobs, ready cash, and in many establishments, little or no experience is required, particularly in places with high turnover due to poor business.

On the other hand, there are many fine restaurants where the standards are high, the wait staff is very professional, and the jobs are coveted. But the equation is not always a simple one: expensive does not always equal great service, inexpensive does not always equal poorer service, and often, for any number of reasons, one can find a neighborhood spot where there is a very experienced veteran of the restaurant business - someone with a great memory and is fast, attentive and astute. Eric at Olive Tree Cafe is one of these individuals.

One of my great frustrations is that one can often find great service in the least expensive of restaurants, such as diners, while being virtually ignored in a very expensive, highly-rated place. I imagine that the uneven nature of service, even where prices would dictate otherwise, is universal and offers an opportunity - the quest of most who dine out often - to find great food and service without spending a king's ransom.

Zio Toto in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is what would be considered moderately priced in NYC. On my first visit recently, my companion and I were served by someone older who immediately conveyed authority and experience. Nothing was forgotten and everything was done right the first time. We immediately felt secure and confident that we were in good hands.

I have frequently had to get up and get napkins and cutlery from other tables or snag condiments from a waiter's station. Nothing is worse than having to do a waiter's job, particularly since it is typically frowned upon. The choice becomes do-it-yourself and get caught and be punished, or wait for every little thing - damned if you do and damned if you don't. Here, at Zio Toto, we could relax while the waiter did what waiters do and not worry that we may become the damned :)

Note: Zio Toto is located at 8407 3rd Ave (between 84th St & 85th St) in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The cuisine is southern Italian with a large selection of brick oven pizza as well as pastas, antipasto, salads, paninis, and a wide range of meat and fish entrees.

Related Posts: Sundey, La Cote Basque, War Against Disservice Part 1, Take It, Poor Winnie Part 2, Poor Winnie Part 1


thecubiclerebel said...

Hmm. Every meal (and some snacks) an adventure and many with tips. I'd carry snacks WITH me wherever I go.

john said...

For any restaurant both food and service matters for its popularity

John from Store Hours