Appell Pie Nov. 2019
The Sights and Smells of an Italian Restaurant
If it wasn’t for Italian cuisine I don’t think I would have had so many fond memories of growing up in my neighborhood. From the coffee grinder on the block where my grandfather had his business to the new pizzeria that opened down the street, the sights and smells of Italian food are engraved in my memory.
I can remember walking down my main street and walking past the pizzeria just before dinner and fighting the urge to go inside and buy a slice for fifteen cents. That’s right, I said fifteen cents. I’m old! My family always said a whole pizza cost eleven cents to make. What did they know they were in the garment business?
I remember my father’s friend had an Italian Bakery where we would visit on the weekend and I first fell in love with Cannoli’s and all pastries with Italian cream fillings. Are Italian cream pastries on the South Beach Diet?
In my neighborhood to be part of our gang you had to have a car and money for gas. Every Saturday we would go to Rocco’s Italian Sandwich Shop for the greatest food and the wisdom of old Rocco. Rocco was a sly devil in his day. Whenever we took a new guy or girl to see him, one of the existing members of the group would drive up there first and give Rocco the description of the new person. Why you ask? When the victim ordered his sandwich Rocco would slip in his private stash of hot peppers between the layers of meat and cheese. Needless to say we all waited to see the reaction of the new guy when he tasted the peppers. We always ate in the store so Rocco could enjoy the fun too. My how times have changed.
I always thought of myself as an Italian Restaurant layout expert when I was an equipment dealer in New York. I never owned a restaurant but my whole life was spent in the equipment business and working in restaurants during the summer. One client stands out because there is a lesson to be learned if you are planning to open a restaurant regardless if it is Italian or not. My customers were a married couple looking to open a tablecloth Italian restaurant that they could run from their flower business next door. They had never owned a restaurant and were relying on me to design the kitchen.
I designed a functional, typical Italian, New York restaurant kitchen that any cook or chef could work out of. Everything was approved and orders for the equipment were placed. I received a frantic phone call from the husband telling me that he had hired a chef and the chef wanted to make changes in the kitchen. I warned my customer that the changes were too extreme and that if he made the changes, down the road the chef would leave or be fired and a new chef would not be able to work efficiently in the new kitchen.
Needless to say the chef quit and the next chef wanted the kitchen his way and a renovation was called for. What have we learned from this? Don’t eat a sandwich without checking between the meat and cheese. Make your plans in conjunction with the person in charge of the kitchen but remember to keep the design functional for any chef, so as to avoid major expenses after opening.
Also remember that it’s not too bad to drink an espresso and eat a pastry while dreaming of Sophia Loren.