By David Minsky
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By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
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By Laine Doss
My wife had the worst luck at the table, with a $25 bowl of rigatoni covered in crumbled sausage and broccoli rabe. The sauce tasted of pasta water and garlic and, with the broccoli rabe, was overwhelmingly bitter. My aunt got the special, a fine $26 chicken breast covered in a creamy tomato sauce, cheese, mushrooms, and prosciutto, but I'm fairly sure the latter was actually boiled ham.
Before ordering, my uncle had asked if anyone objected to veal, and yeah, it seemed everyone else had a personal ban. He ordered it anyway, and I'll admit with some guilt that I'm glad he did, because he ended up with a gem of a rib veal chop ($38). It paired nicely with the mushrooms smothered across the top. The chop's grilled crust seemed to be the only flavoring aside from salt and pepper, but that char provided a beautiful contrast to the tender meat inside, especially the bite I pilfered close to the bone. It didn't melt as much as dissolve.
Not long after we finished, Guido stopped by, just about whispering. "Coffee or dessert, or just the check?" It wasn't as much an offer as a hope that it was coming to an end, but we instead asked for a dessert menu. He said they didn't have one, so he ran through them in a hurry with a pained look on his face. He offered little explanation when asked what's best. "Tiramisu." Anything else? "Chocolate cake."
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We ordered them both ($6 each), and Guido looked like he had gotten a fish in a box delivered to his door. He brought by our cups of decaf first and very quickly, but there would be no refills.
As for the desserts, the chocolate cake was simply nothing better than Sysco could make — a sweet icing, floury layers of cake, and a simple chocolate sauce at the bottom. The tiramisu too was a miss, with a dry, lonely ladyfinger lying on top of gummy frosting. The heavy cake underneath was doused in too much liqueur, but it still wasn't enough to overcome the dry cake layers. With all that booze, it was a dessert and a shot.
Or hell, maybe those desserts were decent, but it would've been hard to tell with Guido hovering. He delivered the check with the desserts. He stood not at his perch at a nearby table but almost over my aunt's shoulder, looking out over the restaurant occasionally, then back to check on the status of our desserts. Finally, I asked him over to see what was up.
"We are very busy tonight," he proffered. I asked if maybe we should eat faster. "Well, we are very busy, and people are waiting for this table."
He left, and my wife asked: "Did he just suggest that we eat faster?"
Yes, yes, he did.
Not taking the hint, I asked for a refill of water. Every glass on the table was empty. Guido hurried over with a pitcher of water and refilled my glass halfway, without a glance in the direction of the other glasses, then scooted off to his perch two feet away. When we finally felt so uncomfortable that our half-eaten desserts were no longer edible, we stood, and busboys immediately descended before we could collect ourselves.
The Consigliere was there too, in his pin-striped suit, a pressed shirt with a spearpoint collar, and white and black spat shoes, all making him look like he might have a Tommy gun under his jacket. "Put these two tables together with this one," he said over our former seats. Then he realized he was being rude. "Folks, how was dinner tonight?"
What we wanted to say was that we felt like we had gotten prematurely whacked after dropping $350 for dinner. But we grunted responses and headed for the hallway of famous people.
It was there, under the photos of various minor movie gangsters, that I figured I ought to say something. The Consigliere was back at his post, illuminated by the light clipped to his podium. "How was everything?" he said, offering his hand.
He continued to grip it as I suggested that we felt rushed, that it seemed Guido and the Consigliere himself wanted us out. He put his hand on my shoulder and pulled me a bit closer. "I'm sorry you feel this way," he said. "Why don't you put your email on this list and we'll make sure you get something nice?"
It wasn't a question as much as a conclusion, so wouldn't you know that I put my email down. Actually, my wife's email, because who knows what the Consigliere was planning to send. (But it turns out no email has arrived.)
As we left, I glimpsed back at the signed jersey from Dan Marino, a football player with a good, Italian name. He probably gets to order appetizers first.