Letters to the Editor

Sittin' on a cool ten mill:
Hooray for the hoot and holler of Harvey Slavin ("The Man Who Wrote Too Much," Emma Trelles, January 11). Can you please clone him and send him to Pembroke Pines? Perhaps he can retrieve a passive "dream park" that has been consigned to a dark tunnel of benign neglect by our city fathers since 1995!

The park is alive only in plans by a noted architect. Though the city sits on a new $10 million fund for worthwhile projects, the dream park for music, meditation, staged events, and gentle competitions in Scrabble and dominoes is still a mound of dirt, rubble, and rocks on three acres of land and a huge lake. Meanwhile projects like a cemetery are seriously considered for funding. I can hear Harvey Slavin wailing, "Hey, guys, give the people a chance to live before you start burying them!" Help us, Harvey. We'll pay the freight.

Terry Trief-Sherman
Pembroke Pines

An ode to loquaciousness:
In response to the article about the fine restaurant Prezzo Affair, I would like to discuss further the "great nuggets of advice for restaurant professionals" that Jen Karetnick so carelessly overlooked ("A Mediter-Asian Affair," January 4).

Contrary to her narrow-minded opinion, it is my belief that servers make the dining experience. In Restaurant Report's article "Winning Service Strategies," Ronald Moeller writes that the keys to a great restaurant and great service are to "be warm and caring," "demonstrate sincere pride," "be your customer's advocate," and "schmooze and you won't lose." According to [Karetnick's] article, the server did all the above and more.

When a server actually admires his job and respects what he is doing, he will go out of his way to be warm and caring to you and to your guests. In Nicholas S. Nickolas' article in Restaurant Report titled "No More Seedy Service!" he states: "You need to hire people who like [serving].... People who are good hosts in their own homes are doubly good [in the restaurant] because they're getting paid for it." According to Karetnick's article, her server was not only caring but also proud of what he was doing. He made her comfortable by telling her a little about himself and then continued his professionalism by encouraging brief dialogue. For her to take up one-quarter of the article describing his actions means that he did his job outstandingly and that the dining experience was most pleasurable.

Karetnick's article also mentions the waiter's lack of advocacy for one of the evening's specials. Servers are often inundated with daily specials and changing menus. It reminds me of a dining experience that I had at a five-star Italian restaurant on Italy's Amalfi coast. This was many years ago -- I was new to the fine dining arena -- and I asked the waiter what the restaurant meant by "Frances" in a daily special. He blushed as he answered, "I'm sorry, it is a new special and I do not know, but I will find out for you immediately." Should we chastise the waiter for his lack of knowledge? Or should we commend him on his sincere response? I believe the latter is more appropriate. Our waiters are only human, and we should expect them to act as such, not like Rosie the robot in The Jetsons cartoon series, which my son greatly admires.

Schmooze and you won't lose: A restaurant is a public arena. Going out in public, you expect to hold a dialog with your server. If you do not, your entire dining experience becomes so awkward, and obviously in Jen's case, so stale, that you can cut the night with a dull butter knife. For Jen to mention that she knew more about this waiter than her own husband is pathetic. It shows her lack of communication skills.

This waiter obviously wanted to make small talk so that Jen would be able to respond to him. Breaking the ice with your waiter in conversation can be ever so enjoyable. That relationship is key to enjoying the restaurant and, one might even say, the food experience as well. When your waiter is dull and boring, the restaurant becomes dull and boring, and the food may not taste as good as you might think.

So the next time Jen decides to go out and eat and write about a complete dining experience, she should consider Restaurant Report's discussion of waiters' eagerness and lack of sensitivity a little more carefully. If she does so, I guarantee the complete dining experience will be that much more pleasurable. I certainly hope Jen returns to that restaurant, and I hope that more restaurant owners read her article and train their servers to be as energetic as the fellow she experienced.

Steve Gallagher

Nor good-bye to his cashola:
Back in 1995 I got ripped off for over $10,000, which I had saved for years in my pension account. The phony business that was described in your story, "The Grift of Gab" (Emma Trelles, May 18), took away what I thought was the American dream of owning a business. It has taken a long time, but I am not giving up. I believe justice will prevail, and I believe in the fair court decision.

Now I believe that the Federal Trade Commission will help us get some or most of the initial investment we sent to the Telecard Dispensing Corporation, which was run by Steve Tashman.

Wayne D. Timm
Buffalo, New York

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