We are almost at the halfway mark in this series and we have seen Rocco DiSpirito’s vision come to life from the haunting memories of his grandma’s house to the actual opening of his new (and third) restaurant on East 22nd Street in Manhattan.
We have seen the hiring, firing, praises and lambasting that were dispensed by Rocco and his henchmen, and after a week’s rest, it’s time to step back into the fray as we find out what tonight’s episode holds in store for us. Are you ready? Do not be afraid, I am here to guide you. Perhaps we can sample a meatball or two together as we prepare ourselves for the excitement we will share in the hustle and bustle of “The Restaurant.”
May I have some cheese with that whine?
Our opening scene is a mélange of food and faces and frantic time lapse photography which pretty much sets the stage for the oncoming tsunami. It is nighttime, Rocco is waving to the last departing guests from opening night, while the injured, uninsured Gideon cabs it over to the hospital.
There is much grumbling and grousing among the staff. Topher tells them that his last table walked out without paying, and the others are complaining about the lack of tips. It appears that Rocco gave a 30% discount on the tabs and that shortchanged the servers on tips. Only Lonn made a glorious $67 in gratuities and he’s not looking that elated.
Meanwhile, Rocco is telling us how tired he is. The staff simply doesn’t appreciate all the extra hours he has to put in. He is looking at the numbers on his computer and he doesn’t know how the restaurant will remain open. Here comes a plug – that’s right, he is saying how he will have to bridge the gap with money from American Express. Folks, it’s not looking good for anyone at this point, including me, your faithful recapper. This is a whine fest unlike any other I’ve heard recently. But hold on, things are about to get worse.
Party on, dudes
There is only one cure for the staff blues and that’s to party like it’s 2003. Everybody goes out with a single purpose in mind – to get completely wasted. That’s the way to forget your woes, boys and girls, and to spend all the money you didn’t make on tips tonight.
I don’t know how many drinks Topher has guzzled at this point but he is telling everyone who will listen that people in their business represent the “nocturnal counterculture.” Pete isn’t far behind with his words of wisdom – being a bartender or waiter is merely a step up the ladder of success for all of them, and hell, they’re in New York City! He’s trying to convince himself and his friends that they are not losers.
Meanwhile, we flash to poor Gideon who is still in the harshly lit waiting room of the hospital and is now being asked to measure his pain-o-meter on a scale from 1 to 10. He says that sometimes it’s a 6 and other times it’s definitely 10. This seems to be a very advanced form of medicine that I can’t quite grasp since I only went to three years of medical school, and they must have taught that the following year under “Stupid Emergency Room Questions 101.”
Back to the merrymakers. Topher now 23 sheets to the wind, has gotten in touch with his masculine side and is trying to kiss several of the ladies, much to their surprise and dismay. Soon, it is time to go home. It happens to be 4:14 AM as they stumble out of the bar and head for their apartments or the apartment of the person they were making out with.
There’s got to be a morning after
Our scene opens on a sidewalk conference between Brazilian Bombshell Caroline and Chef Rocco DiSpirito. Caroline is asking him why he has to be so rough with her. At first he was so nice and then he turned on her. People she knows can’t understand why he sent her home and if she’s not good enough for him, then she’s giving up. He retaliates by saying that people like to have forks on the table when they eat their meals and she says she is “not good with that kind of stuff.” Now here is a perfect chance for Rocco to can her sorry ass, but he does a turn around and asks her to give him another chance and to please call him tomorrow and tell him one way or another. You’re letting Little Rocco do your thinking for you, aren’t you?
We are whisked into the Restaurant where Gideon returns with his arm in a sling. He is asked by Rocco why he is there, and Gideon guilelessly replies, “To be host.” Ever the kidder, Rocco asks Gideon if he should break his other arm for him so that he will have a matching set. Now that’s Italian!
Laurent, Carla and Rocco have a meeting about Caroline while Rocco recounts the earlier conversation he had with her. When he gets to the point where Caroline offers to quit, Carla thinks it’s a great idea, but Rocco isn’t buying it. He says she could be a very good waitress, but I can tell what he’s really thinking and it’s scaring the hell out of me. On to the topic of Gideon. Rocco doesn’t believe that the arm is broken since there is no cast on it. He didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, our savvy chef.
Gideon is walking around like a man without a country and his desperation is growing. He approaches Mama who can only deal with meatballs, but not people. He asks what he should be doing, and she tells him to ask Rocco, but assures him that everything will be alright. This is her stock line for all occasions. He inquires of several staffers how he can make himself useful, and is told by one that he could be a one-armed bartender since there is such a thing as a one-armed drummer. I don’t get the correlation but I’ll let it go for now. Next, he is trying to take over the coat check room by hanging tags on wire hangars. (Wire hangers? How tacky.) Finally, Rocco tells him that he can man the phones downstairs in the small office. Just as he’s about to do that, Rocco says that Gideon is actually not needed at all and should go home and “Get better.”
Gideon is puzzled and asks “Why is he doing this to me, he doesn’t want to do this to me.” Yes, he does Gideon, because next Rocco tells you straight to your face that you’re just distracting everybody. Get it? Now get lost. Gideon wants to work, he needs the money. Rocco tells him to go do the “hot and cold” treatment for his arm. Whatever, Dr. Rocco.
Panic Room at Rocco’s
Tables will need to turn fast. People have been waiting far too long for their food to be served. When a drink is ordered, it should be delivered within 5 minutes according to Boss Rocco. Meals should arrive between 8 to 10 minutes after the order is taken, and the first bite into the entrée should be within 20 minutes. Yeah, like that’s going to happen just about when world hunger ends and we achieve world peace.
Various people talk about the identity crisis that the restaurant is having. Silverware is constantly being changed, while food is being served in paper “banana boats.” Instead of listening to his staff, Rocco now demeans them by calling them children and telling them to play nice. What a farking dolt!
There are 300 reservations for this evening and suddenly the number jumps to 310. Rocco says that no more than 220 should have been taken. Now he tells them. Actually, a lot of what they learn is after the fact. He does not seem to be a very good boss at all. The staff agrees with me because they complain that he pays attention only to his guests and they get no respect from him at all. Tonight they will get smoked, pummeled and it’s going to be a rough one.
Seemingly, without a care in the world, Rocco is now going around pressing flesh and schmoozing with the guests that have arrived. The place is mobbed and Faye, the hostess is losing her grip on sanity. She yells to Alex to get back here and help her. Alex is too damn busy serenading Mama Maria and some diners with corny Italian songs. The spectrum of interest ranges from boring to downright embarrassment, judging by the looks on their faces. Finally, Alex saunters over and asks Faye what the problem is. Faye tells him that he’s the problem. Alex says, “If you panic at the podium, I’ll handle it.” (By the way, he is referring to a lectern, not a podium.) He further declares that he can’t have her panicking, and she says that he shouldn’t get lost every 20 minutes, that this is not the “Alex Show” I’m so on her side, I want to kick Alex’ fat rear end, and wish Rocco would administer frontier justice to this guy, but of course that doesn’t happen. It’s just like the guy that cuts you off on the freeway who never gets a ticket, while you get one for doing a “California roll” through a stop sign. Ooops, I digress. Sorry.
Pete says the place has “Crazily negative” vibes tonight, it’s like a flashback to his parents divorce. Pete, my man, you’ve got to work on those issues, dude.
Devil in a red dress
Linda Stasi – food critic from the New York Post is seated at one of the tables with two friends. She is already looking cranky because she has to pay the tab, she is not being comped by Rocco’s. The word goes out that everything must be “perfect” for Table 34. Rocco goes over to greet her and she has already ruined her stockings in some way that escapes me. He tells her to take them off. She cannot or will not do that. He thinks he can charm her by asking her if she’s read the back page of his menu from which he retells a tasteless joke about women with perma-tans and fake boobs. Her face, at this point could be on Mt. Rushmore and you would swear she’s carved out of granite. Linda is not amused. What Rocco knows about women can be put into a thimble with plenty of room left over.
Now Rocco goes over to a table full of giggling females who seem to be grabbing at him so that he feels compelled to yell to his Mommy that they touched his genitals. I am not making this up. This is how ridiculous the man is. He says that he’s getting aroused and has to leave the table or pretty soon he won’t be able to walk around. In the worst case of an Oedipal complex I have seen to date, he says, “Mom, they’re so bad, these girls.”
In the midst of all this chaos, Linda, the venerated food critic, still does not have her meal. She is getting more pissed off than Dana in the Big Brother house at this point. She says she could develop anorexia at this place. Finally, the food arrives, and I have her to thank for giving me the title of this recap as she states, “Everything is cold but the bread.” She asks how much the octopus costs and when her friend tells her it’s $25, she asks if she will be reimbursed. When Rocco hears that Linda complained about the cold food, he blithely states that they have no food covers and the kitchen is downstairs. My God, Rocco, don’t you take any responsibility for anything? Get the damn food covers!
A party of four guys come in and they are Topher’s friends. In fact, one of them is Topher’s ex-boyfriend with his new guy. But everything is quite convivial as Topher kids around and takes their orders. Two hours later, the joie de vivre has left the building while the food has not made its appearance. One of the men says that they came here with certain expectations that obviously have not been met. Topher has “the shakes and is totally flipping out a little bit,” while complaints are being hurled right and left. Rocco appears and places the blame squarely on Topher and apologizes for him.
Another table is voicing their dissatisfaction with the small portions. One of the diners speculates that half of their meal must have been sent to Bangladesh. Another woman at the table says that she is sure what is on her plate is not chicken, the pasta is cold and tough and their disappointment is great. The server (Topher again) keeps apologizing, but their ruffled feathers cannot be soothed. One of them says that he can get a better meal at The Olive Garden and he doesn’t even like The Olive Garden.
Rocco has a great idea. Coward that he is, he will send over his secret weapon, Mama. She attempts to do damage control by kissing a woman’s cheek while Rocco admits that it was veal and not chicken on that plate, but not to worry because he fired two waiters. This is supposed to bring uproarious laughter to these people, but they’re looking pretty sour at this point.
Somebody else returns a plate because it is “disgusting” and things are rapidly spinning out of control.
This is the worst night of Topher’s life, practically. He would love to throw down his tray and head out the front door. He says Rocco has “some balls” blaming him for everything that went wrong. One of Topher’s friends says, “He’s an ass.”
Oh, What a Night!
It is 2:40 AM and we see Mama leaving the restaurant. Topher calls up Caroline who has not even been around, and asks that she please come for a meeting with the staff so that they can all discuss the issues that have been plaguing them. She is reluctant because she doesn’t even know if she is returning to work there, but at last she relents and goes to meet her fellow servers. The bitch and moan fest ensues.
Apparently, Pete was given an attitude adjustment by being made a runner for saying to a customer “Excuse YOU” when she accidentally (I’m assuming) hit him in the vicinity of the family jewels. Laurent will not even listen to excuses and when Pete whines about the pain he had, Laurent says, “So what?” with such a degree of disdain that it can only be attributed to the French.
The staff realizes that all the happy days are over, in fact, there haven’t been any after the restaurant opened. Topher says that the axe falls even if you fart the wrong way. No one has even received an evaluation yet and Rocco spends all of his time dealing with guests and not with them. They want to have a platform to express their concerns and the way Rocco has been treating them. Good luck with trying to get Rocco’s sympathetic ear. The guy does not have one. Suddenly, a lone dissident is heard saying that his heart is breaking with what is happening here. After all, 4,000 applicants applied for these jobs, and the chosen few that were hired are not totally thrilled to be there basking in the warmth of Rocco’s genius and star power. If this was the old west, a lynch mob would have taken that guy outside to the nearest tree and dealt with him accordingly. Topher, the self-appointed spokesperson for the group says that they all have a right to feel anger.
While the staff is just about to mutiny, Rocco is strolling down the street while saying he’s “Gotta go see if the New York Post is out.”
Our evening at “The Restaurant” ends with Chef Rocco DiSpirito reading the New York Post under a streetlight and is it my imagination, or is he shaking his head in disbelief?
Until next week, dear readers, I would like to urge you to eat a late lunch because when we all return to Rocco’s on East 22nd, we know we will have a long wait. I bid you all goodnight.
More complaints about cold food, more negative vibes. Laurent has had enough and the big question is, “Can Rocco save his dream?”
To give me a better review than Linda Stasi gave Rocco’s, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org