It’s been a turbulent week for us viewers and voyeurs. We have seen Rocco make an appearance on Conan O’Brien where he’s still sticking to his story that he does not cook Italian, or anything else for that matter. He has been written about by various columnists, and he has been firing all the people that we have come to know and love from the past three episodes. Kidding about that last part.
Some little known facts about Rocco are: He has appeared on the Food Network as a revolving chef on “Melting Pot,” his cookbook titled “Flavor” (shouldn’t that be “Flava?”) will be out this Fall, and he likes to play the guitar. Why am I mentioning these things? Perhaps to make him more likable and human. He has not been coming off that well in the past three shows.
Please join me now as we enter through the portals of Episode Four of “The Restaurant.” Watch out for slipping waiters and kitchen fires, and let’s see what tonight’s episode has in store for us.
When we left off last week we noticed that the staff had become unhappy with being overworked and undertipped, while Rocco found his less than favorable review “unbelievable.” We see the usual opening shots with plenty of Coors and American Express product placements lest we forget who is financing this great show.
Another day – just breathe
From the spectacular New York skyline to picturesque street scenes and then a close up of the restaurant, we move straight into the kitchen where things are chaotic as usual. Once again Rocco tries to lay the blame on the waiters by saying that the food was served “piping cold” much to the diners dismay. However, he must have read my recap last week, because he went out and bought food covers which should alleviate the problem somewhat.
While Mama is busying herself with the meatballs as usual, we hear that there are 307 reservations for dinner this evening, while last night there were only 50. A rough night is ahead for all and the stress levels are mounting to skyscraper levels. There is not enough silverware, nor are there enough napkins, and a contrite Laurent admits that it’s his mistake and I have no idea why he is saying this unless he is feeling sudden guilt which is totally out of character for him.
Caroline is greeting the arriving guests by saying in fractured English, “As soon as my peoples come back, they’ll show you to your table.” What can I say? It’s promising to be a crazy night. Even Elvis is in the building, at the bar in fact.
Rocco is doing his usual stint as resident celebrity and gigolo as he slides into the banquette next to the ladies and asks one of them how she would like a bottle of champagne on the house for her birthday? Well, of course she would.
The guests keep on filling up the place as a very large (and I mean large) group of ladies walks in and a group of equally large men (but it’s okay for them in this world of the double standard,) remarks that they didn’t know cocktail dresses came that big. Topher explains that these are special ladies. They are the Glamazons, and they are Plus-size models. He quickly goes to attend to their table because he knows that these girls will order plenty of food. They must eat to maintain their figures, and I must say that they are all attractive and friendly.
As the camera pans the room, orders are being taken and things seem to be moving at a rapid pace as the kitchen staff tries to keep up with it all.
They’re dropping like flies
Suddenly and without warning, things begin to fall apart. There are people who are being ignored and one of the servers, Carrie, has been given responsibility for six tables which is way too much, and Foye is being blamed by Tony (the guy who told her not to panic in last week’s debacle) as he saying how “horrible” she is while he's not lifting a fat finger to alleviate the situation.
We hear murmurs from the different tables saying things like, “I feel like everything’s cold” and “It’s kind of cold now, ya know?” As if this weren’t bad enough the wrong orders are being sent to the wrong tables and things are not good. Not good at all.
Lola is behind the bar and she is trying to fill drink orders as fast as she can to the tune of, “Lola, what do you have to do to get a drink over here?” and “Hey Lola” as well as “Yo bartender!” This girl is about to snap and who the hell can blame her? The worst part of it is that she has to stay sober. She says something like “…and the keg is kicked” but I’m not sure what that means. All I can think of is, “Bang a gong, get it on.” Lola is threatening to quit.
All areas are now officially disaster areas. In the kitchen, yet another waiter slips on ice cubes that are all over the floor and crashes to the ground. When asked if he’s alright he says he won’t know until he gets up.
Meanwhile, Pete and two of his cohorts sidle over to the Plus-size table. Pete starts telling the ladies that they look lovely this evening, and has the audacity to pretend that he is Rocco while giving them an oily smile. Just in the nick of time Rocco appears and sends them back to where they belong.
Topher has his own group of meanies to contend with. He is trying to suggest certain dishes and is told by one nasty man, “What you put in your system is not my concern.” Ouch, that was definitely uncalled for. Topher is crushed and has his moment of revenge as he gives the order in the kitchen, “Chicken under the brick for the guy with the little d---.”
Gripes about cold food are coming in faster than gubernatorial candidates in the upcoming California recall election. Rocco is yelling at the cooks to “stop serving frozen pasta.” They swear that the dishes are heated for 15 minutes before they are brought out to the tables. The kitchen staff grouses about Rocco not being in the kitchen enough and spirits are at an all time low.
The end of the evening comes just in time for us, and Lola says she is quitting. One reason is that the money she is earning here is equal to about 4 hours of work in Brooklyn. What the hell is she doing at Rocco’s then?
Where’s the boss and why isn’t he supporting us?
Once again we are treated to a view of the “wall o’clocks” and a big reminder on fridge that Gideon owes $750 in rent. I am picturing an angry landlord letting himself into his apartment and leaving the gentle reminder where it is sure to be noticed. The phone rings and once again our ever hopeful waiter is summoned back to the shrine of Rocco. He painfully dresses himself, at least that’s what he says, and reports to work with a big smile of expectation which wilts faster than a salad left out in the sun when Rocco tells him that he doesn’t want him greeting diners at the front door because they don’t want to be reminded of “life’s tragedies.” This man is about as sensitive as a hedgehog. Once again Gideon is sent home to worry about where the rent money will be coming from and when he can expect the next visit from his landlord.
Topher is gathering the troops who are all carrying around massive gripes which have to be laid at Rocco’s feet if he ever stops long enough to listen to his employees. Finally, they are all in one place at the same time. Rocco says this will be an open forum to get stuff off their chests and Topher starts the ball rolling by saying that they all want to go back to the early days when they felt “joy.”
Ever since Gideon fell, things have gone from bad to worse. Yet no rubber mats have been laid on the slippery floor, and now Lola is gone too. Uzay makes some innocuous comments about having “lost” Rocco despite knowing about his “dream” and his energy. That makes absolutely no sense to me, but apparently Rocco understands this nonsense as he assures everyone that he is taking their concerns seriously and manages to almost sound sincere.
The French Connection
Laurent is still feeling that heavy weight on his shoulders and tells Rocco that he should quit since he has not held up his responsibilities. Rocco with his usual wit and wisdom asks if the French usually make mistakes and then quit? In other words, he is trying to jolly poor old despondent Laurent along with his feeble attempts at giving comfort. One thing is clear, Rocco does not want Laurent to leave and finally admits that he too is upset because the restaurant is a “mess” and a “circus.” Rocco wants to know if Laurent is really serious about going? Looooooong pause, cue suspenseful music and finally we hear Laurent say, “Let me seenk about it.” And…cut to commercial.
The very next day, Laurent is once again being cajoled by Rocco, and told that to give up right now is not right. In a sudden moment of clarity Laurent says that he will stay because he likes the idea and the concept of the restaurant. No more guilt, Laurent, te absolvo. Instead of a conciliatory hug, Rocco now turns on him and says, “Don’t ever do this to me again, I know your family and you will die a terrible death.” This guy is either insane or he’s seen way too many bogus movies.
Jeffrey Chodorow reappears on the scene and now Rocco is in for an earful from him. Jeff is worried about the emotional state of the restaurant (attributing human feelings to a dining establishment is a new one on me, but Jeffrey is the expert financier) and he wants Rocco to step back and take a look at what’s happening. Rocco admits that the opening was “brutal” and there is much “negative energy” in the place. People are quitting and there is more tension than in Anna Nicole’s jeans.
Next we see Rocco calling Lola and coercing her to come in and talk to him. He asks her why his best bartender quit without even telling him, and Lola says that she usually doesn’t do this, but she just couldn’t take it anymore. In the beautiful morning sunshine, a more cheery Lola is being assured by Rocco that she can come back as an employee (what the hell was she before, a Rent-a-Mixologist?) They go off for a ride on a red Vespa and before we know it, Rocco in a sudden burst of gratitude and testosterone, tells Lola that the Vespa is hers and she will get a managerial position in the soon to be "most exciting restaurant in New York City." With a resounding “Brooklyn in da house” Lola is back and better than ever.
Word soon spreads – helped along by Lola’s big mouth – that not only was Lola re-hired but she received the “bonus” of the red Vespa. Now everyone is furious and jealous. Various people are asking what they will get if they walk out on the job. Topher says that he doesn’t want a Vespa, he wants an SUV. Their wish list is irrelevant since nobody is getting anything but hard feelings.
Caroline asks Laurent for a day off on Wednesday because she has things she must do. When Laurent turns her down (he’s back to his old self now) she becomes a bit belligerent, so he sends her home. She tells Rocco that Laurent was out of line while Rocco says he cannot be on anybody’s side (why is that?) and off she goes on a cursing spree worthy of a guest appearance on the Osbournes. She calls Rocco a “fake Italian bastard,” Laurent a “French bleep” and tells everybody on the street to “bleep themselves.” I have a feeling that we have seen the last of her, and that was not a very graceful exit, but she is a fiery Brazilian after all, and I personally wish her much luck and a much better boss in her next endeavor.
Topher loses the smile in his heart
The last straw has broken Topher’s back and he tells Laurent that he’s leaving because this place has turned him into a crier and although he’s sorry to do this he believes that if he’s unhappy for a minute, then he is “wasting his life.” Laurent, to whom déjà vu is not just an expression in his native tongue, asks if there is anything at all that will induce Topher to stay and apparently there isn’t because Topher is now bidding fond farewells and doling out the “I love yous” to his fellow staffers.
After Topher has hit the streets, we see Rocco run outside and call after him, “Topher, come back! Why are you leaving?” but Topher is already gone. Rocco shakes his head incredulously, but he’s good at it since he’s had to read his restaurant’s reviews.
The next day Topher is back for his official leave-taking and probably his meager paycheck when Rocco asks him to go for a walk and talk. He’s really trying to work his magic on Topher just like he did on Laurent and Lola, but it only works on the “L” names because he cannot budge Topher, so he says that he appreciates his work and is sad to see him go. Topher has been crying for the last 5 or 6 days and it’s now time for him to be happy. Rocco actually apologizes and thanks him for everything. Topher takes a deep breath of relief as he melts into the crowd on the way to a brighter future.
Enter the Exorcist
Rocco is having a moment of introspection where he remembers that everyone said that the place is cursed, but is it him or the place? After all, the last business that was there failed too. Rocco doesn’t take responsibility for very long, we have learned that about him if nothing else.
However, to back up the curse theory, we find out that the ceiling is suddenly dripping with what someone says smells like alcohol. There is a mystery surrounding the reservations that are taken during the day when no one is there and suddenly all these people show up who claim to have made them. Tony (I still don’t know what this guy’s job is) shows off his “eyeball ring” to ward off the malocchio (evil eye). Note to Tony: It’s not working!
Finally, Rocco says that he has called in a “higher power” in the form of a priest. The priest begins by blessing the bar with a rather odd incantation that asks the spirits to flow into Rocco’s pocket rather than through the floor to the kitchen below. I’m not certain at this point what spirits he is referring to but ours is not to question at this point, readers. Just go with me on this, because it gets curiouser and curiouser.
The Padre is blessing the meatballs and kisses Mama who utters “Ah men” or “Amen.” The priest tells Mama that even though “Rocco” means “rock,” she is the true rock of the place. If I didn’t know better I would say that the priest is flirting with Mama DiSpirito or at least hoping for a free meatball dinner. Rocco says that the meatballs are perfect and don’t need blessing. Does Rocco have to pay the priest for each blessing? He tells the Priest that despite the heat lamps, the food is still cold – maybe you should check the thermostat in the ovens instead, knucklehead. He then asks to send God’s love to all the dishes in the kitchen.
A Change is Coming
With the realization that there should be a renewed effort, Rocco says that because things have gone wrong in the kitchen, that should be the logical place to begin to set things right. With a new vigor the hum of activity begins.
In the dining room, there is a happy buzz for a change, servers are suggesting dishes merrily and customers are actually praising the food. People are getting tearful over the meatballs and ordering seconds. We hear some wonderful classical piece of music and it’s killing me because it is some overture that I know so well and I cannot for the life of me think of the name. If you have read this far in my scintillating recap and actually know the name of the piece of music, please put me out of my misery by telling me what it is.
We have a feeling that things are turning around for everybody at the restaurant. Rocco’s new credo is that when there is good food, then the customers seem happy. What took you so long to figure that out, Paisan? Eh?
A meeting is called and Rocco thanks his staff for a change instead of berating them. He has taken a cue from another reality show that shall remain nameless by saying that “Get ready because everything is about to change.” We see shocked looks cross faces as we hear about a new system that will bring peace and happiness to one and all. I had to end this some way, so I made that last part up.
The new system is put into effect as Rocco becomes a waiter, Chef Perry struggles in the kitchen and one of the waiters fulfills his dream.
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