Despite Rocco’s several health code violations, he seems to be moving forward with plans for a possible sitcom and his agent is negotiating for him. Rocco, listen up, “The Restaurant” is a sitcom that is full to the brim with bad actors, we don’t need any more. Just don’t go on any pitches on October 22nd because you have to appear in court that day.
Rocco is an ambitious guy. First, he gets all these major sponsors to bankroll him in return for blatant product placements, and now he wants to go even further in his marketing strategies by putting out cookware, books, and who knows, maybe even a couple of CDs. After all, his company is called Antsnpants. "This is all about brand Rocco," says partner Fred Siegel. The strange thing is that Rocco’s website has shut down due to lack of time and interest.
Shall we head downtown and see what’s cooking tonight at Rocco’s? Let’s do it and see what happens.
Just to give you a gentle reminder from last week’s episode, Rocco has had an epiphany and realizes that he must win his staff’s good will back so that everything can run like a smooth Rolls Royce instead of a covered wagon. He will initiate the “new system” as soon as the troops report to work.
Our scene opens an Rocco asks Laurent if he has the “notes.” Rocco has them and now the staff meeting is called to order. The focus is on streamlining the service by implementing the ”captain system.” He will divide the dining room into four sections, each run by a captain. Tables will be marked, orders will be taken and every captain is responsible for everything running smoothly. Just about now, everyone got a bit glassy-eyed including me, because I could not see how this was going to do anything but confuse things even more.
With the admonition, “You now have 10 seconds to set up” they are all hastily dismissed. The usual grumbling and grousing occurs where “This is so stupid” and “A 5-star system in a 2-star restaurant” are just a few of the phrases bandied about.
Meanwhile, Rocco is secure in the knowledge that he has seasoned cooks in the kitchen and a good crew that he can rely on. Not so fast, dude, just you wait. One of the cooks in the kitchen has a different view of things. “You have to be a masochist to work here with the chef screaming at you.”
Back in the dining room, drink orders are taken and completely mixed up. Gibsons are confused for Gimlets, customers are irritated and this is just the beginning of mass confusion with the new system that Rocco fervently hopes will make everything peachy.
Rocco should really get his money back from the guy posing as a priest last week, because the evil spirits are still screwing things up and it’s not even Freaky Friday. Laurent is apprised of the fact that table numbers are rung up wrong by the computer in the kitchen, so the orders are going to the wrong tables.
If you’ve ever gone out to eat and look forward to dropping between $80-$100 for a meal for two and then end up waiting for an hour and a half, you’d be just as irate as some of these people are getting. Not only that, but some lady named Sue is asked by her friend, “Didn’t you order the Chicken Parmesan?” because what is lying on her plate does not resemble what she had ordered.
To add to this version of Rocco’s Inferno, the servers have all been given new shirts to wear and for some reason that makes them unrecognizable to the diners. In other words, all hell has broken loose, things are worse than ever before, and one poor server wants to either slit her wrists, or go home. Just go home, it’s less messy.
But who’ll roll the meatballs?
Mama looks and feels like hell and has to be told in no uncertain terms to go and be sick on her own time. She refuses at first despite the fact that she is up with the birds each morning and doesn’t leave until 3 AM. She stands up to Rocco and says, “You cannot stop me, I do it because I like it.” It’s one thing to be stoic, but she is bucking for the Margaret Thatcher award for toughness.
Rocco has some lasagna sent up to his mother who appears to live upstairs. Rocco goes to visit and schmooze her. He tells her how great she looks and I’m hoping that all the mirrors have been removed. He goes on to say that people refuse to believe that she’s his mother and I almost thought he was going to say because they think she’s his sister. Luckily he doesn’t go quite that far but tells her that everybody thinks that he hired her through a “Hire a Fake Mother” agency because she’s just too good to be real. As it is, his nose appears to have grown within the last 10 minutes. The old lady is flattered and you know she’s going to be hotfooting it downstairs as soon as possible even though she asks Rocco, “Who write dat stuff?”
Take this job and shove it
Three of the cooks have not shown up. As it happens these are the three that Rocco has found so reliable and trustworthy in the past. It appears that they got into a bar fight the night before and two of them (Diana and Rory) had to take the third (Tim) to Lennox Hill Hospital because he had passed out and had convulsions. Frankly, I think this is overkill, but this story is told to Rocco by a tearful Diana and everyone is expressing shock and horror.
What is worse than a disgruntled employee? That’s right - a disgruntled employee who has not been paid! We’re talking money here, and not peanuts, Rocco.
Perry, the long-suffering line cook just works and works and has nothing to show for it. In fact, his roommate is demanding the rent money and Perry can’t even pay more than three-fourths of it and that check is not even good.
Now Rocco shamelessly says that he must go to American Express to get money for the payroll checks. He tells his troops that the 14-hour days, six days a week will soon come to an end and the moon really is made out of green cheese. He is met with stony silent stares as he thanks them for their patience. Yeah, try putting that between two slices of ciabatta!
Treachery on dry land – Part I
Meanwhile, mother of all ironies, the story about taking Tim to the hospital with a near-fatal concussion has turned out to be a load of crap and we see the three mutineers discussing what they will do next. Tim, Diana and Rory are having a good gabfest. They decide that “enough is enough” and they will not go back to Rocco’s anymore, they are more done than the food.
Rocco, still worried, decides to call the hospital only to find that no one even checked in to the hospital the night before by the name of Tim Donoho. The realization that they might have been lying now comes to him, and he decides to let them come in and tell him the truth. Yeah, just like you told all of them, signor. You don’t even tell your poor old mother the truth when you say how much better she’s looking. Well, slightly better than Freddy Krueger anyway.
Work it like you mean it!
Uzay has been promoted to captain (on land) and Rocco will follow him around and be his busboy so he can get to the heart of the problems plaguing his restaurant. Uzay has no choice but to smilingly agree to this master plan. With a charming grin he tells diners that he’s trailing a waiter today and he proceeds to flirt with the ladies and recommend dishes to them. The schmaltz factor is 9.9 on the Richter scale.
In the kitchen, it is the usual frenzy. Perry has been relegated to the grill and nothing he does is right. Don’t worry, Perry, love will blossom for you in just a little while. Chris, who seems to be his boss, constantly berates him and finally says that he will take over the grill because if Perry can’t do the job then he should get out of there. Why didn’t he just utilize the tried and true, “If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.”
Back in the dining room, a guy in the corner is proposing to his girl on bended knee, while glasses are being raised and the strains of cheesy Italian music are heard. Heather, one of the servers, decides that this proposal was so gutsy that she will write a love poem to Perry and read it to him at the next opportune moment. What an optimist that girl is. However, just when Perry is bordering on deep depression, Heather comes downstairs and plants a big wet one on him. Perry, seemingly delighted and pretty worked up says, “I gotta go ice down the stock.” Oh yeah, and that ain’t all, big boy. He has the grace to say to Heather, “At least tonight wasn’t a complete wash.”
Everybody’s a critic
Rocco sees that two very important chefs, Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdin have come into his establishment. I never heard of these guys, but Rocco is very impressed because they are so connected and everything must be perfect. He is nervous as well as gleeful and says they’ll be cooking for the "big boys" now. We suddenly hear “Die Valkyrie” or something similar by Wagner to emphasize the magnificence of the two chefs. The funny thing is that as these guys are tasting the various dishes they have been served, their critiques go from “I didn’t enjoy it, but I admire them for doing it,” to “That utterly blows.” They philosophize that you don’t have to prostitute yourself if the product is good, and I swear they are looking right at Rocco who is openly flirting with some old ladies. Next, they play “Trivial Pursuit” when one asks the other what chefs really are. The answer is twofold. First, you must cook well and second, you have to be a hustler. In fact, at the end of the day “We are all servers” because “Great food is not enough.” Their final words (are you sure you want to know?) are: “What is the best business in the world?” “The restaurant business!”
He didn’t kill, he was annihilated
No wonder Server Pete couldn’t tell a Gimlet from a Gibson and didn’t even know how to pronounce Tanqueray, he was just so nervous about his upcoming 6 minutes in the spotlight at some local comedy club.
The comics are told there are 1200 people out front and we see Pete with a killer opening that goes something like this: “What’s up, dawg?” “What’s up, girls?” “I want to marry all of you, you’re so hot, let’s all go to Utah, we can make it happen” or some such drivel. If you thought that was bad, you’d better bail now, because it gets much much worse. Showing not one ounce of sensitivity or knowledge of his audience he tells them that the coolest thing about terrorist bombings is that when they claim responsibility it’s like a “shout out,” kinda like “hip hop.” The New Yorkers are not amused. Hmmm, I wonder why. This jerk is unbelievable.
I’m sitting at home booing him and the audience is doing the same thing. He is perplexed and asks them if his comedy is “too progressive” for them. Is this guy out of his mind? He then informs the audience that they are “ruthless” and slinks off the stage bidding them “Peace.” Backstage he disavows all responsibility by saying that he wasn’t ready, he’s been so busy at work and has had no time. Now, he is disgusted (with the audience expressing their dislike of his material, no doubt) and must get out of there.
Unfortunately for us, our comic wannabe goes back to Rocco’s and laments to all who will listen that he feels so shaken (not stirred) because the crowd was so bad and his material was just not working. His friends tell him that he makes them laugh all the time and that he needs to get back on that horse as soon as possible. One thing is sure, Pete does not make the customers laugh.
Treachery on dry land – Part deux
The three AWOL cooks make an appearance and Rocco decides to go along with their story in order to see if they’ll actually tell him the truth. He says what an awful ordeal it must have been for Tim. Diana, another of those B-movie actresses, says how many people were screaming “He’s dead” after the assailant came from behind and attacked poor Tim.
The final betrayal comes in the form of Tim telling Rocco that he doesn’t want to be “doing this anymore.” I guess that means working in the chaotic kitchen with constant yelling and abuse hurled at him. Rory doesn’t like working there because there aren’t any “sauces,” and Diana says that she wasn’t working enough with Rocco. So basically, the tables have turned on Rocco. The three fiends have had the nerve to disrespect him by lying to him and now they’re quitting! At first he is totally stunned and just tries to push the guilt buttons by saying how worried his mother was about them and then tells them to go grab their paychecks from Carla.
Diana has a last hug for Mama and tells her what a pleasure it was working with her and how much she has learned. But now, as the dust settles, Rocco is saying that not only did they lie to him but yes, they insulted his restaurant. He says that he had given them the opportunity to tell him what really happened and that they should all be ashamed. He has worked himself into a fine lather and flings the ultimate putdown at them: “You think we’re not good enough for you? YOU’RE not good enough for us!” He is not quite done as he advises them to “Go home, grow up and don’t darken this doorway again! Yikes!
Our last view, as we rush out right behind the miscreants, is of the kitchen, where Rocco and Mama have a little bit of silly playtime. He stands behind her as she has her arms behind her back and his hands are making the meatballs as everyone is pretending the elephant is not standing right in the middle of the room.
Season Finale – One last night of celebrities, mayhem and magic. Who’s staying, who’s going, and who’s hooking up. We are enticed by the promise that Rocco has one more trick up his sleeve.
Would you care to join me in a Tanqueray Gimlet? Write to email@example.com and I’ll make Rocco foot the bill.