By Raymond Napolitano
Thursday, October 17, 2002
PACKING MY BAGS...Let me tell you just how big a big shot I am. I got invited to SPAIN-that''s right, Spain. Let me show you what the invitation said: "Spanish cooking course invitation. Lunch is on us: You (that means me) are invited to come to Salamanca, Spain to participate in an authentic Spanish cooking course. DON QUIXOTE IN-COUNTRY SPANISH LANGUAGE SCHOOL, now in its 16th year, is making this opportunity available to a select group of journalists (that''s correct, select was the word).
We offer you (me) six hours of Spanish cooking classes, access to daily cultural/activity classes and two weeks accommodation in a single room in a shared student flat (obviously, they don''t realize just who I am), all free. We ask you, if all is to your satisfaction, a write-up of Don Quixote in your publication back home (they seem keenly aware of the far-reaching, worldwide influence of the WEEKLY). Come, be inspired by this enchanted city of thought, meeting and knowledge."
Of course, diplomatic attaches, as well as a special entourage, must be assembled to escort me on this little excursion. I''m sure VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY will want to brief me regarding correct protocol as well as enlist my aid in the war against terrorism. Naturally, I will represent our country with honor, courage and integrity. More than likely, the president of Spain will ask me to stay on to help maintain the nation''s morale, but I will graciously decline, citing my dedication to America and the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
All right, so maybe this is just a bit of exaggeration. It''s just that Linda, at the front desk of the Weekly, forwards me all the cool food-related stuff that comes into the office. She, being the real brains and driving force behind the publication, knows exactly who should get the really big scoops (sounds like there''s some pretty big scooping going on right here). Thanks anyway, Linda.
IT''S ONLY A NAME...One thing I did get invited to was the congratulatory dinner for BERT CUTINO at MPCC. This past July, at the National Convention of the AMERICAN CULINARY FEDERATION, Cutino was awarded the organization''s highest honor, The Chairman''s Award. The local chapter of the ACF figured, why not throw a bash and use Cutino''s award as the excuse? Monterey chapter head GIACOMO STOLTZ must have gotten my name from a list in one of his old chef''s pants, so I got the invite.
On October 11, the night of the event, I showed up at MPCC in my best suit, ready for a gastronomical jamboree, but no one else was there. I waited for over an hour before I gave up and went home to watch SEINFELD reruns. The next day, I discovered that the MPCC was actually Monterey Peninsula Country Club, not Community College. I''ll bet they had a great time, even though I wasn''t there. Well, congratulations anyway Bert, and thanks for the invitation, Giacomo.
DIVE-IN DELI...You don''t have to put on your best suit (unless it''s a wet suit) to visit BAYVIEW BBQ & DELI, on Monterey''s Coast Guard Pier, right beneath Massaro and Santos restaurant. LENNY LEON bought the place a few months ago and is feeding all the rugged outdoorsman who frequent the pier. The place has a funky, workingman''s feel to it-it''s part convenience store-got a few tables outside, just the sort of joint you''d expect for a bite in the early morning or at lunch. Check it out.
MAY I SUGGEST VERSACE?...Here''s a question for all the restaurant owners and potential owners in the world. Why do so many of you spend ___ dollars (you fill in the blank) to remodel and individualize a space before opening, design beautiful unique menus and personally expressive food and wine lists, come up with original names, then go and dress your service staff in the same old tired, hackneyed, banal, mundane, boring penguin uniforms that scream, "This place is redundant." Why?
When I see the standard (read tired) white shirt, black tie (especially bow), black pants, black shoes...I want to spray paint graffiti on the employees, the restaurant and, especially, the owner. It is so simple to create an interesting, practical and inexpensive outfit for the servers. If you have trouble figuring it out, you will find easy and exciting solutions by including the staff in the process. Imagine then, a happy and motivated group of folks who feel part of the big picture and look good, too.
But, unfortunately, far too many-if not most-new openings will showcase the age-old penguin suit as their uniform of choice. In most cases, you will find the same tired menu items, done in the same tired preparations, accompanied by the same tired accoutrements. Those dumps should each have the same name as well: Bistro "86."
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