Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blogging, Buca, and The Bitchy Waiter

Ever since I started this blogging thing, I’ve been interested in reading other people’s blogs. And I’ve discovered that there is a whole blogging world out there that I never knew existed. Oh, well, I take that back. Sort of. I mean, I knew the word “blog” has been around for a while – and I knew people were doing it. I just never took the time to read any of them.

So now, whenever I post one of mine, I press a handy-dandy icon at the top of that reads “Next blog” so I can read, well, the next blog. And I’ve gotta tell you, there are some pretty strange bloggers out there. I’ve landed on foreign blogs, mystical blogs, poetry blogs, mommy blogs, photography blogs, ranting blogs and blogs that pretty much defy categorization. Actually, some of them even scare me a little bit.

The other day I discovered a better way of vetting the blogs I read. There is an icon on iGoogle called “Blogs of Note.” I’m not sure how it works, but it seems that the powers that be at Google select one lucky (or clever) blogger per day and shine a spotlight on their blog. Immediately hordes of readers flock to that blog and the blogger becomes an instant celebrity.

Well, not really. But it definitely kicks their readership up a notch.

Most of the time I find these “Blogs of Note” interesting and there have even been a few that I’ve started following because I enjoyed reading them. One is called “The Bitchy Waiter.” It is written by a guy in New York City who has worked in the food industry a l-o-n-g time, which means he has pretty much (a) seen it all and (b) lost all patience for diners. He’s funny. He’s sarcastic to the point where the words practically drip. And he swears a lot.

Mostly, I think I keep reading his stuff because I want to know what not to do when I go to a restaurant. Before I started reading the Bitchy Waiter’s blog, I figured I was a pretty normal restaurant diner. Rarely do I ask for substitutions and I tip at least 20%. I’d say that if I received really bad service I would tip less, but over all these years, I’ve done that maybe once or twice. When I ask for a glass of ice water, I try to do it when I order my glass of wine or beer or soda – so the waiter doesn’t have to make two drink trips. And I read the menu carefully to make sure I like all the ingredients in the dish before I order.

So imagine my consternation the other night when we went to Buca di Beppo and I couldn’t eat what we’d ordered! Vince and I normally order the same dish every time we go there since we both like it and the portions are served family style, which necessitates sharing. I don’t like spicy and he does, so we get the wimpy dish and he loads it up with whatever spicy stuff they have on-hand.

Well, they had a summer menu with some new offerings, so I threw caution to the wind and we ordered one of the summer pasta dishes. Vince did ask for a substitution of the white wine sauce that we normally get on our other dish – and the waiter said he’d be happy to bring it to us on the side so we could add it to our pasta. Now, for all I know, he could’ve really been annoyed that he had to do extra work and perhaps he did whatever bitchy waiters do to the food of people who are annoying them. I don’t know – and I really hope that I never find out.

I usually order a glass of wine whenever I have pasta – I think it’s some sort of Italian law – and I’m a very law-abiding citizen. However, once we’d asked for ice water, we never moved beyond that to the wine list, so I decided that this once I could do without a glass of wine.

Anyway, the piping hot bowl of pasta comes out and I serve some to Vince and then to myself. I take an anticipatory bite. And then I put my fork down. There were spicy red pepper flakes liberally sprinkled throughout the bowl. Arrrgghhh! Maybe I AM wimpy, but I really can’t stand to eat anything hot and spicy. And if faced with that sort of food, I’d be happier abstaining completely than eating it. And I love pasta – so that’s a pretty strong statement for me to make.

It turns out that nowhere in the description of the dish did the words “spicy” or “red pepper” appear. Believe me, I look for those sorts of words! So both the waiter and his manager came over to our table to apologize. They promptly offered us the dish for free. And then they offered to bring out a bowl of the pasta we normally order. By now, I’m feeling like one of those very diners the Bitchy Waiter writes about. A pain in the you-know-what.

Vince, on the other hand, was happy because he had a whole lot of spicy pasta to enjoy. But by the time my bowl of wimpy pasta arrived, I wasn’t hungry any longer. So the waiter had to box up both my entire bowl and most of Vince’s bowl. Separately, of course. While he was off performing this task (and hopefully not spitting in it), the manager came back over to make sure we were happy. And she handed us a couple $10 off coupons for future visits.

Well, we already had a $10 off coupon for this visit, although we sort of debated about using it since we felt we were getting a lot of food for not a lot of money. But the waiter took it and returned with our bill. We ended up with about $50 worth of food for, well, less than half of that. We did, however, tip the waiter as if we were paying the full tab – including the free bowl of pasta we’d received.

Our waiter definitely deserved a good tip. He worked hard for it. And he was gracious and professional throughout our meal. If he was at all “bitchy” it was not something we saw. Of course, for all I know the Bitchy Waiter blog-writer might be gracious and professional throughout his shift – only to go home and wax sarcastically about his customers.

So, in review, we (a) drank only water that the waiter had to keep refilling, (b) asked for a substitution, (c) complained about our food, (d) got the manager involved (inadvertently), and (e) used a coupon. I can only hope that our waiter does NOT write a blog.

Oh, and I am VERY happy that the Bitchy Waiter is located in New York City.

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