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Mouthing Off

John (again, no last name) e-mailed to say he thought I didn't like the food because I was in a bad mood after having to wait so long. Actually, the first time the wait wasn't too bad, because my kids thought that running amok in an empty Tabor Center was a blast, and the second time I didn't wait at all, because I went for lunch at 11:30 a.m. "Try ordering something from the menu that is not trying to be fancy like the shrimp and other crap you had," John added. "Maybe you're comparing them to places that cost $25-30 a pop. In which case the Factory fails."

My mailbag and voicemail box have also been stuffed with messages about Santino's, which I visited for lunch (and wrote about in the October 2 Mouthing Off) after Santino "Sonny" Rando kept getting himself into trouble. By mid-December, I'd heard from seventeen people--all of whom I've verified had either worked for or with Sonny at Santino's or at Carmine's on Penn, where he was the chef--who had horror stories about how badly Sonny had treated them. While I frequently get calls from former employees feasting on sour grapes, this response was off the charts. Three of the people had kept nasty phone messages from Sonny on their answering machines--and let me tell you, they weren't pretty. Even if the employees deserved to be admonished, a professional would keep his voice down or at least watch his language--especially on tape, for heaven's sake.

Sonny did get two nods of support: Marc Roth wrote to say that Sonny sent his table a free bottle of wine on his second visit to make up for their first dinner there, before Santino's had a liquor license; another guy called to tell me a tale of Sonny helping a "handicapped boy" (his words, not mine). Frankly, I'm getting sick of hearing about Sonny, and I wish he would just keep his mouth shut and watch his temper--something that every chef I've ever worked with has had, by the way. But at least I never had anything thrown at me.

My favorite messages of the year, though, both concerned my December 11 review of Maharaja, at 233 East Colfax. One was from a gutless wonder who called to rant and rave and make all kinds of accusations (he admits he's a friend of the owners) but didn't leave a name or phone number. Hey, at least I have the courage of my convictions and put my name to my opinions. And then some guy named Merle called to angrily offer this: "Your final comment in the review was distressing. It should be 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating,' not 'the proof is in the pudding.'" Yeah, no shit, Merle. However, only you, me, my editor, Miguel de Cervantes and about forty other people in the city (all English professors or copy editors) know that. I find that it's better to communicate ideas to readers rather than try to show how smart I am. And to you, Merle, I want to communicate this: Your lack of a life is distressing to me.

Happy new year.

--Wagner

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