illustration by Clay Sisk
My family no longer allows me to be the first to enter a restaurant to check on our reservation. I’m required to wait outside while cooler heads (evidently) can confirm that everything is as it should be. You see, they believe there have been past public incidents, related to my methods for dealing with snafus, that they’d prefer to avoid.
There was, first and foremost, the storming out of a place famous for its crab cakes—not that the restaurant even took reservations. And that was the rub.
After waiting almost two hours—as in the “Seinfeld” episode known as “The Chinese Restaurant”—I was informed there were still two parties ahead of us. This, after having observed numerous parties arriving after us, all with a warm and knowing (evidently) greeting to the restaurant staff, then being shown to tables before us—as in the lobster scene of John Candy’s “Summer Rental.” The ensuing written correspondence to the management of said place produced a denial of local favoritism and the offer of a free drink if we’d return. We won’t.
There was also the Mother’s Day Brunch episode, where, just after opening, the restaurant found itself running 45 minutes behind schedule. I didn’t get a chance to storm out, having been preemptively invited by the manager to depart the premises based on his perception of my (evidently) repressed hostility.
And then there was the immortal Reservation to Nowhere debacle, when I showed up promptly for a 6:30 p.m. dinner date, only to find the restaurant was closed for a private party. The ensuing “discussion” with the owner soon poured into the street, in violation of several ordinances related to disturbing the peace, during which I reprised yet another “Seinfeld” episode (evidently) by waving my arms wildly and stating over emphatically, “Anyone can take a reservation, but it’s the holding that is really the important part of the reservation.”
My most recent experience did not involve a reservation, but illustrates yet another reason why my public appearances should be closely guarded.
We were dining in South Philly when the subject of Frank Rizzo came up. Yeah, the Frank Rizzo in the big mural, just like the paintings of Sinatra and Mario Lanza.
Having just completed reading “The Mayor Who Would Be King,” I considered myself an expert on all misdeeds of Big Frank, which I proceeded to state in overly emphatic (evidently) terms.
Sitting near us was a couple, and since we could hear snippets of their conversation, I assumed they could hear ours (or at least my monologue on Rizzo and Macbeth). When a birthday cake and sparkler were presented at our table, the couple congratulated the birthday boy (me), then added that they were celebrating a birthday, too. After handshakes, the intro from the adjoining table went like this:
“Yeah, my name is Michael Rizzo. I’m Randy’s brother.”
“Ah. Rizzo,” I said, checking for the nearest clear exit. “Any relation to the former mayor of Philadelphia?” I gulped, having earlier referred to him in those patented over-emphatic terms as “the worst mayor in the city’s history.”
“Yes, he was my second cousin. I used to call him Uncle Frank.”
There were slim odds given in my dinner party that Mike could have missed hearing my thoughts on Uncle Frank, so we beat feet as fast as we could.
Outside, one of our dinner companions advised me, “Tonight you will probably sleep with the fishes,” but she was most concerned with how effortlessly I had offered to Mr. Rizzo that we had driven up from Delaware.
As a precaution, I’ve been telling delivery people, “Just leave it at the door,” and checking the bed each night for a horse’s head.
Reid Champagne, nowhere near becoming our restaurant critic in the foreseeable future, has been ordering in lately.