Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Mid-week we get a request for a booking for a party of twenty, for a girl's birthday. She wants to spend a maximum of €60 - four bottles of prosecco. A bottle costs €16, so she wants a little discount, plus she will bring a cake which our waiter will slice and serve ... and of course, service is included - the plates and flute glasses and the dishwashing, and the laying out of tables for the twenty or so people. Although they will occupy most of the upstairs room, there is no rental fee for the space. Never mind that a table for two would generate €60 with much less effort. On the night itself, she saunters downstairs every so often, 25 years old with the ways of an 18 year old. She apologises that many of her friends haven't turned up and so she would like one less bottle ... this happens several times throughout the night, despite the fact that the waiter notes all twenty places are occupied at the table, with more standing. When she tries to renegue on bottle number two, he mentions this. In the end, the young lady pays a grand total of €35 for entertaining her large group of friends. The following night we have a booking for another party of 15 this time. They want prosecco and antipasti and fruit - plus the service and space, naturally, all included in €100. So €60 for the 4 botles of prosecco, leaves €40 for the fruit and antipasti - just over €2 per person. Errr, profit? And the man who made the booking asked for a discount on this ... As if he were doing us a favour. We decided that we need to ask for half of the total amount up front. I would have done this long ago, but my husband is afraid of offending customers. I think by now, though, that our reputation is well enough established. Otherwise, what is the point?
We have had a group of English guys up at the restaurant for the last few weeks. I met them coming up the steps to the borgo one fine evening in May. They greeting me in English, and when I replied in the same language they immediately asked me where they could find a restaurant with an English menu... Look no further, I said, and led them to Pachamama. They said they were tired of pasta and wanted to know what it was they were eating! On a six week contract at the refinery, they are responsible for cleaning the waste tubes, the areas where the burnt residues of oil collect. Needless to say, this is the filthiest refinery they have ever worked in. This was particularly reassuring to know in May and early June, when experts were predicting hugh earthquakes in the South of Italy ... The six English gentlemen from Licoln munched their way through many steaks, to my surprise (rather than the seafood options), and downed copious quantities of beer (to everyone else's surprise). The waiters were amazed that they drank 23 pints and two vodka tonics between them during the England-Italy match - pretty normal - and yet made faces of disgust when they drank the shots of vodka at the end of the match - offered to all who watched it with us. However, they made the atmosphere. The Italians were all nervous and excited about the match, but the presence of the jolly bunch of inglesi made it all the more tense. Great banter was exchanged though there is a lot of doubt as to who understood what! Outside one of the waiters and one of the Englishmen smoked their way through a packet of cigarettes to calm their nerves, and pigeon English and sign language abounded. The Sicilians were all impressed by the English handshakes and pats on the back at the end. The Englishmen went home on Monday, telling me it was the tastiest steak they had ever had. Compliments to the chef!