(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears on this blog.)
The second night at Allen´s went better than the first. The neighborhood was in need of pseudo society café and Allen´s, by its second night had all the makings of a hang-out for the 69th Street high-rise dwellers.
The menus eventually showed up. By the third night, when the sandwich board sign hit the sidewalk on Second Ave. things were rockin. We had a dishwasher and enough dishes going into the kitchen to keep him busy. Eric joined the staff on Thursday afternoon and helped me set up the dining room. By then I had seniority and my confidence level as a new, New York waiter was over taking my common sense. I appointed myself the shift supervisor and took control of the room. Eric never asked anyone what was going on. He was four days late for his first shift and really had no idea that I had no idea. The management seemed pleased enough with my assertive moxie and let me take on more responsibility. Soon, I was seating people and also waiting on tables.
Capra, the "rope man", along with Kelly, the General Manager, diligently discussing the flow and quality of the food while sitting at the bar mingling with the customers. Dissecting the problem of not having a professional chef was the main topic of discussion and concern while the waiters, both of us, handled the front line serving Cobb´s culinary pieces complete with orange twist and chicory garnish.
By Friday night we were turning the table at least once, and seemed busy enough for another waiter, a prep cook and busser. None of those were expeditiously going to happen. At the end of each shift, which seemed to linger longer than needed, Kelly and Capra would nurse the kitchen analysis with Cobb into the later hours of dining accompanied by a few nightcaps.
When not at Allen´s I spent time promoting and marketing the new restaurant while sitting at corner stool at JG Melon. Only a few blocks away at 74th and Third Avenue, the saloon´s owners, Jack O´Neal and George Morgess worked with Cobb at his original restaurant, when Allen´s was just down the block at 73rd and they were familiar with his style, antics, and knowledge of the business. Hell, he taught it to them. Recognizing my naivety they also took me under their wings. They offered a different style of guidance. They made sure I knew to save as much money as I could and get out of the business as fast as possible.
And, once I had the nod from Jack and George, Melon´s bartenders became immediate friends and guides on what was going on in the neighborhood. Hal Sherman, PJ Rocco, Billy Connelly, Bob Torres, and Jimmy Mannix all offered direction on life, bar life. And, I needed that direction. But they didn´t just offer direction. They shared their income by introduced me to their customers always sure to point out that I was a new waiter at the new Allen´s. And, when introduced, I would buy a round. And then the customer would buy a round. And then the bartender would buy a drink or two. And the great American money swap began.
I finished my first week of work nearly replacing all of the money I had lost playing Three Card Monte, just six days earlier. On Saturday night I went home after my shift and made a plan to get up early on Sunday, go down to Melon´s at 11:30, secure the best seat in the house and begin marketing to the crowd who surely would be there to watch the football game. In a short period of time, I had become the restaurant´s self-appointed marketing department. An Ambassador of good will, telling stories, buying drinks, and inviting people to stop by for a great evening. Little did I know that I was getting my first taste of the business, and my addiciton to it was beginning to take hold.