Thursday, November 14, 2013
I, officially, became a server in 1956 when I went to work at Piccolo's on Miami Beach. The first week I was trained in the kitchen by Sam Piccolo and the following week his son Vinnie trained me as a waiter. On the third week I was given a station on what you would call the veranda which was between the large main dining room and the large patio dining area.
It was one of the best jobs I ever had and one I knew I could always come back to when I came to Miami Beach. I remember a lot about that job including the waiters Lou the Greek and Joe, the latter who was a pain in the butt to everyone. Sadly I don't remember the names of the two waitresses who were so kind to this young 'know it all'--some things never change--though I do remember they had the stations in the corner in-between the kitchen and the patio.
My first night I was given a party of 2 and everything went smoothly including getting a 30% tip which was a lot of money back in the 1950s though complete meals ran $78-10! The next party I got was a party of 7 and everything started off great. I got their drinks, brought them out the delicious garlic rolls along with their antipasto. They were sitting in the corner behind the wall of the main dining room and you had to go around a corner to get to their table. Hey! Don't get ahead of the story!
After getting them another round of drinks I brought out the 7 main course dishes, the 7 side dishes of pasta and their 7 salads as they requested the latter be served with the main meal. Between the heavy covers over the main dishes to keep the food warm plus the side dishes on top of that and the salad plates sort of balanced in and around on the tray I came out of the kitchen, went through the dining room, turned the corner to place the tray on the tray stand and somehow my grip didn't hold and all 21 plates went sliding to the floor. I really didn't know what to do. The floor was a mess but luckily I hadn't gotten any food on the customers. By instinct I decided the best thing to do was to get out of there, so I walked out of the veranda went through the patio and left by going through the gate at the back of the restaurant.
I really didn't know what to do but some how I got the guts up to back the next day for my shift as if nothing happened. When I walked in--and I still remember it today, 56 years later, the staff that was there looked at me as if I was crazy!!! Vinnie told me to come into the office where he said that if it ever happened again I should leave and never come back but that for now I would have to pay for the meals that fell and the food they had to make to replace them. Keep in mind that in the 1950s servers got paid 50 cents and hour so paying for 14 meals took me some time!
I would work at Piccolo's on and off for the next 10 years as I moved back and forth between New York City and Miami Beach AND JUST FOR THE RECORD I NEVER DROPPED ANOTHER SINGLE DISH OVER THE 38 YEARS AS A SERVER! LOL
P.S. When I retired 50 years later I was working in an Italian restaurant--Big Louie's--which was the second best server's job I had!