Saturday, June 30, 2007

Facial Hair

In my 1st Correction post, I uploaded a picture of my brother Larry sporting a fake gray mustache. I commented that although he didn't really have a mustache, if he did, I thought it would be gray. What I didn't know was that since the last time I saw Larry he had grown a mustache. And a beard.

Larry rocking the salt and pepper look. So I was half right. Wistful catalog model gaze? Gratis.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My Favorite Waiters At Vito.

The waiters who work at Vito are professionals. They're men who wait tables for a living. It's not a part-time gig until something better comes along. It's not a whim to distract them from their real job. It's a career. They take great pride in it and they're excellent at it. Having one of them at your table really shows you what a difference a great waiter makes in your dining experience.

Hank is the General Manager, Head Waiter, and Sommelier at Vito. The place would fall apart without him. People call ahead just to reserve a booth in his section. When I was a customer at Vito I thought he was brusque. I didn't like him so much. But as I've learned with all the waiters at Vito, once you get to know them, you really do love them. They are interesting, complicated and truly funny men.

Hank has worked at Vito for about 15 years. He's originally from Waltham, MA -- which is sort of like Somerville but with more trees. He moved here about 17 years ago from New York where he trained in musical theater at Julliard. He was a song and dance man on Broadway. He was in Guys And Dolls and something else really macho. He came out here and started auditioning but couldn't believe how unprofessional people were -- he was used to a New York standard. (Other people have also told me there is a big difference between the auditioning processes here and there. Makes sense, I guess.) Anyway, Hank lost his taste for entertainment and got into food and beverage. If I got to cast the Sopranos, he'd definitely be one of Tony's men.

(Left to right: Hank, who hates to have his picture taken, and Alberto.)

Alberto, next to Hank in the picture above, was always our favorite waiter when we were customers. He's so sweet and kind. He would always recite the specials in a way that seemed like he was suffering from performance anxiety. When he finished and you ordered off the regular menu, he always seemed a little disappointed, maybe even annoyed that you made him go through the torture. I hated disappointing him so I would look to Sam to take a dive into something exotic just so Alberto would feel like he did a good job selling.

Alberto speaks 5 languages including American Sign Language. After a long night at Vito he likes to go home, hop in the shower and then go out dancing. He's always on a diet and never mixes carbs with protein but he sometimes shoves a piece of Chocolate Mocha Crunch Cake down his gullet when no one is looking. But please never mention that to him if you sit in his section. He'd kill me.

Where Do All My Tips Go?

Into the nasty kibble habit these four beasts below have cultivated. I'm an enabler. Always have been, always will be. It's why I'm such a good bartender.

(From left to right: Brady, Mabel, Bunny, Ginger.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another Correction

My brother Chris reminded me that our other brother, Larry, was a bartender at the Cask 'N Flagon for about four hours. So although Jimmy was technically the first bartender in the family, Larry was the second, not me.

(Larry at Christmas a few years ago. He's dancing with his son who is out of frame. The mustache is fake although I do believe that if Larry had a mustache, it would be gray.)

Larry is a really smart guy. One of the smartest people I know. Harvard educated and everything. Why would such a smart guy who knows he hates people ever think he'd like bartending? One of life's great mysteries.

The Great Glass Comparison

I've been bragging about the size of the drinks at Vito so I decided it was time for a visual for the disbelievers.

The martini glass on the left is the typical Vito martini. Fighting weight? A fat 9 ounces. The martini glass to the right is a typical glass at every other bush league establishment in Los Angeles. It weighs in at a mere 3 1/2 ounces. And what will that baby bullshit drink cost you? About $14.95. What does the big daddy cost you at Vito? $9.95. I defy you to find a better bargain anywhere east or west coat. Plus I make a mean Lemondrop, right Stace?

A Good Showing

Saturday night was another spectacular night at Vito. There wasn't the crowd we had the previous week, so I could hang a bit with my friends who showed up. (Thanks to Joe, Alison, Richard, Carolyn, Holly and Kerri.) The best part of the night was when Sam showed up with Nate and Ivy, my step-kids. They came early enough that the bar wasn't filled so when I introduced them to Vito, I asked if it was okay if they sit at the bar so I could wait on them. I was sure Vito would say no but I think it was busy enough in the dining room that he was happy to have a party of three taken off his hands. So it was to the bar for my family.

The waitstaff was impressed with Nate's ability to polish off an entire plate of rigatoni primavera with homemade sausage. This plate of food was so big it could comfortable sleep a family of three.


No one could believe Ivy was just 15 years old. She seemed so cool, so composed. No small feat when you're sitting between your father and your brother milking a 16 oz Shirley Temple.


Sam got the ball rolling on the Lemon Solstices which were the big seller of the night. Richard and Carolyn came up with a drink they called Pimp Cocktail which combines the bar's cheapest wine mixed with something awful -- Campari maybe? Needless to say, none of those were made, served or thought about after the Lemon Solstices took center stage.

P.S. This is being posted from my real job so there may be typos. A post with pictures to come later today.

(Ivy & Me at the Red Sox/Padres game this weekend. I think Mike Lowell noticed us.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Training Days

After my anniversary-present night at Vito, I knew the bartending bug bit me. Being on hiatus and having some free time on my hands, I asked Roberto, Vito’s brother and co-owner of the restaurant, if I could come back during the day and train and with the girl who works lunch. Since I was willing to work these day shifts for free until I knew what I was doing, he was happy to oblige. When I told a few of the waiters I’d be coming back to train during lunch, they’d look at me with a mixture if pity and horror and ask, “With Alina?” When I replied, yes. They just wished me good luck and walked away. I wasn’t intimidated. How bad could Alina be?


Alina, late 30 something Romanian immigrant with a fierce body and an even fiercer look on her face, is wiping down the bar in anticipation of a lunch crowd that will never come. When I walk in I say brightly, “Hi, Alina. I’m Julie, Roberto might have mentioned me to you.” Alina looks up and snarls at me with a heavy accent, “Oh. You. You’re here to take my job.”

I explain to Alina that, no, I don’t want her job I just want her to train me how to do her job in case she wants to take a day off in the next few months or so, I could fill in or something. She doesn’t believe me. I literally explain this three more times. I tell her I have a full time job. This is just something I’ve always wanted to do. I definitely do not want her job. Finally she comes around to believing me. “So you just want to fill in if I need day off?” “Yes! That’s it!” I’m so relieved that she finally gets it because I’m not afraid of many women, but this chick would cut me if push came to shove.

Alina comes so far around that by the end of the shift she is telling me that I’m her angel. Now she can take time off to do her modeling and acting. Seeing that she’s pushing 40 just like me, I ask her what kind of modeling she does: she’s a foot fetish model. Fantastic. Apparently from her years as a professional singer/songwriter/choreographer in Romania she has a very high arch. And that is very desirable in the foot fetish world.

But calling Alina just a model would be selling her short. Apparently she was very famous in Romania before she came to this country under political asylum. She is a singer/songwriter, a choreographer, a producer, a fashion designer, and a jewelry designer for dogs. She’s just put all her money into a record she produced herself and swears she is going to blow up global when that shit drops. Why not?

See for yourself:

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Drink For Summer

I've invented a drink for the summer. It's called Lemon Solstice. (Name courtesy of my step-daughter, Ivy. Thanks, Dogger.)

For a sip of summery delight fill a Collins glass with ice and add:
2 oz. Ketel One Citroen
2 oz. Club Soda
2 oz. Lemonade

Garnish with a fresh lemon slice, sit back and pray September never comes.

Photo Credits:
Director of Photography - P. Simms
Key Grip - I. Johnson
Best Boy - N. Johnson
Set Decoration - S. Johnson
Photographer - J. Bean

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The original Bean bartender: my brother, Jimmy.

My brother Jimmy was a bartender for a while after college. He worked at his in-law's bar in Philadelphia: Murphy's Tavern at 44th and Spruce. My brother and I have shared about 3 words via email our whole lives. Less on the phone. He's seven years older and a world away; entrenched in a very complicated life as a father and grandfather in Philly. (Sorry to put you on blast, Jim.) But my new job and this blog has opened up a whole new line of communication. (See his comments under my "Correction" entry.)

Here's what he had to say about my new job:

If I ever get back out to the left coast I'll stop by and offer my critique
based on over twenty years of serving every type of spoiled rich kid, dirtball neighborhood crumbs, under sexed middle ages delinquents, would-be singer/songwriter legends, street corner denizens, pompous products of the ivy-league, wanna-be bikers, as well as various other ne'er do wells and numbnuts.

Three suggested last call lines to move the toads out of your bar when you want to leave (supplied by one Joseph Murphy retired proprietor of the world famous Murphy's Tavern)

1. "Speed on before you get peed on!"
2. "Off the streets and into the sheets!"
3. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here"! (Stolen, without royalties, by Semi-Sonic in "Closing Time")

Bonus for those still nursing that last call drink
"Suck up and get a red nose!"

Last words as they pass out your door
"See you in church"

Pretty good for a grandpa, huh? Now if I could only find a picture of him so you could see how young a grandfather can be.


In my "In The Weeds" post, I mistakenly called Tracy "Terri" and Beverly "Dolores." I have absolutely no idea why. I blame the bottle, which I've been on for 20 years. Sorry, Tracy. Bev, I'm sure you don't have a computer, but my apologies to you, too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Monday Night Crowd

All the waiters and bartenders kept telling me that filling in on a Monday night would be profitable. Apparently there is this regular Monday night crowd who come just to sit at the bar.

(The bar at Vito. Gorgeous, isn't it?)

So this Monday night crowd, I'm told they eat, they drink, they hog the remote control, and they’ve been coming for years. Naturally I pictured a bunch of smelly, boozy 60 year olds who couldn’t find their way to the local VFW. I was wrong. Way wrong. This crowd that hangs at the bar on a Monday night is group of foxy guys, mostly mid to late 30’s, with a few ladies peppered in so as not to be too intimidating. They're smart, they're interesting and they're a good time. My words of advice, ladies? Run don’t walk to Vito on a Monday night. You won’t be disappointed. Besides, what else you going to do on a Monday night? Get the schplinkies* about the rest of the week?

*Schplinkies: That queasy feeling you get deep in the pit of your stomach about the work week ahead. Usually happens on Sunday night. Can happen on Monday as well. Also known as schplinkers.
Word and definition courtesy of J. Adler.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

In The Weeds

From Wikipedia: “In the weeds” refers to a waitress/bartender/cook that can't keep up with the tables. Refers back to chefs' military roots, where being in the weeds would cause your army to be slaughtered.

I was so in the weeds last night. I thank god that only a few of my friends showed up at Vito last night after my huge mass emailing promo-ing a good time on a Saturday night because the place was packed to the rims. No one, not even the waiters who have been there for years, had ever seen it like this. We ran out of everything: coffee cups, wine glasses, martini glasses, bread, toastini. (Aside: Toastini are these little cheesy, buttery, garlic-y, slices of toasted baguette that are made fresh at the start of every shift. They’re so good, they’re like Lay’s potato chips - I defy you to eat just one. I wish to be buried with them in case there is snacking in the after-life.)

Customers who were antsy for their tables were starting to stand behind the bar because that was the only place there was room. I promptly tried to move a large older woman in turquoise gabardine to the proper side of the bar but she wanted none of it until she got her Sapphire (to match her suit?) Martini up with a twist and a Grey Goose Martini up with olives for her impatient friend. Fine, will you then get out of my way? Not before she tips me 3 bucks for my troubles, thank you very much. Now I know I’m being an ingrate but she’s in my space, she’s cut in front of about 100 people who are also waiting for a drink (not to mention the 5 waiters who need service) and all she gives me is 3 bucks? 4 or more when you’re being that pushy, Big Mama.

I was happy to have 3 friends camped out at the end of the bar. (shout out to Kerry, Tracy and Susan!) They were three people I knew I didn’t have to worry about. They had their drinks, they had their food, and they had the attention of Mo. Mo, who is 90 – yes 90 - has been coming to Vito every Saturday night for the past 20 years with his much younger wife Beverly. He orders Crown Royal with three ice-cubes while Beverly nurses an Apple Martini. They’re sort of Vito Royalty although Mo complains every week that Vito has never bought him a drink. If you’re lucky enough to sit next to Mo some Saturday night and you happen to be a pretty lady, you’re bound to get a free drink out of him. Susan has. Haven’t you, you little minx?

When the weeds were at their thickest, a man at the bar asked me if I could show him the desserts. The desserts are showcased on a cart that is about 4 feet long which they wheel to your table at the end of your meal. Was this dude joking? It was five people deep behind him, there way no way I was going to try and maneuver that cart through this crowd. I told him to get up and earn his dessert – walk the 15 feet to the cart and then come back and tell me what he wants. It was a standoff until Beverly intervened, thank god, (her husband busy with Susan) and told him to order the flourless chocolate cake. Perfect! We’re all happy! Then Beverly douches me by asking for it served with vanilla ice-cream. F******ck! Beverly! Can you see the crowd here?! I don’t have time to be heating up cake and then fishing around the kitchen trying to find where they hide the vanilla ice-cream. Mary, my co-bartender saw the look of fear on my face, stepped in and took a hit for the team. She’s a good woman, that Mary.

I didn’t see my way out of the weeds until about 10:30pm when Stacey, Chris and Leslie walked in. They had stopped by earlier intending to eat but the crowd was too thick. Chris, a former bartender turned lawyer, said he saw how thick the weeds were but I still had a smile on my face. That’s good to know but I wonder how long it will last.

When the smile fades I will think of this picture of Vito.
How cute is that?

Saturday, June 16, 2007


At first I thought bartending would be something I’d love because it seemed so satisfying - like the closest thing I could do to working construction. I’ve always envied construction workers. In my mind their days would go something like this: get up, go to work, hammer nails for 8 straight hours, come home exhausted, drink an earned beer. The idea of coming home physically exhausted from a job was so appealing. Don’t get me wrong I’ve come home exhausted after sitting in a writer’s room for 10 hours but that’s because my brain is fried from listening to people joke, tell stories, pitch stories, argue and bitch about the television business. Physical exhaustion is different. It feels more earned somehow. Or maybe that’s just some working class notion I can’t shake.

I wanted a job where I didn’t get notes on the work I was doing. I wanted a job that was less subjective than writing a script. Your drink tastes bad? Fine, tell me what you want in it and I’ll make it. There, that better? Good. Next? The boundaries for interpretation would be a little more confined. And there would be nothing to take personally -- “not responding” to my cocktail? I don’t care. I didn’t invent it. I’m just the messenger. Talk to Mr. Boston; he wrote the book on this shit.

Of course within the first hour of my first night of actually working, not training, but really working behind the bar, all the above went in the shitter. People do bitch about their drinks. Everyone has a different way of making “their” drink and yes, you do hurt my feelings when you push away the full Cosmo I made for you and ask for a Chardonnay. Oh well.

But here’s what I love about bartending:

For five hours you can think of nothing else besides the task at hand. I can’t think about:
1) How fat I am.
2) How I didn’t workout earlier that day.
3) How I didn’t get staffed on that show.
4) How old my mother is getting.
5) How fat I am.
6) How I’m not going to eat tonight.
7) How I’m not going to drink tonight.
8) How to write another pilot that no one cares about.
9) How to think up new ideas for the show I am working on.
10) How fat I am.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How It All Began

It started as anniversary present from my husband, Sam. I've always wanted to be a bartender and the place that I wanted to work was a local restaurant that we frequented, Vito (sic). Vito is an old style, red sauce-y type of place where the waiters still wear tuxes, there are only chick with lots of cleavage behind the bar, and the clientele ranges from in the 50 to 60 age range. A slice of heaven. To me, at least.

(That's Vito in the chef's hat. Giovanna in the middle and Roberto, Vito's brother next to her. Roberto is the business end of Vito. Not sure what Giovanna does but everyone seems to fear her so she must really be the one in charge.)

So Sam had called Vito and spoke to Roberto and asked that if on our 3rd anniversary I could work behind the bar from 6 pm to 8pm and then we'd have dinner. In fact, Sam would PAY THEM for their troubles. Without hesitation Roberto said it'd be no problem. Sam was sure he didn't understand the proposition.

Vito and Roberto, who hail from Sicily about 30 years ago, still speak in halted English. That, partnered with the fact that they don't listen to a word you say, can leave one with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Or dread even. Like, say, it's your mother's birthday and a party of 9 of you want to head to Vito to celebrate? You'll call Vito and tell them a party of 9 for 7pm on a Saturday night. Roberto, Vito or whomever is walking past the phone at that moment will say: "Sure, no problemo! We love-a birthdays!" When you get there at 6:55pm with your 70 year old mother in tow, you're shit out of luck because no one has put your reservation on the books and every other 70 year old in town is celebrating her birthday with her entire family at the same exact moment. Happy Birthday, Mom. Now could you scoot your walker over a bit because you're blocking the waiter's way.

I was incredibly nervous when we walked into Vito at 6pm on April 10th, 2007. I had dressed according to Sam's instructions: "Dress like you're gonna bartend at Vito's." AKA: "Show your titties." I did. I was nervous for me and I was nervous for my husband. If, as expected, this whole thing was one big miscommunication, I didn't want Sam to be disappointed. And if, as unexpected, things went smoothly, I didn't want to shit the bed behind the bar being that I've never bartended in a day in my life.

I did, however, formulate a fallback plan on the five minute ride to the restaurant. If whomever was working seemed like they had never heard of Sam's plan, I'd offer to come back during the day when I know it's not so busy and bartend then. Roberto, Vito's younger, savvier brother was working the maitre'd booth. Sam explained who we were. Roberto seemed like he remembered but also seemed like he may have regretted agreeing to let me bartend. I immediately stepped in and said I could come back during the day when it wasn't so busy. Roberto loved that plan. Both a little deflated, Sam and I took seats at the bar for one of the enormous bowls of martini they serve at Vito. When I took my sweater off, Roberto immediately noticed the plunging neckline I was sporting and changed his tune. Next thing I knew I was behind the bar fixing Sam a 9 ounce glass of blabbermouth soup. I was officially bartending. It may have been the greatest anniversary present ever.

(Me and Sam behind the bar at the end of my first shift. I make that face to hide my double chin.)