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.)