Today’s post is quite a bit lighter than last week’s. It’s about one of my favorite pastimes behind the bar — spotting nominees for The Hall of Fame.
There’s been a HOF in every place I’ve worked, and typically the guidelines are straightforward. The nominees are simply the best in their class, as deemed by informal group consensus.
I love the Johnny D’s HOF. In an environment spilling over with so many stellar candidates, there’s not much that gets by our panel of bartenders and waitstaff.
Here are two examples.
(1) Spaghetti Night
We serve good food at Johnny D’s — it’s upscale dining in a causal environment. You might sample the house-made polenta fries, then enjoy butternut ravioli in a sage, brown butter sauce. We also have great burgers (free range, grass fed), along with the occasional comfort food specials.
One night several years ago, we offered a spaghetti and meatball special with Tina’s homemade sauce. Tina was from Naples, Italy and her sauce was an authentic Italian treat.
On this particular night the club was packed. We running around like crazy behind the bar when Mary came down to my section. She told me a customer at her end had a dinner coming out, just in case the expeditor brought it to me.
“He ordered the spaghetti special,” she said, “Just drop off the plate. He’s all set with a roll-up.” (If you’re not in the business — a roll-up is silverware wrapped in a napkin.)
I delivered his meal and didn’t think much about it, but ten minutes later Mary was back in my section. She could barely talk. She had her hand over her mouth. She was choking back the laughter.
“You have to go help him,” she managed between snorts, “I can’t . . . I really can’t!”
‘How is everything?” I asked the guy when I got there. I said it automatically. I should have looked before I spoke.
The man was sitting with his dish of spaghetti in front of him. He looked up. His hands were poised about an inch above his plate. In one hand, he held a mound of pasta, in the other an over-sized meatball with a chunk bitten out.
He was eating a spaghetti dinner with his hands.
“It’s good,” he told me, “Really good . . . delicious.”
There were small pools of sauce and bits of spaghetti splattered all around the bar in front of him. The roll-up lay untouched next to his plate; apparently he didn’t realize what it was. Maybe he didn’t want to bother us while we were busy, . . . so he simply began eating.
He continued to look at me with both hands still full. Now he was chewing again. “I guess I could use a fork,” he said.
I almost choked trying to keep a straight face. I unwrapped the napkin and took out the silverware.
“It’s right here if you want it,” I said still struggling not to laugh, then walked away quickly.
When he got up to dance, Mary cleaned the bar top.
(2) “How do I get to Johnny D’s?”
A couple weeks ago, I told you about the woman who called for directions to Johnny D’s, but didn’t want to tell us where she was coming from. As you can imagine, people calling for directions include quite a few Hall of Famers. Here’s one of my favorites . . .
“How do I get to Johnny D’s?” a man asked over the phone.
I grabbed the directions sheet. We have direction from the Mass Pike, from RT 93, from New Hampshire, Maine, or New York — no matter where you’re coming from, we can get you here.
“Where are you now?” I asked, looking at the sheet.
“I’m in Davis Square,” the man said.
Johnny D’s is in Davis Square.
“Where in the Square?“ I asked. No need for the sheet; I put it back in the folder.
“I’m at the Davis Square MBTA stop,” he said.
Johnny D’s is across the street from the Davis Square MBTA stop.
I looked out the front windows.
Across the street there was a man standing at the pay phones. His back was to me and he was hunched over, holding a phone to his ear.
I looked at him for a minute.
“Are you wearing a red jacket?” I asked.
He straightened up abruptly. His back still to me, the phone was now held out away from him. I swear, he was looking at the phone in his hand.
“Yes,” he said as he brought the phone back to his ear, “I’m wearing a red jacket.”
“Turn around,” I said.
“Turn around slowly.”
“Look across the street, and you’ll see a brick-faced building with a lot of flowers and plants in the front . . . then there’s a large sign that says, Johnny D’s.”