When my friend Kathryn walked into Pizzeria Paradiso for our lunch date, I held up my green notebook in which I keep restaurant / cooking notes. The first item: “Pizzeria Paradiso is dead to me.” And that was before I had anything to eat.
Pizzeria Paradiso has a policy of not seating you unless your entire party is present. I understand this, especially when it’s busy. When I got to the restaurant for lunch at 12:30 p.m. on a Friday, the restaurant was maybe a third filled. Empty tables everywhere you looked. I was refused a seat. I was ready to purchase wine and get the bill rolling, but no. No seat for me!
So, I sat at the bar with a glass of the 2008 Monferrato Bianco and scribbled in my green notebook: “Pizzeria Paradiso is dead to me.”
Kathryn arrived, we were seated.
As you may know, this was my, “I’m-giving-Pizzeria-Paradiso-one-last-chance” visit. I ordered my usual: the Atomica with extra red pepper. I also ordered some focaccia to start. The bread was fabulous. It really was. I swirled it around in a puddle of parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt, and it was fantastic. I was starving, yes, but the bread was fresh and oh-so-fluffy. And, really, what is better than fresh bread and olive oil?
Kathryn and I went to college together. We don’t see each other often – work, life, husbands, babies, living in complete opposite parts of town, etc. – but when we do, there is no small talk. So while we waited for our pizzas – not too long – we got right into our lives – a wonderful thing to happen among friends.
Our pizzas arrived and I have to say, the Atomica was remarkably better than my last visit to Pizzeria Paradiso. No skimping on the ingredients and the crust was soft and crisp all at once: perfect. I had asked for extra red pepper but it still was not hot enough for me. I kept sprinkling more hot pepper flakes, never enough to my satisfaction. Why does my mouth have to be on fire? Because I am Indian.
Final assessment: Pizzeria Paradiso is not dead to me: it is in a coma. I’m going to take a break. I’ll go back, but not anytime soon. Not being seated in a mostly-empty restaurant has me vexed. We live in a world where customer service is crumbling, and I don’t like it. I respect structure, and for the most part, rules. I’m not asking for entitlement, but when there are numerous empty tables in a restaurant that does not take reservations, it really is not a big deal to let a paying customer take a seat.