Pizzeria Paradiso: Part Deux (but not as good as “Hot Shots”) 01.22.2011

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.

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