My tavern, you see, it is not located in the very center of the ancient downtown; compared to the main square you must walk a little. Not very much, just ten minutes. It is located before the bridge and beyond the statue.
The building is old, eh! But it is not of the prestigious ones, and perhaps you can see it, if you have a sight on those things, it’s old and it needs to be restored. The plaster, for example, falls apart. Right now I can’t do anything about it!
I opened several years ago. Things have never been really great, I just serve home cooking and draught beer. But in the beginning, after the starting period, we went on ok, now, now, now … it’s not so. Maybe mine is a bit of an old formula, people want new things, but I warn them, eh! I have also written it on the door: “This place is old.”
It is not like I want to discourage people from coming, but I want to be honest. As soon as they get into the tavern, I immediately tell the customers what to expect. I say to them: “If you have come for something special, it is useless to even sit here. We make simple stuff, the old way! Maybe you want something different and I can’t measure up to your needs, you’d better go into the very downtown, that is more chic.”
Well, to put it bluntly, those in the downtown… they really are swindlers without restraints, but I do not speak badly about colleagues before the customers. I’ve got ethics, myself!
Half the customers, they go away! Maybe even more! They look at each other, they feel a bit embarrassed to leave like that, without consuming anything, good people, but I encourage them not to feel bad! Eh! I knew that they did not want what I had to offer! I’m glad to have warned them; customer’s satisfaction is the first thing!
If then they end up sitting down to some charlatan’s restaurant instead of mine… well, it’s their business, and on the conscience of the scam restaurateur! I do not want to have anything to do with all that.
We always make every effort in order to make the customer feel at ease. I do my best to be as gentle as possible, but I’m just a shy guy … And then maybe my voice, you hear it –um, er, erm- does not help, it is hoarse from so much smoking Italian cigars, cavernous, Polyphemus they call me since a lifetime, even if my tavern is called: “An Unpretentious Tavern”. It is just to be honest that I called it so!
I was born into a humble family. Maybe I’m kind of rude when I speak, but that’s because I constantly feel a little ashamed. Despite the many years that I’ve been working with people, you don’t change your temperament.
So I took a Russian waitress to soften the environment a bit. She is called Olga. She does a good job, I have to say, but she is cold like soviet concrete, and when she has premenstrual syndrome nobody can stand her. If she is on her period, you will perceive it immediately. It’s not a prejudice, she admits it herself.
I should switch, I know, for business, but I do not feel like firing her. She also has a daughter, a little girl … how can I put them out in the street? She is also quite crippled after the accident with the scooter. What are we? Animals?
The little daughter is often with us, since she does not have a father … I told her mother a thousand times not to let her run between the tables! And what happens? Here comes the police, thinking that she is working at the age of six!
But! Can it be possible that I make a creature of six years work? I say! But there’s nothing I can do! I got a fine! They do not give a damn about the girl, they are only interested in getting money, and they search for an excuse.
I used to give the little girl the tray occasionally, in order to entertain her, poor star, and a cloth … she is always with old people, poor thing. I was fined for that! It would have been enough that she did not run between the tables, not to get the fine. Was it so difficult?
She started to cry, poor creature. They scared her with all those questions, their aggressive attitude, you should have seen what an attitude! The mother was so ashamed, she blushed, but I told her not to think about it! What the heck! Accidents happen, sometimes!
I sold my father’s gold watch to pay the fine! That was a big one, eh! Never mind! I never wore it for fear of losing it … it’s like not having it. No? Stuff you don’t use…
My place, I could say that it’s nice… perhaps I should say it, but I want to be honest to the end. I would have liked to finish it in another way, but then the money, the crisis, the fact that with a hoarse voice and a bitch waitress, people mostly do not come back. I do not have a sufficient customer base to make improvements. In fact, I had to cut stuff, and now it seems a bit from the seventies, a little hospital style, a little sad.
At least I feel a little sad inside it. Let’s put it in this way: if I were to choose a place to spend my free time, it would not be in my tavern. But maybe you customers, you will like it. There have been people who have given me compliments: “Retro”… “Vintage”… But those crusts on the walls… I don’t know… I hung them up because they were given to me by a friend who was a painter.
I do not mean to offend him and so I crucified them a little everywhere. He was of a depressive temperament, but when he was in the tavern, he was heartened. They are not appropriate for the place anyway, with all those devils, hells, and if you look carefully, there are a bunch of dicks and pussies in those paintings. Fortunately, people do not understand anything, people do not look at them carefully. Then my pal committed suicide, but I am reluctant to remove them.
I wanted the counter to be in walnut, but in the end, I got this one at a judicial auction … it is not ugly, at first glance it can be deceiving, but if you touch it you realize that it is just in veneered wood.
My wife is in the kitchen. Poor woman, she works all day, holy woman, she has a certain age now; I married her despite the fact that she is ten years older than me, because I felt sorry for her. She is a hard worker, but resigned, ugly; me too, with a glass eye, fat, where can I go? Better to be together, isn’t it? We laughed about it and we got married. Maybe I could have put it in another way, the marriage proposal, but what to say after all? If I feel the need to be one hundred percent honest with the customers, even more so with my wife! No?
She is a very clean person. Certainly, once she cleaned better, now she just can not do everything like before, her back hurts, her knees do not bend. And furthermore, she suffers from hyperhidrosis (she sweats a lot, for a cook it is not the best… if you fry …) a little grease accumulates between the tiles and on the floor.
What can I do? That stuff does not kill anyone! Everybody is so picky nowadays!
Between one thing and another, we are in the tavern most of the day! Carry this, wait for that, at everybody’s beck and call! And for what? To pay taxes! That’s what! I tell you, milked as we are, what option is left other than to make cuts! How can you go on? Everybody does the same, eh! Only I’m not afraid to admit it, I have nothing to hide, myself!
Ah, others do not say it, but I assure you, they do even worse stuff than me! From me… no one has ever died by my hand! Never a complaint! Never a problem! If I give you something to eat, you can bet it’s good, though maybe it is not delicious, I agree! But good!
Of course, with all that the politicians are stealing… the last news now is you have to pay even for parking! It didn’t used to be so! The leftovers that before we were throwing away in two days, then we kept them three, then five, and now, well, now we go with the old method of tasting and visual examination. Which is also the best one.
I know it seems bad nowadays, but others are doing worse than me and they don’t tell you! I do not serve anything to eat that I would not eat myself. And you can bet that I’m the last one eating something that I serve to customers! When I close the door, at home I snack on that stuff. Look what a belly!
One time I ate a five-day tripe! Five! And what happened to me? Nothing! Look here! Nothing! A little acidity of because the tomato, but I have a weak stomach since I had the gallbladder removed. A normal person would have stood the acidity! Now they put expiration dates on biscuits as well … what are you, an idiot who does not see that they are moldy? Bah! They treat people like they are stupid! People believe anything but sincerity, I tell you! But no one listens to me.
Well, now the real problem has become the cats! That was completely my fault, I have to say, because what I cannot give to people, I give it to those creatures. At first there was a kitten, I gave him milk every night, then they arrived in two, then six, then in twenty, and now it is continuous. The road is filled with feces. The more I feed them, the more there are next time, and this seems not to have an end. But what can they do, poor creatures? Who would take care of them if I’m not there?
People talk, talk, but then they neuter pets to keep them in the house! It is not fair! Would you like to be castrated? No! So what? But everyone does things the way they like here … they pretend it is not so! Then they say they love animals, they give them a cute name, they treat them like “sons”… But in their houses they have a cat without the pickle.
Back to us, the fact is not so much the shit, but the smell of pee. From inside the tavern you can’t perceive it, but if you just go out, I admit it, it is very strong. Poor animals! I feel sympathy for them! I will not stop, however, feeding them until I’ll close! I swear!
The best of my tavern, for sure, it was the draft system, but over the time it has been getting worse. I do not have money to change hoses as often as I like… I used to maintain it like a gem! A Ferrari! It is still excellent, eh! Well… Discreet, come on! Let’s be honest! But, may lightning strike me if I do not drink a pint myself with you! I care a lot about the beer, but I have to confess, sometimes I do not change the keg within three days, as would be advisable. It lasts more than this, because I don’t sell so much. What can I do? People don’t came to my place! They prefer to be fooled by others.
At one point I was approached for this thing, you know… to sell fake liquors; people do not say it, but they do so! On the coast, otherwise, how can they survive in those trendy bars? So poorly managed! And no one notices anything! At least until the headache the next day. Well… It is something to be proud of between friends, the hangover, isn’t it? “Have you seen how much I drank yesterday? Today I feel like shit…” well, the fact is you have been poisoned!
No! I categorically refused it! If I sell a JB that is not JB, then I say it! “This is not JB!” I think sincerity is the first thing in business! Here, everyone lies! They decorate everything with flowers just in order to fool you, and here we are!
If everyone was like me! If all were talking about things as they really are! “The omelette, how old is it, Polyphemus?” “Two days, sir! Do you want it anyway?” The country would be different! Those who are selling fake liquor instead, they threatened me instead. They might be a kind of mafia!
Ah, but I’m not afraid! I told them! I’ll say what you are doing to everyone! Criminals! You, taking advantage of the poor customers and citizens! Bravo! Ruining the honest job of serving food to good Christians! The oldest profession, and the most decent in the world! Even with Etruscans, there were restaurants! I am ignorant, but other people even more than me, it seems to be!
That’s the way the country goes instead! Once I saw a poor lawyer eating bad meat! Sold as fine cut! What can they know about this stuff, lawyers, poor people? They trust people, they think the rest are as honest and decent as they are.
Sometimes, I even warned some of them, but, I don’t know, maybe for my hoarse voice, the glass eye that goes where it wants, or even my breath that smells because of the missing gallbladder, there was nothing to do! I have not been taken seriously!
On the contrary! They treated me like I didn’t exist at all! As if I was harassing! What have I said after all?
I remember one situation in particular. He was accompanied by a beautiful woman, a very good looking brunette in her forties, I congratulated! I’m from a modest family, but I know good manners. The lawyer, he didn’t even look at me at all! Even if he was the one where my niece was working at the time. “Watch what you are doing, sir, that meat is not good, eh! I tell you sir..” The waiter came and took me away. And the other… he didn’t say anything at all, not even goodbye. He keep on talking with the girl, as nothing happened, pretending he didn’t see or recognize me. I just was trying to be kind, after all.
Well, I don’t care! They are the ones who will have been in the toilet the next day! If they would have come to me, I’d have treated them like kings! Compared to that!
But there are not a lot of people in my tavern. It must be due to the fact that people are lazy here, they do not walk, not even ten minutes, especially in an old dark road, even if I’m stuck very close to the downtown! You take the decumanus and go ahead! The Romans were not idiots! It was all very organized.
Well, coming back to the previous story, I digress, the day after arguing with those of the fake spirits, I found broken glass in my door. It may be just a coincidence! But I was a bit suspicious. With this bad economy, I also had to spend money to fix it. At first I was tempted to leave it as it was, but then if someone gets hurt? The customer comes first!
If it was my house, I would have left it cracked! And just be careful! It would have been enough not to slam the door … and my wife is delicate. But at the tavern, with Olga, slamming everything …
So just to try to make some money I decided to make a nice brochure, one of those which are “in fashion” now … and I went to a publicist. I told him what I wanted to put inside it: everything I said on here! But especially the words about the Thieving Government… and he told me: no!
Eventually we had to give up on everything! He wasn’t listening to me! Everything I wanted to say was not good! Not this one! Not this one, either! … And what can we put in it? Eh! He wanted me to lie! He wanted me to change the name of the place. Yeah! Why not?! But then who carries on the responsibility of saying I’m the best cook in town? No way, no way! It is not true!
But you should have seen what kind of fat lies! “Fascinating and charming restaurant in the very heart of the historical downtown of… and blah, blah, blah!” What are we talking about? “Charming?” “Old town?” I’m quite out of the very centre … people do not realize it? When they arrive at my place? Don’t they see I’m in an empty zone? Fairness is the first thing!
And then: the “charming” … charming? … with neon lights and the paintings of a friend who committed a suicide … I wanted to say it! Of course! That they come from a dead friend! At least people will understand why I keep them hung on the walls, otherwise they may think I have no taste at all. Me too, I like Caravaggio! Well, even if I have an eye less and my depth perception is not very good. Ok… but I’m not a friend of Caravaggio, of course!
“Traditional cuisine and local specialties!” We are close to reality, yes, but is it not better to say: “We cook as my wife would do in our house?” I do not understand these cryptic phrases. Everywhere now they say a lot of stuff, you don’t understand shit about what they are saying! Cream, foam, reduction, organic, “zero mile” products… what is that? Cuisine? Or cosmetics, physics, chemistry?
Then he wanted to take pictures … I told him: “I’ll take the pictures!” They were not ok! He wanted to take them himself. Well! He started tinkering with a lot of lights, lamps, tricks.
I let him do so: shots from the floor, from the ceiling, from ladders! What is that? What is all that for! And then… I see the pictures … and it does not seem at all to be my tavern on them! Even me, I seem to have no belly!
And they call that stuff “photos”? Where you do not understand a thing? If I’d ask for a drawing, a blind man would have done a better job, more close to reality! What is it good for, an image like that? People are able to lie even with photography nowadays!
And what am I supposed to say then, when someone comes along and he doesn’t recognize the place … No, no, no, everything is wrong! People will think they are going to one place… and they will end up in another. It’s like if you see a pic and you think you will meet a good looking girl, and an old women without teeth appears instead!
So I had to give in! I paid the guy, but I said to him that his way is not a good way to work! According to me, sincerity and honesty are first and foremost in life and business, especially in a restaurant. But it seems that I’m the only one who thinks so.