For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."
Recently, I was in Chicago, dining at a seafood restaurant that was quite plainly a seafood restaurant. After all, the word "fish" is in the restaurant name.
As we dined al fresco, along the sidewalk on an absolutely gorgeous autumn evening, a two-top arrived and was seated directly behind and I overheard this conversation between a diner and the server:
Diner: "I am allergic to shellfish."
Server: "Thank you for letting me know, I will be sure to alert the kitchen staff."
Diner: "Seriously, if a pair of tongs so much as touches a shrimp or scallop and then my food, we’re dialing 911."
Server: "Yes, ma’am, I will make sure they know."
I take food allergies seriously. A child in my kid’s class has a peanut allergy and when it’s our turn to provide snack, I spend a lot of time reading the ingredients carefully. It’s serious business. I get that for sure. And it can’t be easy for anyone with dangerous food allergies to dine out.
Is it worth the risk for someone with a shellfish allergy so dangerous that even glancing contact requires immediately emergency ambulance response to select a seafood restaurant for dinner? Especially in the heart of downtown Chicago where there are often two or three restaurants of all kinds to a block. Because you can be as mad as you want if those tongs touch and you can threaten to sue, but you'll be the one in the ER.
In the end, of course, a diner has a right to choose. What really grated on me, however, was the tone of bitchiness in the diner’s voice when addressing a server who had been responsive and courteous; a tone that said, "you’re guilty of something already." I'm the kind of person that's convinced that in most cases you catch more bees with honey.
I bet you readers out there who work in the service industry are shaking your heads right now as you remember your own experiences.
Customers who seem ready to pounce from the get-go remind me of the American woman dining alone in Vernazza on my first visit to Italy. She was picky, demanding and unwilling to even attempt to order in Italian and promptly accused the eager and doting restaurateur -- struggling to understand and respond in English -- of attempting to cheat her because he’d misunderstood her order.
Diners and restaurateurs: be nice to wait staff. They’re on the front lines.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.