This wasn’t my first gig in the restaurant industry so I acclimated rather quickly at Officina Della Bistecca, Dario Cecchini’s famed steakhouse. By the end of the second week, I had the system down. My days were filled with serving patrons, flippin’ burgers, or washing what seemed to be an endless pit of plates, wine glasses, and silverware. On a good day, I would make money in tips. Most of the time, that meant two or three Euros, but sometimes we would have gracious patrons and I would stroll home with fifteen Euros in my pocket and be happier than a blind squirrel who had just found an acorn. With a room and meals provided by Dario, I was living pretty cheap in Italy. Life was good.
One morning as I made my way through the macelleria to the restaurant, Riccardo stopped me. That day, he was top dog and manning the butcher counter since Dario was in Chicago for a culinary television gig.
My friend, today, you do the presentation at Officina like Dario.
Then he added,
This was an extraordinary honor. During every service at Officina Della Bistecca, Dario announces his presence with a series of blasts from his brass, Italian horn. This is the cue for all the employees to parade out of the kitchen and assume their place behind the main presentation table. With two huge porterhouses elevated above his head, Dario welcomes his guests and introduces his staff. Then, in his booming voice, he presents the bisteccas to his patrons.
Vi presento LA COSTATA ALLA FIORENTINA!
I had first seen this presentation on YouTube, back in college when I was working on my butcher shop business proposal for my entrepreneurial class. Each time Dario picks up those steaks for the presentation, his passion for his trade radiates and fills the room. Even after seeing it countless times, I still find myself getting goosebumps. It’s always one hell of a show.
As soon as Riccardo uttered the words, “in Italian”, I went into a state of panic. My Italian was still atrocious. I’m not going to lie – I tried to get my debut pushed back to the dinner service so I would have a little extra time to practice. Then Riccardo handed me a sheet of paper where he had hand written the spiel and reassured me that I would do fine.
Go practice – You have one hour.
I hate being unprepared.
I ran upstairs and grabbed Zac, my roommate and fellow stagista, and headed for the parking lot. I needed space to practice. Zac, who is half American, proved useful in helping me memorize the Italian verbiage. After what seemed like a split second, they called for me.
As I made my way through the parking lot towards the restaurant, Samu and Orlando drove up. I gave them the spiel, hoping the last rehearsal would do me good. Orlando rolled his eyes and buried his face in his hands.
Not very reassuring.
Word must have spread that the Texan was doing the presentation because almost as many employees as patrons were in attendance. I walked up to the butcher’s block, grabbed the two huge steaks, and began….