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An Englishman In New York: Life Is A Cabaret...

...In one corner were disappointed concert-goers, the youth of today, dressed in their finest scruffery, various piercings, and the inevitable hand-held devices. The other corner held a small group of ladies-who-lunch, much smarter dressed. A quick look at the bar eats (to gauge or wait time for seats) which might delay our customary perch, revealed dishes of mussels preventing an imminent departure...

Dining out in New York can be a lesson in human behavour, as columnist David Thomasesson reveals.

The signs were good. A two day oppressive heat-wave, reaching 95 degrees (F) in the shade, was expected to close with pop-up thunder-storms, lightening and occasional torrential downpours. Perfect weather to brave a one block walk around the corner for our weekly date night in a very friendly Italian trattoria. You see, the Upper East Side alta cacas don’t like to venture out in the rain, so we expected a nice quiet evening where the drinks are free, and everyone knows your name. Also, the hand-made pizzas are excellent, well most of the time.

Approaching the entrance, the sky turned black (metaphorically speaking) as we realized, with horror and loathing, that there were people sitting at our bar. Our bar! It is a fact that our interest in this restaurant over the years has changed the small corner bar area into a money-paying source of revenue for the resto. We started the trend of sitting at the bar for an actual drink.

Furthermore they didn’t look like locals. Apparently the evenings free Central Park Concert was likely canceled due to the inclement weather and the risk of lightning strikes. The headline act was American hip-hop band, the Black-Eyed Peas, or as they would have quickly become in the rain, Black-Eyed Mushy Peas. Also slated to appear was Tony Bennett, a sop for the 5th Avenue matrons perhaps.

In one corner were disappointed concert-goers, the youth of today, dressed in their finest scruffery, various piercings, and the inevitable hand-held devices. The other corner held a small group of ladies-who-lunch, much smarter dressed. A quick look at the bar eats (to gauge or wait time for seats) which might delay our customary perch, revealed dishes of mussels preventing an imminent departure. Keeping a watchful eye open we waited it out at a table, chewing on the bread and olive oil, ready to pounce. At last, the ladies-must-have-lunched too much because they began to leave. But not without incident I might add. My wife took the first chair and before you could say “that’s mine” a lady (or so I assumed, but as they say, never Assume…otherwise you’ll make an Ass out of U and Me) came in, issued a take-out order, left her belongings on the bar-stool and, get this, went supermarket shopping. This, requiring a four block walk in the high humidity of the evening was incredible. She had to know it would be a while for her order, and although she saw me standing there (cue for a song), wasn’t nice enough to offer her seat until she came back. I said to myself, self, was she brought up or dragged up?

Of course I kept the seat warm for her, what else is a gentleman to do? So now we’re off to the races; beer, wine, and a casual discussion of the day’s events.

Finally the mussel-munchers made the universal sign for the check, divvied up the cash and began to take their leave. Assembling themselves and their stuff they resembled a group of cats chasing each other. Enough already, ship out!

Behind us a young married couple, and their latest pride and joy, were busy raising the noise level with a very vocal young child of around 18 months. He was not having a good day. And why do such people think it’s a good idea to take the fledgling out at that age. “Look at us” it says, “look what we’ve got”. Why? Why? Typically Pops, good old Pops sat there positively relishing his oven-roasted sole and green vegetables while harassed Momsy had to walk around the little tyke twice, leaving her pizza untouched and growing cold. Even Grandpops had a go, none too successfully we noted.

The young scruffs were replaced by four ladies, all wearing black tops. We felt underdressed, must have missed the memo. Sitting down in a row, out came the cell-phones except for the greedy pig with her snout in the menu. We soon saw the reason, a thick and juicy Kobe beef-Burger with Parmesan crusted Fries (and irregular capitalization). Confounding us, she picked up her knife and fork. Surely not, please no. Americans, very intelligent people but put them in charge of the flatware and it’s not a pretty sight. Common sense flies out the window as they swap the fork this way and that. And have you seen the way they clasp the fork, like they have some form of arthritic joint deformity.

Finally, the pizza. They make a very nice margherita with nubbins of sweet sausage, served piping hot, complete with a surprise hidden underneath. A little “je nais sais quoi” you might say. We do know actually, we call it charcoal. Scusi cameriere? Pizza-boy must have taken his eye off the ball with this one. Back it goes, instantly, a quick apology, no rancor, no petulance. No-one getting Gordon Ramseyed. Within minutes its replacement arrives, that must be one hot oven. This time…perfect.

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Do visit David's Web site http://www.britoninnewyork.com/

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