The Making of a Restaurant

Saturday, March 31, 2001

According to its Reader Ratings, Angelina Ristorante gives a 20% discount on Wednesdays to residents of Wrigleyville.

This is an excellent promotion. It brings in extra traffic on a slow night and extends goodwill to neighbors. Sandy, still have anything with your old address on it?

Angelina also has one of the more inviting storefronts, and for that alone it is on my "to dine at" list.
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Friday, March 30, 2001

Long ago, on that fateful trip to Madison, one of my first marketing ideas was to seed the personals with fake ads. Later, Bob would mention that punk bands have done this for years. Now it appears another restaurant has scooped us, judging from how my fake-o-meter quivered when I read the following Missed Connection:

Zealous Restaurant on Superior Street, 3/16. You: beautiful blonde in drop-dead red with two female friends. Me: Handsome (or so you said) male in dark Zegna suit with business colleagues. You said you'd never had a more perfect meal in a more beautiful room. I told you it was better than Tru -- though that's not saying much. I didn't get your name, but I can't think of a better place for our first date. Call me.

It's exactly what I had in mind, for it accomplishes many things: 1. Identifies its demo (beautiful, well-dressed, single professionals). 2. Talks up the food and decor. 3. Links the restaurant with romance and intrigue.

This particular ad takes it two steps further by dropping the address and, in a brazen yet brilliant move, dismissing a rival. I am in awe.

It's still an idea that could work for us, and the sooner the better. I'd like to start once we have settled on a name. Why wait until we're open for business? That could take years!
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Tuesday, March 27, 2001

At Deleece last night, I complained that the portions, although delicious and masterfully presented, were tiny. It raises an important trade-off: Among taste, size and eye appeal, I consider eye appeal the least important, but it seems the more upscale a place is, the more likely a chef will push presentation at the expense of everything else. This is nonsense. If I wanted to look at something pretty while I ate, I'd take a sack lunch to the Art Institute (or make better-looking friends, ho ho).

This nonsense is partly explained in today's Trib interview with author-chef Anthony Bourdain. He says chefs know few joys, but presentation is one of them: "The perfect moment of happiness is those few seconds when a well-made plate of food is assembled and put in the window. It's almost a personal moment. You find yourself cooking for yourself and your peers in the kitchen."

Piffle. Presentation shouldn't be neglected, but we should never allow our chefs to cook for anyone other than the customer. This, I feel, is what makes Andie's so great: If something comes on a bed of cous-cous, the bed is king-size. Deleece should have said its chicken would be arriving on a mere futon of cous-cous.

Other nuggets:

  • He says drug use is common among chefs. "The amount of cocaine use ... is still pretty wild. ... I don't do any white powders anymore and I don't tolerate it in my kitchen." Speaking of white powders, "SaSR" discusses how easy it is to accidentally fill the sugar bowls with salt. I guess if the book were updated for 2001, it would warn not to store your blow near the flour jar.
  • "Big Night" is the only American movie to accurately portray chefs.
  • He says brunches are an industrywide scam. Restaurants use them to move leftovers, and the shifts are staffed by people not trusted to work Friday and Saturday nights.
  • He's sold his book's film rights. Reportedly, David Fincher will direct, and Brad Pitt will star. Cool.

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We will never, ever substitute for bacon.

Tonight I made clam chowder and used turkey bacon, which is much cheaper and healthier than the real stuff. It looks the same, too. Unfortunately, it has the texture and taste of a bicycle tire. Blech!
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Monday, March 26, 2001

We should clarify that we are not the same Luke and Sandy rebuilding a 1960 Imperial LeBaron in New Zealand, although I'm sure our endeavors have many similarities.

YANI: The Imperial LeBaron

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