The Tomato Pusher

Oliver’s mother-in-law, Leda, was great to work with, but she hadn’t worked at Café Italia in almost a year, and she acted like nothing had changed since she left.
One of the biggest ways this manifested itself was the food-pushing. She was very eager to help people pick food from the menu, but she actually didn’t know what went into a lot of things, so she just made it up. You want a garden salad? She would tell you that we could put feta cheese on that and olives. Wrong. That’s a different kind of salad with a different price.

Her favourite food to push was tomatoes. I don’t know why. It just was. Someone asks for a grilled cheese? Her reply: You want a tomato on that?

There was this one customer that she seemed to feel really required the magic of a tomato slice. He came up and asked about the omelette. Oliver used to wing the omelettes based on what the customer asked for, but we recently got a new menu, and on it the omelette has standard ingredients: You can get it with cheese, or with ham, or with assorted veggies. It’s supposed to be an either/or kind of deal.
So the gentleman asks, “What’s on the omelette?”
To which Leda completely randomly replies, “You could get tomato slices on it.”
The gentleman doesn’t seem very interested in tomato slices. In fact, he didn’t want tomato slices so badly that he actually went ahead and read the menu to see what else he could get on his omelette. He turns to me and goes “I’ll take a ham and cheese omelette.” Ok, we can do that. We’ll just charge him extra for cheese.
Leda leans into me and says a little softly, “And maybe put some tomato slices on it.”
I’m not understanding why she wants to put tomato slices on it, so I pointedly ask the customer, “Do you want any veggies on that, sir?”
The gentleman says, “uh,” thinks for a second, and then shakes his head. “No, I’m good.”
So I go ahead and make his omelette, and Leda rings him up, and gets a plate ready to go. When the omelette is done, I carry it over to the plate and go to set it down. And that’s when I notice that Leda, in a final act of determination, placed two tomato slices on the side of the plate.
I shrug and give in. There’s no stopping her, she is clearly a woman on a mission. I serve the man the omelette, and honestly, I wish I had paid attention, but I have no idea if he ended up eating those tomato slices or not.



Food for Minimum Wage

One day, a young woman called asking the price of an English muffin with egg and cheese on it.
“That’s 5.03 after tax,” I told her.
“5.03? For just an English muffin?” She responded incredulously.
“Yep,” I said. Hey, I don’t make the prices. She hung up and that seemed like the last of it.
The next day, Oliver told me that the same young lady had come down before I got there, to complain about the price of the sandwich. Apparently she comes in once a month, complains about something, and then stops coming for another month. Every time she walks in, Oliver thinks, “oh, no.”
Anyways, she was quite upset, and informed him that on a nearby street, she can get a breakfast sandwich for 4 dollars. Oliver shrugged, said that this was a small business, and his cheese is high quality.
She responded in frustration that his sandwich was too expensive, and added “I only make minimum wage, you know!”
Ooooh, how I wish I’d been there. Oliver just dispatched her by telling her that if she wanted to eat cheaper, she should have gone to the nearby street. I think I would have laughed in her face and pointed out that I too only make minimum wage, and that’s the reason I DON’T eat at Café Italia (but on an unrelated note, you all should.)
I don’t understand people who think the world should change to suit their budget. Oliver has bills to pay. He’s not there to give out food for free. Yes, he’s more expensive than Timmie’s or McDonalds, but his food is also better, and you’re paying for that, plus his winning Italian personality. If you can’t afford that, go somewhere else.