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.