Sitting in one of my favorite pizza places in town, I scanned the menu on my phone and handed it over to my wife. This is the new trend and I think it is here to stay. I think the day is not far, when fancy restaurants will make their patrons “assist the chef” by selecting the ingredients on their phones. Well, phones have found a prominent place on the dining table. Haven’t they?
The menu was very extensive, yet every ingredient used in the dish was elaborately mentioned, just for the sake of people with allergies. So thoughtful!
Then my nightmare began. The waiter arrived!
Quite elegantly dressed in his white overalls, his name tag is still fresh in my mind. His knowledge and enthusiasm towards Italian food showed as soon as he opened his mouth.
“Would you like to start with our chef recommend antipasti, Sir”? he asked.
“Wow” I exclaimed under my breath. The fellow was polished. What the hell was he doing, waiting tables?
He looked at me for an answer.
“No, we are allergic to antipasti” I replied.
“All of it, sir?” I could clearly see him laughing inside his N95 mask and his eyes did not hide them either.
I did not know squat about Italian food- all I knew, just like many others was Pizza and Pasta and I had somehow managed to get by the past decade without any problems, like the one I was facing now. What the hell was antipasti?
“Some of it and she is allergic to the rest” Like all good husbands, I pushed the blame towards the better half.
The overenthusiastic waiter now turned his attention towards Verina, who looked at me with daggers in her eyes.
“Yes madam, would you like to start with chicken wings fried with our very own homemade sauce” he paused, glanced at me and continued his conversation with Verina “I am sure, you are not allergic to chicken”.
“No. I am not” Verina replied.
Antipasti is what we call starters in common man’s vernacular. I hated this man. Antipasti for me became starters for her! I had to get back at him.
Before he could open his mouth, I asked “What is this homemade sauce made up of?”. The dialogue from SRK’s terrible, yet hit movie came to my mind “Don’t underestimate the power of the common man”. I wasn’t expecting him to know the answer and a smile blossomed onto my lips. Short-lived!
He replied with a sense of accomplishment “Sir, it is made of garlic, pepper and butter, along with a pinch of chilly powder”.
“Oh bummer. She is allergic to butter” I smiled.
“No worries, madam, let me understand what you are allergic to?” This fellow was a calm and composed genius.
If I was him, I would have taken the order and probably my guests would be eating those lovely garlic butter chicken wings, by now.
Without allowing either of us to speak, he continued his investigation “Gluten, I am sure”
“Dairy too?” he questioned.
She nodded again.
“So, let me recommend you…” he went on to list a few items which suited Verina.
He knew about my wife’s allergies more than what I knew. I was jealous.
“Sir, I am sure, you are ok with the order”. I wasn’t left out, after all.
I wanted to cancel everything on the list, but whatever he recommended sounded good. I didn’t have any allergies, or at least I didn’t know what I was allergic to, yet.
Whatever he served us was delicious, I must agree.
But somewhere in between of being courteous and being over enthusiastic, I guess he lost his plot “Madam, this does not have dairy” he repeatedly assured my wife as he served every dish. “Sir, this is gluten free” he reminded me as I was cutting through some of the food. As Verina helped herself from the bowl, this fellow was present guiding her through the ingredients of the product. Even as I took a serving, the fellow popped up like some omnipresent Italian God of allergy.
Already having ruined my peace of mind whilst sowing seeds of jealousy in me, he ruined my meal as well. Verina too agreed with me.
The root of all this, was exposed only when the bill arrived. Back to the bloody phone which shamelessly grabbed attention again. All the fellow wanted was a 5-star rating on Zomato.
“Sir, could I get a rating please” he requested, as I used my 20% discount on Zomato.
“Oh shoot. I am allergic to Zomato” I said and stormed out of the restaurant.