My first job was washing dishes at a family restaurant. I was 13 years old, and I loved every stinking, filthy minute. It was nasty work; scraping people's leavings into the giant drain, rinsing the plates and cups, loading the racks that slid into the industrial dishwasher. The steam from that machine would curl my hair, and the dishes coming out burn my hands. I'd slip and fall on the greasy floor of the line while stacking clean plates. The cooks would laugh at me from their stations. But I was proud of myself. Even at that age, I knew any job worth doing, was worth doing well. I suppose I have my parents to thank for that.
I worked my way up through that restaurant; from dishwasher, to hostess, to waitress. I made a lot of friends. I made a ton of money in tips (and oh, how I should have appreciated all that dough, with no bills to pay). I dated one, or two, of the cooks over the years. I had fun. I also developed an understanding of how much work it takes to make a restaurant good. "Pre Prior Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance," was the owner's favorite saying. How can that not stick with you? It was the first restaurant I worked in, but several others followed. Usually Italian, or run by Italian families. One was an Italian restaurant, run by a large Persian family. Either way, my love for carbs was evident early on.
I am unable to separate myself from those experiences when I'm in a restaurant. I haven't waited tables since college, but I find myself deconstructing, all the same. Do the employees look happy to be there? As the customer, do I feel welcomed, and appreciated? Does the menu make sense; or even if it's a bit challenging, am I excited to try something I've never had before? For God's sake, is the place reasonably clean?
I am most critical of the servers. Having done the job for so many years, I can't help it. Do they smile at me? Do they impart the necessary information about the menu, without making it a Broadway production? Do they care if my glass is empty? Do they know when to stop talking, walk away, and let me enjoy myself? It's a delicate balance to strike. I know it when it's done well.
I have found a haven from the over-analyzing at Il Terrazzo Carmine. I discovered this place relatively recently. I've ordered carry-out for the office, I've lunched at the bar, and I've eaten in the restaurant. Every single experience has been flawless, from the moment I walked in the door, to the second I stepped outside, my belly full, a smile on my face.
Soup & Salad: Carmine's has great soup. The Tuscan White Bean has been my lunch choice several times, as has the Minestrone, and the Shrimp Bisque. They are all delicious. They serve a salad I order frequently; Insalata Di Pollo Suprema. It has the perfect balance of grilled chicken, fresh greens, candied walnuts, and a little bit of sliced provolone. This salad is the bomb; enough chicken to keep you full until dinner-time, without a heavy dressing, or other fatty garnishes. I also enjoy the Insalata Mista. For such a simple green salad, it's surprisingly delicious, and the various lettuces exceptionally fresh.