Recently I read the post Let the UPS help with the DOWNS and although I enjoyed her writing and thought her point about seeing the positive side of negative situations good advice, I was traveling, and when I’m travelling my life is a perpetual UP. Inconveniences become part of the traveler’s adventure and the source of great stories. Having to move the car 8 blocks away from the hotel the night before you are leaving because the Pope was coming to town the next morning is just part of the package. That was until our evening at .
Spizzulio is listed as Tripadvisors number one restaurant in Agrigento. Of the 75 or so reviews almost all of them give it five out of five stars. If you read more closely, the reviewers were often the only patron in the restaurant or that the service was slow but worth the wait.
And that is just was the owner warned us of when we entered the restaurant, explaining that he performs all the duties himself – server, cook and bus boy. He cheerfully brought us a small glass of prosecco to sip while we waited for him to attend to his other guests – two men, also American, one who spoke fairly good Italian or at least thought he did, and wanted to practice, a lot.
I didn’t mind so much that they spent 15 minutes discussing with the owner the menu listed on a chalkboard – presumably the only copy in the place- but when it was our turn to look over the menu and ask any questions we might have, he couldn’t help but shout out comments from across the room diverting the attention back to himself and engaging the owner once again in a tangential conversation.
Don and I disagree who is really more at fault in this situation, the prima donna type who has to have constant attention or the owner that attends to his needs while neglecting his other guests. For me the prima donna is reminiscent of the Japanese student in my Italian classes who would hijack the lesson for his own private session. But as Don puts it, “there are always dicks in this world and as a business owner you have to know how to handle them.”
We asked for a minute to discuss the menu and make our decision and Dick took the opportunity to discuss with the owner the wine displayed in the back of the room. 15 minutes later they were still talking and we realized that this evening wasn’t going anywhere – we had already been there for 45 minutes and still hadn’t ordered – and we began to contemplate our escape.
There was another restaurant with a good review from Frommer’s right next door. Shouldn’t we just cut our losses and start over? These two are never going to stop; remember the owner is also the cook! We will be lucky to be served dinner by midnight. Don interrupted the two to pay for the water.
The owner seemed dazed and confused – there went half his take for the evening. Dick, however, didn’t even look up feigning deep contemplation over a bottle of wine. His partner watched the whole situation with great interest but seemingly without much emotional conviction. I wonder if he is used to this sort of thing.
This situation got me thinking again about this idea of turning negatives into positives and so forth, but also the idea of focusing on what you have control over. We could have stayed at the restaurant and complained throughout our meal about Dick and the slow service, probably ruining the entire evening. We could have complained to the owner and Dick hoping that they would change their behavior – unlikely. They already knew that there were other people waiting to be served and were unconcerned; telling them what they already knew seems futile. Or you can leverage what you absolutely have control over, your presence in this intolerable situation, and leave.
Our dinner next door at Trattoria dei Templi was great with friendly and efficient service. And if we really want to turn a DOWN into an UP, the menu at Spizzulio was way too cheesy for us. One of the reasons we love Sicilian food is it is olive oil based with minimal cheese. More than half the dishes, including both pastas, on the small menu were heavily cheese based. The menu at Trattoria dei Templi, however, was much more traditional and therefore better suited to our tastes. Thus the dick at Spizzulio saved us from having to manage a less than perfect menu situation. Meaning we hadn’t lost a thing.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Sicily page.