Our favourite Friday night restaurant is an Italian place in the centre of Vienna and we go there every week when we are at home.
Mario is the host – Tony is the head waiter – it is usually fairly quiet on Friday nights as Mario does a lot of his business with large tourist groups who come during the week.
The food is excellent and the prices are – by Viennese standards – very good value indeed. In terms of value for money it is probably the best restaurant in Vienna 1010.
So it is usually a very quiet night – we never book – we just wander in there and get the very best attention from Mario and Tony.
On Friday night we went with Gwenyth and it was apparent when we arrived that it was not a normal Friday night.
The restaurant was packed and Mario looked unusually tense and harassed. He ushered us to the head table - which was the only free table - marked as reserved - and set for five - and there we sat – unattended – for about 10 minutes while Mario and Tony scampered around the packed restaurant.
Finally we were attended to and Mario said that he had only two reservations for the night – the rest of the seething horde were just walk ins.
Well we finally – and it was a struggle - ordered mineral water and aperitifs - and from there on it was a complete gold-plated, nut-encrusted, cinnamon dusted goat fuck.
We saw from the menu – it had a special insert - that there was a new Chef – Pietro. There was a picture of Pietro on the colour insert – and we saw a lot of him that evening – in fact he was rarely out of our sight.
Pietro spent more time in the restaurant than he did in the kitchen. He seemed to spend a lot of time arguing with Mario.
Mario was very patient and always took him by the elbow or arm - and steered him back to the kitchen. Pietro spent a lot of time shaking his middle finger at Mario. I don’t know what this meant – other than anguish for Mario.
There was also a new waiter – we did not learn his name. He was not very good and Mario spent his spare time – when he was not with Pietro – with the new waiter – either arguing or shouting.
Every couple of minutes Pietro came out of the kitchen and talked to the patrons. Occasionally he came down to the bar and had animated discussions with Mario.
We finally received our entrees and then waited – and waited. After about an hour – on one of his many forays into the restaurant Pietro visited us – banged on our table and asked ‘va bene?’
I answered yes it was indeed going sensationally well and could be improved only by us having our dinner – but I said this to his back as he was already lurching back to his kitchen - stopping only at the bar long enough to down a glass of white wine.
Mario said that Pietro was trying out some new wines to go with his new dishes. If only he would try one of his new dishes on us.
Then the new waiter arrived again – took our bread away and asked us if we wanted Dolce. We said we would like our main course first - and he went off to talk to Mario.
Shortly after this a hot and sweaty Mario visited us – with more bread - and said that our dinner was on its way. He said this with a note of hope in his voice and a glance towards the kitchen.
He paused to pour himself two glasses of wine from the bottle of wine at the table next to ours and downed each of these in one gulp. The wine was behind the table so the patrons did not see their bottle depleted. He was obviously thirsty and in great need.
Shortly after this the new waiter dropped a full tray of wine glasses that he was attempting to insert into the dishwasher and this occupied Mario for some time - during which our dinner arrived – to the sound of broken glass being collected.
My dinner was hot and delicious. Cate and Gwenyth’s dinners were stone cold – but also delicious.
Mario did not charge us for these. Pietro is probably a good chef. I hope it is quieter next week - and that Pietro has finished testing the wines.