I Need A Table Now

By | Mar 7, 2021 | No Comments

In the mid-’90s, Al Pacino was dining quite a bit at Trattoria Dell’Arte as he was living nearby, on 57th & 8th Avenue. At the time, Pacino was riding on the successful heels of his recent film Scent of a Woman (1992) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, completed director Brian De Palma’s crime drama Carlito’s Way (1993), and was now working on what would eventually become one of my favorite of his films, Heat (1995), particularly for his faccia a faccia scenes with co-star Robert De Niro. He would often come during lunchtime after the throngs had left and sit in an area we called the Green Room, reserved for those who wanted to be out of the way and not in eye-shot of tourists. But I always wondered about this logic, as it made no sense to me. Why would you choose to dine in one of the busiest Italian restaurants—at the timeon the planet if you’re looking for a quiet table?

Al Pacino
Al Pacino

Anyway, I got to know Al a little on his occasional visits to the restaurant. One day, he requested my business card and asked if it would be alright to call me when he needed a table. “Sure, but it would depend on what time you’d want to come in, because not even I can move mountains when the restaurant is at its peak,” I said.

Sure enough, Al called me shortly after, requesting a table on a Friday night at around 7:00 pm, just in the middle of our pre-theater period (our busiest), as he had an important meeting with his agent. I told him that, “There’s an hour wait right now, and I have nothing available. Would you be able to come in an hour?” “I’m on my way now; see you in a few,” he said. He then hung up the phone before I could get my reply in. Of course, I panicked as every table was occupied. We had an extra hour wait as there was a convention in town of shoe salespeople who were all waiting at the bar, consuming copious amounts of alcohol and getting rowdier by the minute. It just wasn’t an opportune time for any celebrity to get a table a la minute.

Anyhow, Al shows up, and sees the mob of people, and stares right at me as if I was going to lead him straight to his table. I approached him and told him I had nothing then but was working on it. “How long?” he said. “I’m not sure, but we expect people to pay their tabs soon as many are going to the theater.” Well, this didn’t happen. Many diners spotted Pacino waiting for a table and had stuck around and ordered more coffee and dessert, which created a mini-crisis for me. I was now in a bigger predicament, as Al was growing impatient as time passed, and I could not produce his table. He was pacing back and forth, entering the coatroom at times to hide from the uncomfortable stares that some of our anxiously awaiting customers were giving him.

After some time elapsed, I offered a table of people seated in the Green Room their desserts, coffee, and after-dinner drinks on the house if they would be willing to sit at the bar. Of course, there was nothing open at the bar. So I bought a round of drinks for some revelers seated at the bar who were also waiting for a table. It was one mess after another just to get this A-list celebrity a table. In the end, Pacino got his table, thanked me, and created a bigger set of problems for us all since no one wanted to leave because Pacino was now dining in the restaurant and those who were already waiting had to wait even longer.

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