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Pizzaiolo- etiquette, or what would you do?

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  • ace Jan 16, 2009 08:44 AM
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Went to Pizzaiolo last night. Food was good as always, but an odd etiquette question arose. I was with one friend, we had made a reservation and sat at a table for two. There was a two-top next to us, but it was at a respectable distance from us- just far away enough for me to squeeze between the two tables. I was sitting on a bench; my friend in a chair. The hostess sat another party of two men at the table next to us shortly after we sat down. During the course of our meal, three different men came over to talk, at length, to the guys at the table next to us. They stood very close to my friend, and talked loudly (I would characterize it as "bellowing"). My friend and I were having a deep conversation, and it felt very disconcerting. Then, before we'd ordered dessert, some woman came over, plunked herself between me and the guy at the next table on the bench, and proceeded to also have a loud, lengthy conversation with the two men. She sat about six inches away from me, and I felt completely uncomfortable and claustrophobic. I didn't say anything because it felt so awkward. When my friend and I got up to leave (prematurely, because we couldn't hear each other because the people next to us were so loud), I asked the woman to move so I could get out of my seat. She said, "Oh, I thought I might have been talking too loud," and I said, "Well, actually you were" and walked out. Passive aggressive, I know.

So would you have said something to these people earlier, and if so, what? They really shouldn't be crowding three people in a space barely intended for two. I am not great at being assertive, so I was afraid I'd get unreasonably angry with them if I said anything...it just seemed so obviously rude to me.

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  1. They must have been "regulars" who have an overblown sense of entitlement in the restaurant. I would have asked the manager to deal with them. It is not fair to you to do this.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jason carey

      That's what my friend thought. She said this sort of thing has happened to her at Pizzaiolo more than once recently, and she thinks these people are in the "in-crowd."

    2. I hate when people do that. I see couples often sit on the bench side of a two-top without any concern for the people sitting on either side of them. The problem is, how do you explain how rude it is? Isn't it obvious? Not enough space for everybody is not comfortable.

      1. I think you were very polite. I'm afraid I would have been more rude.

        Some options: "mistakenly" elbow the woman or step on her foot -- oops, sorry, but you're SO CLOSE; discuss very loudly how rude the people next to you are being; call over the manager and ask very loudly that you be moved to another table because the table next to you is loud and rude, etc.

        The real problem, of course, is that most restaurants are too crowded and too noisy. I understand their need to maximize the number of tables in their space, but this whole "we have it loud because the customers prefer it" philosophy just drives me crazy. And the two are related: the tables are too close together, so you need the room to be loud to drown out the conversations at other tables. But then patrons have to raise their voices to have their own conversations, and it turns into a vicious cycle.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I sort of like the inadvertant physical attack. In college I once stepped on the foot of someone in a crowded subway who tried to get, um, too familiar. He went down. Didn't even acknowledge him and bet he thought twice about that next time.

          Since getting up seemed to get their attention. Maybe getting up a few times and getting all over their space when doing it might do the trick.

          Never confront people directly in a restaurant ... I say this sadly from way too many encounters. Forget the glares in their direction which yahoos like that don't notice anyway. No matter how nice you are, 90 percent of the time they get huffy and defensive and it just is an uncomfortable vibe for the rest of the meal. WHat I also love about those situations is that suddenly YOU become the bad guy to the rest of the diners around you.

          Even shouting loudly to your companion "SORRY, COULD YOU REPEAT THAT" and having people shout back gets too confrontational.

          The best strategy is to complain to the manager and hope they move you or do something to handle it graciously. If not, I'd do a follow up letter saying I'd expect some sort of makeup dinner since management on duty did nothing.

          1. re: rworange

            Believe me, I contemplated inadvertant physical attack, but she was teeny-tiny, and I am a large person, so I was concerned that serious injury would ensue.

            1. re: ace

              Somewhat like Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon, flying food and splashing beverage can sometimes occur in tight quarters. Accidents (and idiots) happen. Accidents can happen to idiots.

        2. I have "issues" about my personal space so I definitely wouldn't have liked that situation. I think partly why it would bug me too is that it's so inconsiderate of the people around you. I mean, yeah, come on over and say hi or something but then leave because you don't want to disturb people around you. Plopping yourself down to chat in a seating area intended for just two is definitely inconsiderate.

          I think in situations like these, the best restaurants are the ones with really smart servers or waiters. Those should be the people who would notice this happening and would say something like, "excuse, do you mind taking your conversation to the bar perhaps so that you're not bothering these nice people next to you?" Or something like that. I think the restaurant stepping in is the most appropriate, especially if these are regulars, they should understand. So what I would have done is the next time the waiter came to check on the table or bring something or ask if we needed anythign, I probably would have motioned toward the woman next to me to hint that she's getting into my space and hopefully the waiter would have said something. It's a different issue if she was sitting down to eat, but to just sit and chat, that's rude and inconsiderate and definitely someone needed to bring it up, whether you but more appropriately the waiter.

          1 Reply
          1. re: singleguychef

            There's no way a waiter is speaking to a guest, especially a regular, like that. That's a job for management. The waiter has no authority to ask anyone to move, and frankly, is most likely not willing to risk his tip from the annoying table to placate you.

            If you have a problem with another guest, ask for the manager, not the waiter. It's really not fair for you to put the waiter in that situation. He shouldn't have to "choose" between tables (and, even if the other table is behaving poorly, he's probably more willing to overlook it since they're regulars).

          2. Tough call. You were basically at a semi-communal table. This was a poor decision on the management's part, IMO. A table should either be a communal table, or not. I hate to dine, when wedged in.

            I did not quite understand a few terms, but will let my imagination run wild - "bellwoing" is one. Now, after my reverie, I can imagine that it was similar to what we encountered at Michael Mina's SeaBlue in Las Vegas. When a server was doing anything at either table beside us, their posteriors would knock over our wine glasses, tip our water over, and clean our flatware to the floor. This usually happened without so much as an apology, or a "may I replace that fork for you?"

            As for the noise, I am afraid that this is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Too many folk believe that what they have to say will be of great interest to all in the dining room. Some others have no clue that there are other humans within earshot. Still, others wish all attention in the dining room to be focused on them. This is a big personal peave of mine, in case you cannot tell. I enjoy dining where ladies and gentlemen can, and do, converse in normal (or even lower) tones. Yes, I am archaic and an anachronism today. It’s just my old-school upbringing.

            We were dining at an intimate little French restaurant in Mayfair. We were in the upper dining area, and it was about 3/4 full. Luckily, we were as far from a particular group, as was possible with the real estate. They were two couples. The women were from the US and the men were from the UK. They were so very loud, that my wife and I could only motion to each other. Two couples were seated close to them. There was "normally" adequate spacing between the tables, but these other couples were really having problems with the noise. As a table, farther away cleared, these diners picked up everything and moved away. The noise did not abate. Soon, another table, even farther away, cleared, and these poor people picked up everything and moved, yet again. The hint did not pay off. The noise was unabated. Finally, the loud folk left. Even when they were at the hostess stand downstairs, we could still hear them upstairs. When they were on the sidewalk outside, they could still be heard over the din of the service and the other diners. Remember, we were upstairs, and the windows were close. When they were gone, I approached these two couples and told them that they were martyrs for having to put up with all fo that noise, and how embarassed I was that two of the four was from the US. They nodded, but could not hear a thing I said. As I left their table, I could see that all fo them had trickles of blood coming from their ears!

            Similar at a very nice restaurant in San Mateo, CA. One table was so far over the top, that the management repeatedly aske them to hold it down. They did not. Finally, the GM asked that they leave. As they walked out, the entire dining room stood and applauded. I hope that nothing was comp'ed.

            Had similar recently on Maui, and also in New Orleans. I think that alcohol plays a role, but that more people are just plain rude nowadays. More so, than in the past? Seems to be, from my perspective.

            As for your parting comment, just like those diners (myself included) in that restaurant in San Mateo, I applaud you.

            I have to be very careful, when dining, as my voice easily projects to the seats in the back of the theater. If I am not careful, and respectful, my intended intimate comments to my wife, will land on the farthest table. Not what I want.

            If I'm eating at a road-house, or a bar by the naval yard with a carrier just returning from 9 mos. at sea, noise is one thing. To the masses, when you're dining at a regular restaurant, the other patrons should not be subjected, regardless of how special and charming, you think you are. Other diners do not share your feelings.

            I feel for your pain, and can definitley say, been there! Full communal tables can be great experiences, provided that the otheers, sharing the table, have manners.

            Hunt

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              "regardless of how special and charming you think you are" This just cracked me up. It's true - people seem to be becoming less mannered and much, much more loud. Maybe it's all the rock & roll music bursting their eardrums, as my mother always warned me it would.

              To answer the OP, I hope I would have, in your place, asked to speak to a manager. In the event that nothing was done (like moving me to a far-off table) then I'd cut the meal short and explain to my server how unhappy I was with the crowding. Not cut the tip, but just explain why I was leaving in a hurry.

              It's such a shame that you couldn't enjoy your meal, and conversation, in peace.