Monday, November 17, 2008

2032's Jeffrey Steingarten


Everyone’s a critic, and apparently it’s never too soon to start (De-bat-a-ble!).

That’s why David Fishman, an Upper West Sider who turned 12 last month (glurp...ump...CAAAACKKK...(wipes mouth) excuse me.  I better pace myself on this one.  Could get messy.), decided to take himself out for dinner one night last week. His parents had called him at home to say they were running late, suggesting that he grab some takeout at the usual hummus place (Oh, they're soooo New York!  And Susan was soooo casual in dropping that one in.).

Hummus, again? (Ahem...) David thought he could do better than that (Fuck that fuckin' boring-ass gruel) .

He had recently passed by the newly opened Salumeria Rosi, a few blocks from his home, and had been intrigued by the reflective black back wall, the cuts of dried pork hanging from the ceiling, the little jars of cured olives and artichokes adorning the walls. If it was O.K. with his mom (and it turned out it was), he wanted to try that instead (Anyone thinking Susan's the mommy here?  Or better yet, she wants to steal little David Fishman because he's just too fucking adorable for words in her eyes.)  

David aspires to be a food critic (You'd think it would be tough to hate 12 year-olds.  I hate David...with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns.  And I don't even know him.) — he has some vague notion that he could make a living writing for the Zagat guides — and the new Italian spot on Amsterdam Avenue near 73rd Street seemed worthy of investigation (Or his forthcoming dumb-ass observations that all of us are supposed to find cute, just like Susan did.).

That night, Tuesday, turned out to be one of the first that the restaurant was open to the public. David requested a menu, which the hostess handed him, and decided that it was within his budget ($25).  Then he asked for a table for one and waited to see what she’d say.  A year before, he had been turned away from a half-empty restaurant in Montauk and told that it did not serve children unaccompanied by adults. (Hey!  Susan!  It's a liability thing, you stupid...!)  “I was angry, but I didn’t show it,” (He's so brave!) he said. “What can you do?” (And existential!  That's a deadly combo.  He'll go far in life.  Susan thinks so.)

Grown-up or not, tables were hard to come by that evening — every seat was booked, mostly by friends of the chef and owner, Cesare Casella, the Tuscan impresario behind Maremma in the West Village.  Even a boldfaced name dropped by (Tony Danza (Well...c'mon...what else does Tony have to do?), who, to the David Fishmans of the world, is just another old fogy).  But the hostess decided to squeeze in the Salumeria’s first unaccompanied customer under 4 feet 8 (...lil' chunk), as long as he promised to be out by 8 p.m.  It was a deal.

Nobody at the restaurant seemed terribly impressed by Tony Danza (Again...weeeelll...c'mon), but David Fishman — now that was something.  People tried not to stare, but couldn’t help themselves.  Where were his parents?  Was he enjoying the food?  Cash or credit? (Okay.  Was Susan at the restaurant that night?  If she was, that should probably be disclosed.  If not, knock out the atmospheric speculation!)

Normally passionate for seafood, (Somebody call the Pope.  We have a second confirmed instance of immaculate conception.  Susan just got pregnant simply by writing a story about a fucking 12 year-old aspiring food critic.  No dick or nothin'.  Just a little David in the oven.  She wants, nay, needs a little David in her life.  Because all the fawning over the little shit will, by extension, spills over onto her.) David ordered a specialty of the restaurant, a prosciutto, as well as what the menu called una insalata di rucola e parmigiano (That's the specialty?  A prosciutto, arugula and parmesan salad?  Good luck with that, guys.). “Good variety,” (I'm sold.) he wrote in the leather-bound notebook he brought along, restaurant-critic-like. “Softish jazz music.  Seem to enjoy kids but not overly.” In other words, no cloying smiles or insulting offer of grilled cheese. (WWWWHHHHHOOOOOAAAAAA!!!!!!  Fuck you fucking people that write and think this fucking shit!!!!!!  95% of all kids and parents desperately want grilled cheeese and corn dogs and mini pizzas and mini burgers and mac-n-cheese!!!!!  Shut up, shut up , shut up!  Who's next?!  And let me relay a story here.  Last night, I was waiting on a table of two parents and two kids.  As I was reciting the specials, one of the little shits kept trying to interrupt me with the typical nonsensical blather that I'm apparently supposed to find cute.  I don't know what the little shit was saying.  I wasn't paying attention.  But I did catch the last little stupid-ass nugget.  The little 4 year old said, "I want Thai food!"  As I held back the projectile vomit from that crap, the mother said, "I bet you don't have many children ask you for Thai food, do you?"  Now, I don't want to pat myself on the back too much here but...I gave her the best deadpan stare I've given in years.  Such a wonderful look of embarrassment washed over her face that it just made my night.  You fucking parents who think it's okay to let your kids think they should be treated like adults in restaurants can suck my hairy, blue-veined left nut.  But I digress.)  

An Australian couple seated beside him struck up a conversation — he had no idea how much the financial collapse here was affecting the Australian dollar! — and a young couple on the other side of his table insisted, against his polite but firm protestations, on buying him a chocolate mousse.  In turn, he recommended that they try the arugula salad (Oh JHC!  Be more saccharine, Susan!

The kitchen workers were so intrigued by the young adventurous eater that they sent out a bowl of complimentary tripe stew, which he enjoyed, although, he allowed, “It wasn’t my favorite.” He was a little surprised to learn, subsequently, that tripe was prepared intestines. (Alright, I won't be too tough on him (or her) here.  I waited on a 50 year-old woman who didn't know what arugula was.  Not 'didn't know the difference from spinach'.  She'd never HEARD of it!  50.  Years.  Old.) His eyes went wide. “Intestines of what?” he asked. (Somehow, that seemed to matter.) (<---Not mine...and thank all that is holy for that!)

Food is David’s life — well, food and swimming and volunteering (Just volunteering.  No specifics.  He just volunteers.) and student council and green rooftops (his school, Fieldston, has one).  But he really likes food. (Pick that up, would you Dierdre?)  At 6, he won a competition at the Crumbs Bakery for the best new cupcake concept (Well, bully for him!  I won a cake walk at Camanche Days once.) (David’s Peppermint Patty Cupcake). As a prize, he got a free cupcake every Wednesday for a year — and then, even though he wasn’t technically supposed to, for more than a year after that. Sadly, eventually all the people who worked there were replaced. “Now they don’t know anything about it,” he said (12 year-old scammer in my book...but...nothing different from any food critic I've ever experienced so he's on track.).

BUT the young foodie has cultivated a new fan in Chef Casella, a burly man who generally tours his restaurants with a trademark sprig of herb in his pocket. (Rebel.)  Mr. Casella came over the evening of David’s big night out to extend a greeting, and sent him home with a gift of fine hazelnut spread.  Though David was disappointed that the restaurant did not serve gelato, he got points with Mr. Casella for knowing a little something about Italian cuisine (What?  Because the little terd knew what gelato was?  Ugh.).

“He reminded me of me, when I was younger,” (Oh, you were a douche-bag as well?  It's important to be honest with yourself, I guess.) said Mr. Casella, who used to drive all over Europe by himself to try the best restaurants. “He is so cool, though — more confident than I am when I eat out by myself.”  (Um...really?  Butch up, Sally.)

Mr. Casella likewise made an impression on David. “He looked like a real meat guy,” (Read:  Fat-ass Italian with a protruding gut.) David said. Like a butcher? “Like a butcher-slash-guy who would eat a lot of meat,” (OH, HOLY FUCK!  If he actually said 'slash', let's employ all the 12 year-old bullies at Fieldston to beat the living shit out of this nerd.) he clarified.

As independent as David is, he is not allowed to walk around much after dark (Much?!  Given a different context, this shit would be abandonment and parental neglect.  Call DCFS.  I don't think 'much' is part of the equation.) by himself, so his mom swung by the restaurant to pick him up when he called.  Once home, he wrote up the review, Zagat-style, in his private journal, giving the restaurant a 24 out of 25 for food, and a 23 out of 25 for décor.  (A 12 year-old Gene Shalit in the making.  Or just Gene Shalit.  Six of one...)

“As I left,” he wrote, “I knew that soon enough this would be one of the most ‘hip’ places in the city.” If there was a weak spot, it was the service, in his opinion: 21 out of 25. In his notes, David remarked that the bread service was a little slow. (Yeah.  Be petty about the free shit.)

“I agree,” the chef said when presented with the critique. “We’re working on it.” (Placating 12 year-olds.  Good start, guys.)


Anonymous said...

As Kearney said to Nelson..."Put this down in your Newton - Beat up Martin"


Christo P. Ney said...

Nerd Alert!

Anonymous said...

You sound like quite the bitter cunt. What a magnificent achievement, this internet 'takedown' of a twelve year old whose only offense was playing a harmless game of pretend. Sure, having it published is a little silly, but I somehow doubt the boy had anything to do with that.