By Emanuele Stefanori & Michela Guida, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 4 – Dinner
The restaurant has not long opened and some diners are already seated at the tables, reading the menu.
As always, Chiara moves around the room, smiling and graceful. In the background, jazz music accompanies the chatter of the guests as they choose their dishes and comment on the restaurant. It seems an evening like any other, but behind the cash desk Oreste stands like a soldier on guard, observing everything with keen attention. His objective is to identify the Buon Appetito critic’s table.
“Chiara! Chiara!” he calls in a stage whisper, beckoning to his daughter. The young woman patiently obeys, coming to his side.
“What is it, Papa’?”
“Look… that table there!”
“That one there, with the two middle-aged men,” Oreste indicates a table with his eyes, “They’ve been studying the menu for more than five minutes already, talking between themselves in a low voice…”
“Yes, Papa’, they’re deciding what to eat. Nothing unusual about that.”
“Don’t you think…?”
“I don’t know. But don’t you have a booking in the name of the critic?”
“No. In the email it was all explained very clearly. The Buon Appetito guide announces that one of its critics will be arriving but it never gives a name. To avoid preferential treatment they book a table anonymously, like ordinary clients. So we need to be absolutely sure who it is.”
“Very well, Papa’, but we must try not to be unprofessional. We’ll make sure that all our tables get excellent service.”
Not entirely convinced by his daughter’s assurance, Oreste continues to observe every client obsessively.
After little more than half an hour, the restaurant is almost full. The first courses are being served and everyone seems very satisfied with their food.
“Chiara! Chiara!” Oreste calls again.
His daughter raises her eyes to the ceiling and once again approaches the cash desk.
“Papa’, I’m very busy. Can’t you see the restaurant is full?”
“Darling, have a good look! Those two people… that couple over there… the blonde and the man with a beard…”
“Yes, I see them. Well?”
“Well, they’re writing something with their phone and taking photos of the food!”
“OK, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
“No? Photos of the food…. don’t you see?”
“But that’s something everybody does these days. I do it when I’m out with my friends. I like taking photos of what I’m eating and putting them on a social network.”
“Putting them where?”
“It’s OK, Papa’, don’t worry. I’ll explain later. But there is nothing strange about what they’re doing, so don’t get all worked up!” Chiara turns back to her tables.
But Oreste again is not convinced. Seeing that others are also using their phones while eating, whether to take photos or not, he decides to take the initiative and check for himself.
With a pretended ease and a big smile, Oreste moves among the tables, glancing sideways at every client. Not gaining anything from simple observation, he starts chatting to people. After the ritual “Everything all right, sir (or madam)?” Oreste’s questions become increasingly intrusive and insistent. Four tables have already been subject to his interrogation when Chiara becomes aware of what her father is doing.
“Excuse me, Papa’, you’re needed in the kitchen,” she says, putting a hand on his back and smiling at the guests.
“What on earth are you thinking of?” she hisses in his ear, while guiding him away from the clients. She leads him into the little corridor between the kitchen and dining room , out of sight of the diners. She looks at her father severely while calling Carla.
“Mamma! Please, come here!”
Her mother appears from the kitchen.
“For goodness’ sake, Mamma, speak to Papa’ and try to make him see reason. He’s going around the tables playing the detective to try and discover who the critic is, but all he’s doing is annoying people and making our job harder.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll deal with him,” replies her mother, with a threatening look at her husband.
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