Rule #2 of North End Dining: Reservations Have No Value

March 27, 2009 at 11:53 PM (Happenings) (, , , , , , )

To start from the beginning of my North End culinary adventure, begin with Rule #1: Don’t Drive.

While I waited for my parents to find their way back to Francesca, I dashed inside to ask the hostess not to release our reservation: we were “there,” just unable to park.  She seemed unconcerned, so I shrugged to myself and headed back outside.  When I returned with my parents five minutes later, I soon realised why my reassurance had such a non-effect on our hostess: apparently, even if a party makes a reservation, said party may still have a 10- to 15-minute wait before being seated.

As we were herded to the bar to wait, which was packed, I glanced over at my dad, dreading the fumes coming out of his ears.  Although normal human beings would have just seen a displeased man, my Daughter Senses were far past tingling: those fumes were fast, furious, and for all I knew, noxious.

Tonight’s Tunes
“Dreaming of You,” The Coral
“Soul Sauce,” Cal Tjader
“The Crunge,” Led Zeppelin
“To Be a Lover,” Billy Idol

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Rule #1 of North End Dining: Don’t Drive

March 27, 2009 at 10:50 PM (Happenings) (, , , , , , )

I had a busy weekend scheduled: my parents were coming into Boston to visit me in my acclimated habitat.  The following day, we would all trek over to Hartford, CT for Family Matters.  When I asked my Mom if she had any dinner preferences, she mentioned that she and my dad had an interest in trying something new.  Something new?  Fantastic, I knew just the place.  I suggested Solea in Waltham, a delightful restaurant and tapas bar.

“I don’t think your father will be thrilled about tapas.”

Funny, I thought, last time when I suggested tapas to Dad, he said Mom wouldn’t want to drive out to Waltham . . . I let it slide.

“I was thinking maybe the North End.”

I wholeheartedly approved of this suggestion.  Boston’s North End features some of the best Italian dining in the city, and rightfully so: it is the Little Italy of Beantown.  There was only one problem:

“Mom, I’ve only been to one restaurant in the North End, Pompei.  They have awesome calzones, but it’s going to be packed -”

“And I’d like something a little fancier than calzones for dinner,” Mom interrupted,  “Maybe one of your roommates can recommend a place to you.”

Suddenly I had a mission: my parents were due in Boston in three hours, and we had no place to eat.  Well, there were plenty of places to eat; we just hadn’t picked one.  I consulted the Little Wanderer, who recommended a place called Francesca’s.  I consulted a coworker and former classmate, who suggested Fresca and Fiore.  Fresca was booked solid and Fiore no longer accepted reservations after 3.00 P.M., so I made a phone call to inquire at Francesca’s.  Reservation for three at 7.30?  Bing-o.

I was pretty stoked when I called my parents to inform them of our newly made dinner plans, and I was pleased to hear that they were equally excited.  They arrived in Boston shortly thereafter, and after dropping some goodies off at the apartment (Mom makes the best pasta sauce on the face of the planet), we all piled into the car to head out to Francesca’s (normally we’re T riders, but Francesca’s website advertised free valet parking).  Mom plugged the address into the GPS, and we were on our way.

It didn’t take long for Dad to decided that he hated the North End.  For those of you who don’t know, there’s no such thing as “going around the block” in the North End.  This is due, as far as I know, to two things: many, many one-way streets, and the lack of planning that went into this historic part of Boston (streets evolved from horses’ walking paths, if I remember correctly from my 7th grade field trip to Boston).  That, combined with an overwhelmed GPS made locating Francesca’s a bit of a trick.  Dad had no patience for tricks.

After nearly 10 minutes of exploring the North End, we finally found Francesa’s: no valet in sight.  Dad was noticably unhappy, and told me to go inside and find out how we were supposed to park.  By now, Mom was also losing it: Dad was stressing her out, and it was 7.25.  I escaped from the car and toodled inside to find someone to pester about the valet parking, expecting that my parents would remain double-parked outside of the restaurant.  I picked off a waiter and inquired about the valet.  He quickly tracked down the valet manager, and both manager and I headed outside to find my parents . . . who were no longer outside of the restaurant.  Trying not to let my teeth chatter in the windy, 36-degree weather, I phoned my parents to figure out where they had gone.  After a slightly tense exchange, I learned that my parents had once again tried to “drive around the block.”  I had no choice but to wait outside for my parents to once again find the restaurant.  Ten minutes, or perhaps a brief lifetime later, they made their way back.

“Next time we are not driving!” my mom proclaimed immediately.

Dad simply responded with “There won’t be a next time.”

And on that note, we finally walked through Francesca’s front doors.

Today’s Tunes
“Mais Um Lamento,” Céu
“Escondite Ingles,” Shakira
“Green Light,” John Legend feat. Andre 3000
“The Rain,” K-OS
“Secret,” Maroon 5
“The Scientist,” Coldplay
“Wait,” The Beatles
“Flower,” Moby
“N.I.B.,” Black Sabbath
“Poison Pushy,” Stanton Moore
“I Need,” Alicia Keys
“Good Life,” Kanye West feat. T-Pain
“Miles Apart,” Madonna

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