Friday, May 06, 2005

Café Nazika

Now, before anyone gets all bent out of shape at my negativism: I only eat in maybe six places on the Peninsula……The Rio, Wasabi, Stokes, Hula’s, the funky Mexican taco joint across from American Supply, and Ichi Riki. And Café Nazi-ka…..

So…we love the guy. Paolo. But that doesn’t spare him. I love his Pasta Nazika. And the service is good, if terrified of the owner. However, I imagine service was pretty good in the SS quarters at Auschwitz. Arbeit Macht Frei……

And this on the anniversary of the Birkenau Death March. Sheesh. My karma is in for another pounding. I better wait till tomorrow to post this: first the Pope, the Nick the Dick…..what next? Buddha? Actually…..come to think of it…….

I have been in a battle every time, or almost every time, I have eaten with dear Paolo. There was the Battle of the Split of Champagne; the Battle of the Twenty-minute Table, The Battle of the Rubber Escargots, The Battle of the No Cheese on the Pizza (No substitutions!! You can’t even leave something out), and so on. One particular incident came up with the subject of chefly tantrums (Vatel’s sword), and whether or not the staff can rise above….or be beaten down by the random tirades.

Our last summer at Cripple Creek we were, as usual, making a big batch of raspberry vinegar. This of course involves first making raspberry wine. To make the vinegar as strong as possible, we keep dumping in sugar to the fermenting raspberries. This one particularly summery afternoon we thought we would check on the current batch. While discussing the weekend’s parties, we inadvertently put down a pint or more each of really delicious raspberry wine on typically empty chef stomachs. Unfortunately for us, this delicious raspberry wine was running about 16% alcohol. Suddenly, we were hammered.

The only solution was food….now. It was only 5:30 on a Thursday, so we walked over to Café Nazika and managed to wheedle a patio table out of the trembling hostess. The waiter came over, also shaking like a leaf, and greeted me by name. He seemed to be coming by his shakes honestly…..booze, drugs maybe…..possibly past-tense…. as well as the discipline. I had no idea who this guy was….until he slinked away in just this certain special way. Igor!!

Aha!! Set the WayBack Machine to 1989!! Valentine’s Day, in fact.

Loretta and I had been fighting like cats and dogs….as usual. I worked out a temporary cease-fire, got some Biwa pearls and a dinner reservation at Crème de Carmel. CdC was a tiny little place behind Nielsen’s…maybe eight tables and almost no kitchen. (When we were booted from the Creek, we looked at it to buy, now called The Gem….. It and the place next door were for sale. In both joints the Mexican prep guys were working on stacks of milk cartons outside on the fire escape). Still, in 1989 Craig Ling had done a great job with the place, and had the first semi-adventurous food on the Peninsula.

Anyway, we arrived to the creepy, no-window dining room. Igor was our man. There were maybe two other couples. We sat. Igor disappeared. For a long time. He finally came for a champagne order….then disappeared again. No bread, no munchies, plunging blood sugar. I started fidgeting and grumbling…..Loretta started with the “Don’t start….” Before we knew it, we were fighting again, albeit under our breaths.

Suddenly Igor is all ears, and present front and center. Our order is taken, and he is back every 30 seconds to pour wine, bring bread, dust the table, fix the roses…..and eavesdrop. I was the semi-famous restaurant owner at the time, so I knew every word would be broadcast all over the Peninsula in every bar before closing time. Prick.

Finally, as he reached over to sweep away the twentieth imaginary crumb, I grabbed his tie and yanked him down to the tabletop. I stuck my steak knife in his throat and said, “No more visits. Bring the fucking entrée, then clear it when we are done, then bring the fucking check. If you get too close, I will stab you!” He scuttled off like his ass was on fire. We did not, in fact see him again.

Until that summer day. I told the boys the story while he was off getting our iced teas. When he returned to take our order they were staring at the table, shuddering with glee. “Four Pasta Nazika’s, please……And can you bring us a sharp knife?” There was barely restrained hilarity at the table at that one; imagine the scene when he returned with our pastas, and four very large steak knives!

Irony is dead.

Anyway, we swiped one of the knives as a memento. Back at the kitchen, Brendan stabbed it into the wall above head height, and we forgot about it. Months later, the Creek was subjected to a HUD inspection. The inspector saw the knife imbedded in the wall, and scuttled out….not unlike dear Igor. It was not long after that we got our walking papers

Karmically unrelated, I am sure.


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