Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The North End

So I met a friend and we ventured into the North End for lunch. Middle of the week and off hours (like 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday). Unfortunately, my favorite vegan-friendly restaurant was closed. They only do dinner during the week. Too bad, they were so accommodating when I visited them a while back, they are always my first choice. Check them out:   Ristorante Damiano

So we walked and talked and looked at menus until I found one that looked like it could be tweaked to accommodate a vegan diner. We went in, and I explained to the first waiter I saw that I was vegan and wondered if any of his pastas didn't contain egg. "Oh no, you will not be able to find that in the North End! All semolina pastas have egg." (Clearly he has never eaten at Ristorante Damiano where they care about their customers.) I bit my tongue, and didn't mention that I had already had vegan pasta in the North End, not to mention from Trader Joe's (imported from Italy) and Stop and Shop/Market Basket/etc. from right here in the USA. (Sadly, I can't remember the name of this restaurant, because I would love to ask you NOT to patron them simply because of their attitude!)

We continued on and ended up at Cantina Italiana which at first seemed promising. Again, I asked told my story to the first person we met. She said that she knew that the rigatoni, the penne and something else didn't contain egg. But the waitress next to her had to jump in and say, "No this is the North End, you can't get anything like that here!" My blood starting to boil again, but not wanting to embarass my friend, I turn toward the first waitress and ask about the pizza dough. She says she'll check and goes away, and two new people appear. A sloppy looking little man, who appears to be a chef, and a woman, who may be the hostess or the manager, not sure. The woman says, "You are looking for a vegan restaurant?" To which I reply, "No. Just some vegan options in your restaurant. My friend is not vegan." The phone rings and she answers it; meanwhile the man says, "This is the North End, there are no vegan restaurants here." Now I am mad. I start to argue with him that I am not looking for a vegan restaurant just some vegan options. The woman gets off the phone and after we go round and round, my friend and I decide to stay, because I didn't feel like having to have this same argument many times over. Luckily the first woman is our waitress, and she is the only one who seems a) to know her stuff and b) to care about pleasing, not losing, a customer. Our meals were both very tasty (even though mine was "boring" according to the waitress.) And the company was good, so we concentrated on that and let the dispute be gone. But, I left the restaurant with a very bad feeling about the North End.

My friend wanted to buy pasta at DePasquale's Homemade Pasta Shoppe in the North End on the way back to the T, so we stopped in. I was going to ask if they had any that didn't contain eggs, but guess what? They had two, count 'em two, packages of raviolis marked, get the North End...where "you can't get that..." I grabbed one of each, even though they were pricey and thanked the man, explaining what I had been told. "All of my short pasta is vegan." So, I got some of that, too. Can't wait to try it! I would definitely go back there---he appreciated his customers and was very accommodating!

Is it me? Are customers a dime a dozen that you can afford to offend one by making sweeping generalizations instead of trying to find a way you can meet their needs? Perhaps it's my age, but I am now realizing that I need to speak with my wallet, not my mouth. Next time, we might have to walk a little further to find the Damiano's and DePasquale's because they do exist.

Bon Giorno!

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