by G David
restaurant people are frequently heard to say,
"That's a million." The food is
excellent, and the patrons appreciative. Each
have what the other wants, so it was fortuitous
that the restaurant went into business and the
people kept them in business.
The former had
polite eating habits, did not throw food on the
floor, were accustomed to wait for the meals --
they being worth waiting for -- without bickering
with the waiters who, it should be noted, were in
no way responsible for the surge of people who
showed up every evening.
did, however, encourage this behavior by
providing excellent service. The restaurant
owners themselves ought to share part of the
blame for the crowds because their portions --
aside from being delicious, which was part of
what made them worth waiting for -- was also
"too much," in the words of one regular
and, in the words of a visiting guest from
Indianapolis, "Surely, surly a great heaping
gob of food, I'll tell you that."
In short, the guests had money and the restaurant
had food for sale and others to cook the food and
clean the plates. Can one imagine a better
business arrangement than that?
The one other
thing Maximillion's had which was appreciated by
the guests was atmosphere. Max Maximillion,
founder, owner, C.E.O., and head-chef, retired
but still active in decisions, prided himself on
the atmosphere of Maximillion's. Marble columns
supported, well, nothing really because the
engineering codes required that girders and cross-beams
be sufficient to keep the roof from falling in.
Everything Max Maximillion did was strictly
within the codes of the city, and his feeding of
hungry police was nothing more than a courtesy he
bestowed upon them because they were protectors
of the city and the trust. Rather than a
form of bribery, his feeding them was a form of
keeping them from sinking into bribery, which was
apparently successful inasmuch as no police
officer was ever indicted for any wrong-doing,
and the only thing any one of them every received
which was not strictly their due was, once in a
great while, a little unexpected gas. But fine
food frequently bestowed this little gift to take
home and share with the kids.
was, in a word, endearing. The room was large,
over-large, really, painted an enchanting royal
blue. Giftedly white designs, ornate but not
ostentatious, occurred every four or five feet.
I say 'giftedly,' because white should not be so
white in a restaurant. One expects pasta sauce to
be accidentally flung when the struggle is over
and the spaghetti surprisingly gives way. One
expects wine to be splashed by over-happy
celebrants. One expect white to be dull. But no! Max
Maximillion established the policy of scrubbing
all the walls every night, a habit which was not
in the city ordinances, but which has stayed with
the restaurant every since opening day.
depicted in splendidly white painting were
accurately thin and detailed drawings of La Scala
Opera House and the Cathedral in Milan, the
market place in Verona, the Spanish stairs and
Trinity Church in Rome, the Coliseum, St. Peter's
Church, the monument to Anita Garibaldi, St. Mark's
on the lagoon in Venice, the ruins of Pompeii,
and the Pinte Vecchio in Florence, as well as
four houses neatly place in the center of each
wall. Max Maximillion, and afterwards his son Ben,
were found of explaining that these houses were
"My Aunt Leona's, my cousin Antonio, my
great Uncle Paulo and, ahh, that... that is the
house in which I was born. My house."
Ben repeated these explanations word for word,
even though he was born in Trenton, New Jersey.
Ahh, to quote
Max Maximillion, how I loved that restaurant. I
loved the food, the employees, most of whom I
knew by their first name, and I loved the other
people who ate there. How much I miss going to
Maximillion's for an obligatory plate of pasta
forced on me between my walk from the station
house to the alleys of my beat. But, as Max would
say with a shrug of his shoulders, things
happen, and what can we do once they do?
I was the
unfortunate witness to the destruction of my
beloved Maximillion's. It was unfortunate because,
with all the authority of the law behind me, I
was helpless to preserve the restaurant. I saw
most of the scene which destroyed Maximillion's,
and could only hold on to the gold banners which
ran around the walls of the restaurant like some
of the other lucky survivors were able. It all
started when those two lovers came into the
restaurant. He was a tall, thin gentleman,
obviously feasting on more love than bread, very
unlike myself. She was a delicate creature, short,
but very attractive. She was demur. When
they first sat down -- Max, an old romantic
pointed them out to me -- he whispered something
in her ear. She blushed. He turned away and
emitted a gentle sneeze. "Ahh, look at them.
Look at them. Oh, to be young and in love."
I agreed with Max.
Their wine was
brought. Max gestured for the head-waiter to come
to him. "I want to make that bottle of wine
a gift to them. Don't tell them who did it or why,
just dont put it on their bill. Okay?
And look, if they are honest folks, and they
complain to you that it was not added to their
bill, give them their whole meals free. Tell
them the management honors honesty and love."
Max then nudged me in the ribs and said, "The
more love the more honest, ehh, Frankie?" I
laughed, but watched the two young people.
apparently toasted her. She blushed again. He
leaned over and kissed her cheek. She dropped her
head and he, appearing surprised, sneezed louder
catching a cold?" Max said.
amiably until their salad was brought. She ate
slowly, selecting pieces from the anti-pasta. He
grouped large amounts of lettuce and tomatoes,
onion and provolone on his fork and shoved his
mouth full. Between bites they shared lines of
observation. She said something, he reached over
to touch her cheek again, and she responded by
laying her head into the palm of his hand.
endearing. How endearing!" Max said
excitedly. "Roberto. When they are finished
eating, give their bill to me. I will take care
of it. Oh, these young lovers are so precious. So
The young man
withdrew his hand and wiped his brow. As he did
so, another sneeze occurred. This sneeze was
terrible loud, so much so that Max and I heard it
from the back of the restaurant.
to go see a doctor. He's got to take something
for that cold."
I agreed with Max.
their large table was filled to capacity with
spaghetti, bread and butter. I stood watching
them eat. He leaned close to her after his first
bite and missed her cheek again. As he withdrew,
he emitted a seismographic sneeze. It was so loud
and humorous that I swore the table shook. "Ahh,
you are imagining things, you old goat,"
The young lady
looked worried now for the first time. She leaned
close to him, offering a tissue she pulled from
her handbag. He took the tissue and sneezed an
uproarious sneeze which literally blew the dished
around on the table. The young man cupped
his fingers to his mouth. The young woman jumped
to her feet, came behind him, and leaned over to
make sure he was alright. He shook his head
to indicate he was. Maximillion's eyes were as
large as marbles. The young man sneezed once more,
a sneeze so powerful it elongated his fingers by
twice their normal length.
I turned to
Max. "What the..."
The next sneeze blew open the doors which led to
the kitchen behind us. Max was dumbfounded. He
tried to speak, but no words came out of his
moving mouth. "Good gracious God,"
sneeze was so potent it blew the doors behind us
right off their hinges. Pots and pans went flying
in the kitchen as the staff were dodging the
plates and trays and customers who flew in there
with the gust of wind. Immediately another
sneeze occurred, a sneeze so omnipotent it pushed
La Scala Opera house through Aunt Leona's house,
right into the lagoon of Venice (which was now in
Max and I made
our way toward the front of the restraint while
holding onto the hand railing on the wall. There
seemed to be a moment of respite, so our progress
was good. We were close enough to hear the
terrified young woman talking with the dazzled
young man. Their voices were only murmurs, but we
knew a steady stream of conversation was
occurring between the sneezes. We were nearly at
their table when a cosmologically ontological
sneeze blasted away the entire back side of the
restaurant from whence we had come. Between
the clattering uproar of cracking beams,
shattering chandeliers and agonizing cries of
fleeing patrons we heard the following
"Oh, Jenny, please, please excuse me."
"Excuse you! You had better excuse me
before you send me flying back to my ancestry."
So saying she
turned abruptly and left the restaurant. Once
gone, the young man felt better. His nose was no
longer flanging and tickling, and his shoulders
relaxed. He looked relieved, and was
straightening his tie and Roberto approached.
him the silver tray with the itemized list of
consumed goods. "On Mr. Maximillion himself,"
you, my good man."
you, again. The food was delicious."
Then a worried
crossed his brow. "But I have
apparently lost the woman I love over this
dreadful incident. What am I to do now?"
obediently stood by the young man's side waiting
to be dismissed. A girder which had been groaning
above our heads suddenly uttered its bleak cry of
broken despair and tumbled to the floor. The
table between Max and I and Roberto and the young
man was slammed into oblivion.
The young man,
seeming to have missed this flurry of devastation,
asked again what he was to do, having absent-mindedly
stuck his fork in the remains of his spaghetti,
twirling his fork, and looking perplexed.
what am I to do now?" He raised the fork to
his mouth, noticed it was full of food, and
answered his own question: