Wine & Food

Snooth User: Joseph Salerno

Wine or Pine: A Waiter Rant

Original post by Joseph Salerno, Nov 18, 2010.

I work as a waiter in a semi-fine dining Italian restaurant where I sell and suggest wines each day. In this type of setting there are so many outside influences that can make or break a wine experience at the dinner table from the waiter who polishes his wine glasses with rags dried w/ softener sheets, to the ambience, lighting, setting and volume of the dining room, to all the pleasant or horrific smells you're bound to encounter throughout the night (like the 20 top party next to you that just got out of the Tattoo convention in the 400 tower). Believe it or not, these things bear an unbelievable weight on your psyche before you've even begun to peruse the wine list.  Then there's the wine list. I've come across a plethora of very close-minded and uneducated personal preferences in wine buying from "MMMM do ya'll carry that Moscato DEE Asti?" to "your California list is so short, where are the big Napa Cabs?" or "I'll take your cheapest house red" (what does that even mean? Cab? Merlot? Zin? Pinot? Malbec? (and you gotta make sure they know that Zin is actually red first).

In such a setting as this, why not try to enjoy your dinner and the guests around you by letting the experienced help you open that closed cabinet of wine knowledge you keep inside?  Stop pining over the fact that we only carry the '07 Paraduxx and not the '05 and let the waiter (who probably knows the menu better than you) offer up something comparable. Who know's you may learn a thing or two about Amarone's and their facinating method of production. And when in fact you DO rely on the waiters suggestion but are displeased, it's perfectly acceptable to take it back and request something different (at least on glass pours.)  Be Brave my friend and step outside the box. 

This post is directed to the kind of wine drinkers that think they know a thing or two about wine after pulling up there Robert Parker app on their IPhone. The kind that don't know the difference between a Malbec from Cahors or Argentina or say, "gimme a Pinot Noir you like" 

Tell me what you like in a wine, what your price range is, and what you're having for dinner and I'll knock your socks off. 

Ahhhhhh, Thank you all for listening to me rant.


Loved this one:

Customer: I only drink Kendall Jackson Chardonnay

Me: (Uhhhhh??) Really, why is that?  Is it the Acidity you like, or the Oak, or how it feels in your mouth?

Customer: I don't know, I just like it.

Me: Have you tried many others? I'm sure there's something out there thats as good, if not better.  Here let me give you a couple samples of some of our glass pours....I think fra...

Customer: No, No, I only like my Kendall Jackson.  I buy cases and cases of it and I just love it. 

Me: (C'mon)


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Reply by Joseph Salerno, Nov 4, 2012.

Jesus, I don't want to sound rude but the title of my original post included the word "RANT." I was blowing off steam.  I wouldn't make any of my customers upset or feel inferior.  I just want them to broaden their palate.  That's all.....that's it!  And I do believe it's not all that bad to share my frustration.  I'm surprised no one actually agreed with me.  Does this not frustrate you?  I bring my mother affordable Rieslings because she loves Riesling but she absolutely insists on Box Wine.  I'm allowed to be upset at this, though I would never make even my mother feel like an idiot. 

Thanks for all the posts though.  I should come on here more often

Reply by jtryka, Nov 4, 2012.

I found that to be an entertaining read, interesting that it was written almost 2 years ago! And to be fair, for as many suberbly knowlegable waiters as there are like you, there are hundreds that are complete ignoramuses, so you can understand why some of us customers might be a bit skeptical.  Then again, the skeptics among us probably wouldn't be asking for the Moscato dee Asti... at least you can rant in a place like this rather than among your early bird dinner crowd!

Reply by GregT, Nov 5, 2012.

Joe - pretty funny that you came back after 2 years to comment!

But cool tho. How's the business these days? Same restaurant?

Didn't mean to jump on you and I don't think anyone else did either. And I actually don't mind if a somm suggests something that I may not have picked - it's mostly about approach. Do it tactfully and understand that if I"m with friends or family who may not know much about wine, they may not want to explore outside their comfort zone because having a glass of wine in itself is doing that.

Maybe it's a NYC thing, I don't know. But many sales people are proud of their "attitude", which basically is another term for boorish manners.  I don't have a lot of patience for someone who has been working for 2 years to start explaining to me what I don't care to hear about and what I should be liking. But a person who's curated an interesting list and who can talk about it wisely and entertainingly - that's two major pluses for the restaurant.

Here's hoping you come back once in a while.  Cheers!

Reply by EMark, Nov 5, 2012.

This conversation pre-dates my getting on board with Snooth.  I am glad it was resurrected.  I have to admit that some of the stories, here, brought a smile to my face--pretty funny--starting with the K-J one in the opener.

I have often thought it would be neat to be a waiter--to help people enjoy themselves and to share knowledge of food and wine.  I have that thought for about 20 milliseconds when I realize that I am very much over-romanticizing.  Food service is darned hard.  It takes an extraordinary person to be a good server.  The unfortunate thing is that the average food server is, well, average.  Very few are at the pointy end of the bell-shaped curve and half of them are at the wrong end.

GregT had an interesting question, Joe.  Are you still in the business?  Same restaurant?  How are your studies going?

Reply by JonDerry, Nov 5, 2012.

This is totally a record, to come back after two years with all posts contained on 1 thread.

That said, how goes the wine recommending Joseph? Any interesting stories compiled since you originally posted this?

Reply by Wai Xin Chan, Nov 6, 2012.

Yea, any more stories that you can share? I think both customers and service staff have their fair shares of rant. I think its good to hear from both sides. 

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