Dear Staff of Mario’s,
I write this with both enthusiasm and a heavy heart. After more than four years of calling this my second home, and you my second family, I’ve decided to pursue a new venture. Without getting into too many details here, I have an opportunity to own a restaurant and bar in Huntington. While going from General Manager to ownership ascends the ladder of stress and responsibility, the exclusively late-night hours of the place would allow me some time in the morning to punch the keys at my desk with cup of coffee—I’ve always been both an early bird and a night owl. Ideally, this may bring my enjoyment of the bar business and love of writing together. There is still some research to do over the next month and legal necessities to address, but the time is here to strike while the iron is hot. It’s a chance that may not come my way again. If the effort ends up not bearing fruit, I will focus on the two writing projects I’ve been working on tangentially over the past year: the biography I was hired to write, and my second novel.
In either case, I won’t be a stranger. My grandma has lunch here five days a week and will need a date on many occasions. And I will appreciate a late night IPA next to a bowl of penne a la vodka amongst friends and customers without having to void anything or handle a grumbling customer.
I have so many memories here and hope they will continue in a different capacity. And since I’ve kept a daily journal for most of my life, I thought I’d look back and mention some random inside jokes in the form of quotes. If you’re not mentioned in this list, it’s probably a good sign.
“The best moments you experience are the ones you can’t tell anyone about.” — AJ
(By the way, AJ, that’s going to be a line in the next novel.)
Me: “Bonnie, you have coffee on your new shirt.”
Bon Diddy Bon Bon: “I know. I missed my mouth.”
“Hit me!” — Matt Kerman
“No, you’re my best friend.” — Nick Geo
“You’re a coward! You’re a coward!” — Matt Kerman
“Martinis... nice.” — Marco (in reference to Suz’s hair-of-the-dog order on a Sunday morning)
“Cayla, plug all your holes.” — Bonnie (on Super Bowl Sunday)
Vinny (in the kitchen): “Excuse me motherfuckers.”
Me: “That’s a rude way to be polite.”
“He drives a Camry.” — Cayla (Quote about a frequent (and often grumpy) lawyer customer.)
Anyone at the bar: “Do I know you? You look familiar…”
Nick Geo: “Do you watch a lot of porn?”
Me: “I feel fat.”
Nicole: “Well, you’re 38 and you like beer.”
One night at the host station:
Siara (for whatever reason): “…fuck… shit…[add an alphabet soup of other colorful words here].”
Me: “Siara, you really can’t speak that way at the front of the restaurant even if no one is around. You should know that.”
Elin (as if on cue approaching from the Party Room): “These fucking people in this party!”
Me: “Siara, it’s not your fault. The apple never falls far from the tree.”
(Preceding conversation about Michael Douglas between Marco, Stef, and myself.)
“My throat is killing me.” — Nic P.
“…you know what that’s from, right?” — Marco
Customer (talking to me and angry about cold soup): “You’re a douchebag! You’re an asshole!”
Me: “See those two front doors? Walk out of them and never come back.”
Customer: “You can’t tell me what to do. Do you know who I am?!”
Me: “You’re someone who’s not coming back in here because you’re being rude to me and my staff.”
Customer (yelling and looking at the three hosts next to me): “He’s an asshole!”
Alexa (matter-of-factly): “He’s actually a nice guy.”
Kristine: “Lou, are you drinking Disaronno?”
Me: “Kristine, I deserve better than that.”
Customer ordering drinks: “Can I have a Screwdriver?”
Olivia: “Let me ask around and see if I can find you one.”
“…you know what…it ain’t that bad.” — AJ (Telling my favorite story of which I will not repeat here.)
In closing, I will miss you all. I will miss my work wife Lynn and her omnipotent perspective, the comedy of Babs (dryer than a martini without vermouth) and her love for animals, Shaina’s prankster tendencies in the red room, Gabby’s sweetness and literal gift of gab, Bonnie’s crabpuss stories and awkward couple pairing musings, Alexis’s blue bumper adornments, Shayne’s top three, Nic P.’s natural and stylistic disposition and mutual love of all things Ron Swanson, crushing candy with Candace, talking vinyl and music with Randy, Stef’s sudoku breaks, Alexa’s galvanizing assuredness, playing Ninja with Siara, DillyDilly-ing and ChillyChilly-ing with Geo, putting $20 up against Jarlin in favor of the Yankees, Olivia’s commentary revolving around strange customers and her existential question of “Why always me?”, Kristine’s unity, AJ’s effortless and sage advice, Casey’s gentlemanly approach to every table, Ariana’s arias with a guitar out back and her care for my grandparents back in the day back in the Campari room, Kathleen’s ability to always work when I do not, Vinny’s positivity and demeanor, Victoria’s lime juice compulsion, Brandon’s hustle, Jamie’s ability to integrate and explore any country, Alicia’s inspiration to be healthy, Kyle calling me “Bossman”, Elin’s unsurpassed professionalism and being a wonderful mom, Jen W. (Z.S. Esq.)’s affinity for cool and complex arguments, Nicole’s honesty and willingness to help out in any way, Katie O.’s serenity under pressure, Logan’s ability to get the hot table (wink, wink), Julie’s capability to make six drinks while describing the specials while complaining about the heat while complementing someone’s outfit while telling someone she’s wearing too much perfume while requesting more glassware from the barback while remaining completely sweet to everyone, Heather’s spritely enthusiasm and hate for all things olive, Monday morning philosophical discussions with Erica, Nick D.’s work ethic, Lana’s all-too-honest opinions, Cayla’s intelligence and perspective and hatred for Andrew Jackson and the patriarchy which he embodied and I apparently am an advocate for, Gianna as a doppelgänger of my college girlfriend, Carmen’s infectious laugh and our talks while closing up the registers, Chris’s ability to reach any bottle in the restaurant, Katie G.’s utter sweetness and kindness and being the only one who really hears my drop the f-bomb on the regular, Katy C.’s grace under pressure and perfect team attitude at all times and someone who you can’t help but smile when you’re in her presence, Shannon’s friendly Canadian prestige, Shawn’s vocal performances, Cristina’s organizational skills and calming presence, all of the hard work that allows the restaurant to run smoothly with Keisy’s unique style, Liliana’s persistence and the way I can get her to laugh unexpectedly, the way Ana is able to set all the tables and dust the mirror and fill water glasses and remain on FaceTime throughout, Claudia’s fun giggle when I try to pretend to be pregnant with a pasta baby, Norma and her ability to always remain calm during the rush, and I’ll miss all of the potential memories with the new cast of Danolvis, Kasidy, Lindsey, and Ally (aka Reno); and the kitchen staff: Camillo’s creative and perfect specials, Miguel’s salads when I’m trying to be healthy, Baba’s relaxed demeanor, Luis’s positive vibes, Jeffrey’s music playing from the iPhone in the prep kitchen, Riccardo saying “YoLou!”, Porfirio’s tireless efforts, Rolando’s meticulous cleaning and hard work, talks with Juan outside on a slow sunny day where we can discuss life, Ramon’s comedic presence and the whole “Now I know!” and “Ecume, Ecume!” stuff, enjoying the steadiness and power of the affable Misael (aka Leo) by the broiler, and the constant presence of Pablo, the man we all look to when we need anything and everything; and the three guys I want to “take to town”: Josh and his chameleon-like abilities to perform every job at Mario’s, Ryan “It’s Gameday” Kampe, and Joey for his unfailing enthusiasm for life that I only wish to embody on my best day. And, of course, Marco, my gregarious friend, one with a commanding presence and one who gives tremendous and unexpected insight into matters related to both the restaurant and life through good times and bad. He’s a fair, even-handed, generous gentleman, and it’s been a pleasure.
Anytime I’ve moved from one place to another, I’ve reflected on how I felt when I started. This was my first journal entry about working at Mario’s on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. It reads: “Bartending training at Mario’s 11am - 9:30pm. 1st day: Trained with Christine and Alyssa, poured wine/beer & made some drinks — met a lot of staff and customers — it was very exhilarating, and hustling around made 10+ hours feel like 5.” My last entry is soon approaching, but I imagine it will feel the same way.
Overall, there has been a mix of every human emotion tied to this job: I’ve seen new loves and old flames, first dates and marriages, friends grow bitter and adversaries become close, hard work rewarded and laziness accepted, stories exchanged and lives altered, tears slip down cheeks and laughs become uncontrollable fits of joy, and the births and deaths of loved ones to be, and loved ones to remember. All of those sentiments are important. I’ve realized that the job of restaurant manager is less about inventory, ordering, and scheduling, than it is about understanding and assuaging over 70 different personalities and relationships that give this place its heartbeat.
I’m proud to have been part of this East Setauket institution, proud to have seen the accomplishments, in ways both small and large, which are equally valuable, of all the kitchen staff, servers, bartenders, hosts, bussers, and barbacks. I’m greatly appreciative of Marco, Mario, and the Branchinelli Family for trusting me at the helm before it’s passed on to the next person. So, shake up the next cocktail, fire up the appetizers, be welcoming to the guests, give them great service, make some money, then clear the table.
Louis L. Lasser IV
P.S. I apologize if I made this dramatic. I just can’t help myself.