Spaghetti and Guacamole, story by Charles R. Bucklin at

Spaghetti and Guacamole

Spaghetti and Guacamole

written by: Charles R. Bucklin


When Matt, my brother suggested we grab some Italian food at Roma’s Ristorante on Mulberry Street – he didn’t have to ask me twice.

I told him I was in.

You see word on the street had it – ya didn’t go there for fine dining – you went there for the great food.

And while Roma’s didn’t have the same reputation as some of the other Italian restaurants like Umberto’s where Joey Gallo got whacked or the elegant Il Cortile, it did have its charm.

For starters, the restaurant was garishly lit and painted in ocean blue. The whole place was blue. It felt like you were seated in Neptune’s grotto just waiting for a mermaid to show up to take your order.

The noise in the restaurant was deafening. The waiters toiled like slaves rowing on a Viking ship. The patrons and staff sweated in buckets. Platters heaping with orgasmic Italian food that steamed with heavenly aromas of garlic, basil and oregano wafted across the restaurant. The plates alone must have weighed ten pounds each as the service providers struggled with herculean efforts to navigate through the cramped table seating to serve their customers.

Ah, such was my recollection of Roma Ristorante in New York City back in 1983.

Sounds awesome you say. Well, there’s more to my story about ‘Roma’s” which I will now relate to you that many years have passed.

So allow me to continue…

I remember it was a sweltering summer night on a Saturday when the four of us decided to go there. The line was long so it took over thirty minutes before we managed to grab a small four-top table in the back of the house by a noisy kitchen and bus station.

The table was cramped, the noise unbelievably loud.

Twenty minutes after sitting with our menus and sipping tepid water we finally got served.


A basket of bread was pitched onto our table.

“Bread!” announced an obese scowling man standing at the head of our table.

“Thank you,” we said, noting the guy’s gray hair, marinara stained white shirt, and “dupe” pad poised to take our order.

“Whadya you guys drinkin’?” said John, our waiter.

“We’ll take a couple of beers,” I said.

“This is an Italian restaurant,” said John.

“Yeah, right.”

“Sose you’ll be having wine.”

“I don’t like wine… you want wine, Matt?”

“I want a Rolling Rock beer, ” said my brother Matt, slightly annoyed at having to break his attention away from his girlfriend, Debra.

“We want beer,” I said.

“I’ll bring you Boys a carafe of house red,” said John. “I’ll bring ya four glasses, you can share the wine with your dates. ”

“Can I have a strawberry margarita?” said Heather, my clueless date.

I coughed politely and hid behind my menu, assiduously avoiding my brother’s bemused stare. A stare that pointedly said – I’m gonna give you so much shit about this chick later, Charlie.

John snorted in response and stomped off to the service bar.

Five minutes later – BANG! Four glasses and a carafe of red wine were loudly slammed down on our table.

“But, we ordered beer,” I weakly protested.

“Bartender said we’re outta beer. Sose I brought you this. Try it already. It’ll put some hair on your kiwis,” said John.

The four of us stared at each other in stunned silence for a minute. Then with a sigh, Matt poured himself a glass of wine and we all reluctantly followed his lead.

Surprisingly it wasn’t bad but on a hot night in a stifling restaurant, it wasn’t that great either.

“You kids wanna order something else?”

“I’ll take the linguini and clams,” I said.

“Shellfish is outa season. Try the spaghetti.”

“Do you have chicken Alfredo?” said Debra.

“Chicken? Alfredo? Look, this ain’t some fancy joint in Soho. We gots Alfredo. But ya don’t get it with chicken, lady,” said John.

“How about tortellini with pesto?” said Matt.

“Served the last one about twenty minutes ago. Sose we’re outta that too. Get the spaghetti.”

“I’ll take a pen-eh with baloney sauce,” said Heather.

“That’s penne with ‘Bolognese’ sauce, honey and we’re out.”

“Ohh. Can I get some guacamole and chips instead?” said Heather.

Somebody, please shoot me, I thought.

“Uh no. Anyone else?”

“It sounds like you’re out of everything,” I quipped.

“Look kid, are you gonna order somethin’? I got other tables to take care of,” said John.

“What should we order then?” I said.



Well, we all ended up getting spaghetti except for Heather who – much to the disgust of our waiter – just had a salad.

Truth be told I couldn’t taste my food as I was mad about the shabby treatment we had received.

Actually, that’s bullshit. I was pissed off because I felt John had made me look foolish in front of everybody.

I kept thinking how dare this old fart talk to me like that. After all, I was the customer and he was the waiter, right? Who in the hell did he think he was anyway?

Cue: Self Righteous fantasies of me righting perceived slights from the public. Feeling smug satisfaction as I watch myself putting on a Superman costume and socking the rude bastard through a saloon glass window.



After dinner, we all split up and went home our separate ways. Matt went home with Debra and I went back to my place alone.

There was a gay piano bar adjacent to my apartment on Christopher Street. Lying on my futon in a pool of sweat, the sounds of the bar drifted through my open window making it impossible for me to fall asleep.

That night I was subjected to an effeminate male voice butchering the song “Feelings.”


I put my pillow over my head to block out the godawful noise.

It seemed the Universe had a wicked sense of humor.


A few months later, Matt talked me into giving Roma’s a second try. And sure enough, we got John as our waiter, who again proceeded to give us a hard time while ordering.

“C’mon guys, quit stalling and order somethin’…I ain’t got all day,” he said.

“Hey, you can’t talk to us that way, show us some goddamn respect. We’ll let you know when we’re ready,” I said, absolutely sick of this guy’s nonsense.

Much to my surprise, his wiseguy demeanor changed in an instant. He looked as if I had just slapped him.

“I’m sorry, sir, may I take your order when you’re ready,” said John, looking contrite.

“Yeah, fine,” I said.

“Geez Charlie, you’re being kind of a dick,” said my brother, when John was out of earshot.

A few moments later I watched John interacting with his other tables. It appeared his customers loved being bawled out by this grumpy ol’ curmudgeon. Instead of being insulted they laughed and chatted amiably with him.

That’s when it hit me.

His rude wiseguy behavior had all been an act. IT HAD NEVER BEEN PERSONAL.

After we paid our check, I left another twenty bucks on the table when no one was looking.

It was the least I could do.

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