Restaurants That Do The Right Thing

That sandwich you see towering above you is called the Stella Hero from Stella Barra Pizza, where Craig and I went for lunch before seeing Gone Girl this past Sunday. The question isn’t “what’s in that thing?”, the question is: “What isn’t in that thing?” It’s got smoked ham, turkey, capicola (cured pork shoulder), tomato, Caciocavallo cheese, Giardiniera (a spicy pickled condiment), and lettuce. It’s a sandwich for the ages, served on warm crusty bread that’s a perfect foil for all the soft meats and cheese inside. There really isn’t a bad thing to say about it, except this: it took 30 minutes to get to our table.

Our movie start time was 2:50 and we got to Stella Barra around 1:30, placed our order at 1:40ish, and then waited and waited and waited. “Don’t keep looking over your shoulder,” Craig said as I grew more and more impatient. I was entering the realm that Gabrielle Hamilton describes in her memoir as “code red hunger.”

Note: I didn’t say anything, I mostly used body language to convey my sense of desperation and stomach-growliness. The waiter noticed and he apologized and said, “I’m going to bat for you.” To his credit, it was a busy day there at Stella Barra: a Sunday brunch crowd (there’s a brunch menu) as well as a pre-movie crowd.

At 2:15 or so, a manager came over and apologized profusely for the delay. “We’re just really slammed right now.”

I nodded compassionately but inside my stomach was ready to wage war. Then the manager did something that totally changed the situation. He said the following words: “Your lunch is on us.”

A minute or two later, our sandwiches came out and tasted like manna from heaven, we were so hungry (plus, as previously mentioned, it’s a pretty damned good sandwich). As we were eating them, our waiter came over and gave us each a free chocolate chip cookie.

Take note restaurateurs of the world: this is how you handle a situation like this. Not only were we well fed, we felt like the restaurant really cared about our situation. They wanted us to be happy and when there was a problem, they resolved it with a small gesture that cost them $20 or so but probably earned them hundreds of dollars of our future business.

And that gooey cookie made Gone Girl that much better. (Like the plot, it was pretty much half-baked. Hoooo!) Thanks, Stella Barra, for a stellar sandwich and, more importantly, classy service.

5 thoughts on “Restaurants That Do The Right Thing”

  1. Adrian Reynolds

    I have boycotted Stella Barra in Santa Monica because of horrific service, based on 6 visits from late 2011 to early 2013. The last 3 visits they conspicuously left off pizza toppings on take out pies like Prosciutto ($5), burrata, etc, not like they forgot to scatter oregano. The manager made it difficult to get proper restitution.

  2. Hope you left a good tip. When you are next in Bellingham, try the Old World Deli on State Street. Their Italian Sub is great, and they use Breadfarm bread. You won’t be waiting 30 minutes to get one.

  3. As a former waiter, I can tell you that it’s always best to let the server know when you’ve got a time constraint (by telling them what time you need to be out of there) because then they can make it happen. Direct communication is the most considerate thing to do on all sides.

  4. I frequent this restaurant often because I live nearby, and find it the perfect pre or post Arclight stop. The food is exquisite, but, the service…it’s just beyond. Your experience is (thankfully) not unique. They are always so friendly, professional, and compassionate when I dine there. I tell all my friends and family how great it is. I hope they stay forever!

  5. That was an all too rare gesture by management. It seems so many are worried about the bottom line to realize that doing nothing in this case is financial suicide.

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