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.

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