I have always been the guy friends have gone to with food related questions. A classic example of this was when my buddy Jerry asked me “What is the best Italian restaurant in Memphis?”
Jerry has run major arenas across the United States. He asked me the question when he was running the Pyramid in Memphis. My immediate response is that there is no REAL Italian restaurant in Memphis. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great restaurants in Memphis that call themselves Italian restaurants, but they are not Italian restaurants by my New York standards.
That sounds a little snobby, but you have to recognize where I come from. In my grammar school class there were 35 kids and 32 were Italian. (Patsy Frachetti, Tommy Palumbo, Georgy DeLeo, Danny Monteforte, my best friend Tony Ciafone and on and on). There is a reason my nickname was mayonnaise. I was certainly the white guy. In this community there was some fantastic Italian food. Growing up with this background changes your perspective.
Jerry explained that he had a major concert artist coming to perform at the Pyramid and it was in his contract that the crew needed to be fed a meal catered by “the best Italian restaurant” in town. I struggled and reluctantly offered Macaroni Grill as an option. Jerry countered that he couldn’t offer a chain restaurant as the best option. I agreed and asked who was coming in that would even know? It was Neil Diamond from Brooklyn NY.
The solution was easy. Give him barbecue. Jerry stated that Neil Diamond is Jewish and worried that pork BBQ would be a problem. My experience is that even Jews that keep a Kosher home enjoy Memphis BBQ when they are in town visiting. It is like my friend Tuvi from Jerusalem told me: ”When in Rome do as the Romans do”.
In the end Neil Diamond and his crew loved their Memphis BBQ and Jerry got kudos from Neil and his management.
The supper club moral of this story is…serve food that you know tastes good and that your guests will enjoy.
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