I had been working at my dad's restaurant as a busboy and
dishwasher since late 1968. As I got older, and then started
driving, I was able to take on a more responsible position...I
became a cook.
I was trained by my dad, my grandpa, and a few other older
kids that already worked there.
(My perfect brother-in-law, whom you might remember from
my trip to Vegas, was one of the neighborhood kids who worked
there. We have known him for a long time!).
Being a cook was still a hustle, but it was more challenging and
Most Italian food is quite easy to prepare, pasta is just boiled
in water, sauces are made in advance and just heated up,
lasagna and other dishes are prepared in advance and then
get cooked in a broiler. The most difficult part is getting the
timing correct so all the food comes out at the same time for
the same group of people.
Making pizza is the most time-consuming task...the dough has to
be rolled out, the ingredients applied, and then it has to be
carefully placed in the oven so as not to fall apart before it
By 1972 I was old enough to drive, so could transport myself to
the joint on Saturday and Sunday afternoons...our busiest days
of the week...getting there around two in the afternoon.
My grandparents taught me all about how to bake the bread, how
to combine the secret recipes of tomato paste, sauce, and spices
in the correct proportions, and the making of minestrone soup.
The best part was when we had to make dough for the pizzas.
We combined bags of flour, salt, yeast, eggs, milk, and other
things that I don't remember in a huge mixing vat, and then when
it was done, we had to roll it up into different size
balls...one for small, medium, and large pizzas.
When it came time to make the pizza, you take the ball and roll
it out flat, different sizes for whatever size pizza you are
making. The dough balls were flattened out by a roller
machine...similar to those old-style washing machines you may
have seen where you put the clothes between the rollers and
crank it out...but in the end, yes you had to toss it up into
the air like they do in the movies. I have to say I got pretty
good at this!
On a slow night at work, we could get by with just one cook, but
you really had to be hopping to go back and forth between the
kitchen area preparing the pasta dishes, and then dashing out to
make pizzas as well.
On busy nights, it was always a joy to have one person making
pizzas, and another dedicated to doing the other chores.
I don't remember how much money my dad was paying me at that
time, recall when I started as a busboy, I was making sixty
cents an hour. But it must have gone up, because in 1973 I had
saved up enough where I could buy my first used car! (An old
As I read all this stuff I am writing, a few things come to mind:
1. I am a bit surprised (pleasantly, though) that anyone really
cares about this stuff enough to actually READ it...and,
2. This was a pretty big part of my life, it is still vivid in
my mind, yet this is the first time I have ever expressed any of
this in words.
So it is pretty cool to have an excuse to actually document it
verbally so I can read it later, in case my mind gets hazy when
I get older.
It was at this point in my life, as I was approaching my senior
year in high school, that I should have been planning what kind
of work I wanted to do for a living. I never did this. I couldn't
think what I wanted to do for a living, never went to college,
and have suffered my whole life because of this.
So when the business was sold in 1974, I was 18 and unemployed.
Stay tuned for My Illustrious Career...Part Three.
Peace be with you.