Making My Bones:
I remember 46 years ago, walking into Fantasia’s Restaurant in Fresh Pond Cambridge looking for a cooking gig. Rated one of the top 6 places to eat this side of the Hilltop Steak House.
I was greeted by a surly looking ex-wrestler named Arthur D’Agostino, who ran the place. He barely looked up except to see I wasn’t dressed like the rest of his crew. They were either from Italy, jail, or both. And at 11:00 am, they were all, to a man, shitfaced.
Everyone booked numbers. No exception. The cops were on the take and I never received a speeding or parking ticket in my 15 year tenure as the “go to” guy in that little universe.
I had on a sport jacket, a turtle neck shirt and those long side burns fashionable in the day. Little did I know at the time, that little “dress for success” ploy placed me at the top of the pay scale, so impressed was my little new best friend, a.k.a. “Five by five.”
He was making Swedish meatballs and eating most of it raw off his stubby little fingers. He was a tough bastard. If you messed up, he would “give you a cigar” meaning a thorough, no holds barred ass chewing customers could hear out in the dining room.
This place was huge. Like a city in a city. They did all the butchering, baking, floral arrangements and held weddings and large functions out back in the “Lido” room. They even had their own ‘staffed’ laundry room ensconced in the bowels of the building.
They had so many bars and the alcohol flowed so freely, I was constantly being reminded “Hey, Stupido, when you gonna pick up your check?”
What was not to like? Great pay, 100 horny waitresses and all I could drink. Oh, take me now Jesus.
Then, someone found my pay stub. There was murder, mayhem and mass confusion. I was Irish to boot. Security had to walk me to my car for months. I had no idea everyone else was being paid shit.
Most of them were lucky to be in the country. Immigration would show up every few months for a little “shakedown” money.
I wasn’t sweating a bunch of wined-up grease balls. I could handle myself. You develop great reflexes when you’re your Daddy’s favorite little punching bag. Besides, my pay wasn’t my decision.
But once again, my sense of humor and strong work ethic prevailed and I could give out as good as I took.
Arthur’s favorite saying was “I’m gonna give you a Corona, Corona cigar, or “I’m gonna trow you out without opening da door.” He never once yelled at me. (Must have been the side boards and turtle neck.)
He could never understand why I stayed as long as I did. Never mind the fact that by now, I was a card carrying alcoholic that was snorting blow down in his office.
He always said I was destined for better things. I was: detox.
He would often threaten to stick your head in the fry-o-lator. Just go someplace and kill yourself if it ever got to that.
I never worked so hard in my life. Every night the onslaught was maddening. Weren’t there any other restaurants in the area?
Pretty soon I got so good at what I did, even at all levels of consciousness I became in demand all over the city. My memory and ability to withstand stress were legendary. (With a little help from my friends.)
That’s why I say I haven’t done an honest days work in 35 years. I soon joined the team at Dupont as a dock worker and moved up from there. Sissies with white shirts and ties I thought.
I wasn’t far off. A good day’s work would have killed off half of them.
Thank you Arthur, for taking a chance on me and shaping me into the “take no prisoners” businessman I am today. For better or worse. God rest your soul, you deserve it.