I don’t think I’ve ever told you about the time I owned an Italian restaurant. It was in the West End, which was a popular tourist spot near downtown Dallas. I still have nightmares about it. The name of the place was Spiatza which isn’t even a word in Italian or English, or for that matter, any other language.
We bought Spiatza in March and things went along pretty smoothly for a while. It really was a cute little place that was part of an old converted warehouse. We were open for lunch and dinner and were closed by 9:00 o’clock. It didn’t really matter that I knew nothing about restaurants, ordering, or keeping the books. I couldn’t cook anything on the menu and I didn’t even like Italian food.
My son had worked for the previous owner, so he shouldered part of the responsibility and a few months later, my daughter came from California to help out, too. We employed around fifteen young people in their early twenties.
We had two older deliverymen whose names were Bill and Wayne. Wayne was known as Dubois, pronounced (Dubwa). He drove a car from “Rent a Wreck.” When it broke down, he just went and rented another wreck . Deliveries were good because a lot of the buildings downtown were being converted into condos and apartments for the young people who were called yuppies back then.
I have a lot of pictures of the dining area, but they’re packed out in the garage somewhere.
I eventually learned how to do the books. I kept seeing an invoice marked Kroger run. I made the comment that I had never written a check to Kroger. The employees told me they went to Albertsons now when we ran out of something we needed in a hurry, but they were used to calling it the Kroger run and the name stuck.
I had imagined myself dressing up every evening and greeting each of the diners. “How is everything?” I would ask. “Have you tried our new dish?”
There are so many stories I could tell. Dubois could make chicken and dumplings out of pizza dough. It tasted like heaven to all of us who’d had our fill of pizza and chicken Alfredo. We also traded food with Dick’s Last Resort and Joe’s Crab Shack. Our main chef, who was the only one who knew the recipe for our wonderful pizza dough, left one day and never came back. We worked for days until we got a combination of ingredients for a recipe we thought would work. The only thing we knew for sure was that it had honey in it.
The September after we bought Spiatza, 911 occurred. There would be no more tourists in the West End of Dallas for months if not years. People didn’t fly unless they had to, and very few took vacations. There was a Joe’s Crab Shack next to us and the Market Place was across the little brick courtyard. It had several tourist type things. The Fudgery, an arcade, and several unique little shops were there. The main attraction was Planet Hollywood. It closed almost immediately.
Instead of dressing up, I never got out of my jeans. I cleaned before we opened and when we closed. We stayed open late so all of the servers at the other places could come and hang out at our place and spend all of the tips they had earned.
This was not my kind of thing. (Although, I did have fun participating in the Taste of Dallas a couple of times.) My brother Billy knew it was killing me. He looked for and finally found a broker that was willing to try and sell it. It was a miracle we got out of it without going bankrupt. It was also a good thing that Kip kept his day job. He was already commuting 80 miles one way every day.
Oh well, what’s that they say? Oh, yeah… God takes care of fools and children.