It wasn’t spaghetti but alive

The Jewish Chronicle Online, 25/02/2011

Last Saturday I had dinner at the very hot Bocca di Lupo restaurant in Soho. I’d phoned in the afternoon but they were fully booked. “I’m really sorry!”, an Italian guy said.

“That’s a shame”, I said. “I wanted to bring a famous comedian who’s in town with me.” Somehow he managed to squeeze us in.

Now all I had to do was find a famous comedian to take with me. Naturally I thought of my friend Arnold Brown, the comedian with the cult following. (“The cult following me at the moment is the Hare Krishna. I just wish they’d leave me alone.” ) I didn’t have Jerry Seinfield’s home number on me.

“He’s a little shy and retiring”, I told the very welcoming young lady manager, “so please don’t make a big fuss of him when he arrives.”

I sat down. “I’ve been here about two hundred and fifty times before” I said to Daniel, the waiter. “I first came here in 1961. I was a schoolboy.”

“1961? We’ve only been open a year.”

“This used to be Charlie Chester’s casino. I lost all my pocket money every week here”, I said.

One night it was closed when I came. It was Easter Sunday. “Why didn’t you just put your money in an envelope and push it through the letter box?” the manager asked the next day.

I took out my sketch book and started drawing a man eating at a table across the room. Nobody ever spots me drawing them.

Three years ago in India, I’d sketched a stocky Israeli guy in his 40s. He came up to me up afterwards. “You draw me? I kill you. You Scotland Yard?”

“I’m a Jewish life insurance salesman from London”, I said.

I asked Daniel to order for me. I like surprises. Ten minutes later a hairy round black thing appeared on a plate.

“That’s not spaghetti!” I said. I always say that, whatever arrives.

“It’s a sea urchin”, the waitress said. “It’s alive.”

The meal was fantastic. I asked if Daniel could come back so I could thank him.

I was in the middle of a very merry conversation with a pretty blonde Russian girl at the next table, when the reception hostess came over and knelt beside us.

“I’m really sorry, but I can’t send Daniel over” she said. He’s now looking after the front and it would jeopardise the whole front.”

“I definitely wouldn’t want to jeopardise the front”, I said, feeling like Moshe Dayan during the Six Day War.

Later, I asked for the bill. “Please enter your pin”, the waitress said, handing me the machine. I turned away and pushed the buttons behind my back. “I’m sorry. It’s incorrect”, she said.

“You know it’s really difficult to do without looking” I said.

“No, it is me who has to turn away” she said.

“You’re kidding me? You turn away? No wonder I keep getting it wrong.”

“Great meal. And I’m really glad you’ve got rid of the roulette table”, I said to the receptionist on the way out. “You’ve saved me a fortune.”