But not the biggest asshole we ever served. No, that honor belonged to the Saudi prince who stayed at the Charles Hotel during the War. (Wouldn't want to go home and risk mussing the hair, not until the Christian Soldiers had Marched Onward and tackled the dirty work. Natch) The Prince — I have no idea where he fell on the lineage tree, but that's what he called himself — only visited our restaurant the once.
Giannino's owner was a young guy named Paul. Paul was a tough, wiry bastard from Holland who'd come to New York, flat broke at 16, to learn the restaurant business. He spoke with a weird, hybrid Dutch/Brooklyn accent. The sort of New York accent an actor puts on when doing a cab driver from the 30's. But on Paul it fit. He was also, as are many immigrants, fiercely patriotic when it came to the US. Zeal of the converted, etc.
So one night we get word that the Prince will be visiting our place. Paul was understandably excited — the restaurant business is all about buzz. On the night of nights, submachine-gun toting private security gave the grounds a once-over. This was less distressing than you'd think; they'd been lurking around in the parking garage and stairwells for weeks. We'd gotten pretty used to them. The Prince arrived, was seated out on the patio. I didn't see him eat, as my bar was tucked away out of line-of-sight.
Paul pulled out all the stops. Our chef was amazing to begin with, and they put on a hell of a banquet for the event. Paul called in our best waitress, Kate, to do the dinner. If you've ever worked in the restaurant/bar business, you know that the staff is a roiling blend of high school drama class emotions and Desperate Housewives style intrigue. If you've worked the business, you also know that there is always that one person everyone actually likes. Sweet, sincere, working their way through college … that was Kate on our staff. Even the heroin-addicted commie waitress liked her.
Near the end of the meal, I heard a buzz from the wait-station. Kate was in a corner, pretending not to be freaking out. Paul came out from the kitchen. The Prince had been playing grab-ass with Kate all night. The other servers had seen it. She'd tried not to make a big deal of it, but when it became plain that she wasn't into Captain Handsy, our visiting dignitary had launched into a particularly nasty set of comments.
A bunch of us followed Paul out as he crossed onto the patio. He nodded to the Saudi. "Yeah. I gotta ask you to leave."
Objections arose. Paul shook his head. "She works for me. I don't allow that for any guest. Now I gotta ask you a second time, please leave. Meal's on the house."
The Saudi's lackey starts to yell: "You can't talk to him like this! This man is Prince —"
Paul cuts him off with a whistle, a New York cab whistle. Sets his shoulders and says:
"This is America, which makes you the Prince of absolutely fucking nobody."
The single most patriotic moment of my life.