"When I started, I looked at people who are like me now and said, ‘I’ll never be like that.’"Photo: Melissa Hom
After five years of serving the salt-crust baked duck (his favorite), Cody Landis has become the veteran waiter at Soho foodie institution Savoy. He’s also a massage therapist who knows his diners don’t mind a firm hand. He didn’t mince words talking about food nerds, wine moochers, and fireside-romance hounds.
70 Prince St., nr. Crosby St.; 212-219-8570
You’re located in a part of Soho that’s just a bit removed from the tourist fray.
It used to be more of a jewel-box hideaway. Now it’s a destination bathroom stop during San Gennaro. And the modelistas in their seven-inch heels trying to cross the cobblestone on Crosby Street is a never-ending source of joy and amusement for those of us working there.
After nine years in the business, have you become a jaded New York waiter?
When I started, I looked at people who are like me now and said, "I’ll never be like that." But I’ve discovered customers like a little bit of abuse in a good-natured way. You have to develop coping mechanisms: It’s all just a performance that allows you to distance yourself from the reality of dealing with so many needs.
How do you feel about people who go there for the romance?
It’s hilarious. If you’re going to a restaurant that’s rated romantic, you’re compensating: It’s the first date, or you just had a fight, or you’re coming in from out of town. Eating at Savoy is not going to make the other person love you.
What about the foodies?
It’s difficult to deal with people who eat with their heads. Foodies are a funny breed — they remind me of the kids in high school who weren’t the jocks or the popular kids; all the sudden they found a way to connect with their physical being, and they go at it with full force. I make fun of those people — sometimes to their faces.
So when was the last time you dished it out?
There was a guy in his fifties here a couple weeks ago. He was a chain-puller — like your annoying uncle. We taste people on wines by the glass; we got through three, and he said, "Is there any house policy on how many wines you can taste?" I said, "There’s no house limit, but there’s probably an ethical limit."
What are your pet peeves?
People who leave gum under tables. The other night there was a guy who wanted to play guitar for people.
Get any interesting parties in the private dining room upstairs?
Pharmaceutical companies will invite doctors to demo their products. Doctors will stay for fifteen minutes and ask for their food to go.
Can you predict what someone is going to order just by looking at them?
People constantly surprise me. People that I read as being adventurous will go the safe route, or mixed-green-salad-and-chicken people go for the charcuterie plate and duck. But most of the time, I’m right.
— Daniel Maurer