ask a waiter

Alfredo of Rome's Josh Marmer Refuses to Feed Your American Girl Place Doll

“They’re like ‘Gimme five fettuccines.’”Photo: Melissa Hom

With high fanny-packing season winding down, we thought we’d take the pulse of the restaurant that serves fettuccine Alfredo (using the original recipe) in the belly of the beast — Rockefeller Center. Luckily, Josh Marmer, manager and head waiter at Alfredo of Rome, survived to tell all.

Busy this time of year?
From the moment they light the tree across the street until even now, it’s basically another country here. It takes an extra ten minutes to get to work because you can’t cross the street. Inside, you’re trying to move around people carrying ten-ounce martinis.

When people come in from American Girl Place, do they want to sit with their dolls?
I’m like, “Table for four?” and they say, “Actually, no, table for five.” As long as they don’t try to feed the doll, I’m fine with it.

Ever have to put misbehaving kids in their place?
More misbehaving adults, which is harder. When friends get together and alcohol is involved, they get a little rowdy.

How do you steer people who don’t know the first thing about wine?
A lot of times people fresh from Kentucky will ask for a white Zinfandel. Most tourists order Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. We say, “You like a sweet wine — how about Gewürztraminer?” People will ask for a Bud Lite, which we don’t have.

The original Alfredo, in Rome, is where fettuccine Alfredo was invented. How many people order the dish?
Fifty percent; among the tourists, eighty to ninety percent. They walk in and they’re like “Gimme five [fettuccines].”

What’s the purist’s recipe?
The homemade fettuccine noodle comes in the sauce — 50-50 butter and Parmesan Reggiano cheese — and we toss it tableside and top it with fresh Parmesan cheese. There’s no cream — you can say that five times and they don’t believe you.

What’s the trick to serving it tableside?
It comes out in an oval platter with sauce that they’ve tossed a little bit. You take a couple forks, give it a twirl, roll it around the sauce a little more, and transfer it in one big thing to their plate. [When you order a portion for four], it’ll come in a big dish that the server goes and lifts and separates, which is a big show. To a special lady or special guy, we give them a golden fork to twirl the fettuccine.

How many times do you have to tell the story of how Alfredo first concocted the dish for his pregnant wife?
A lot!
Daniel Maurer

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