“Danny DeVito is my little Buddha; he gave me the nicest, sweetest, warmest, most encouraging talk one night.”Photo: Melissa Hom
After cutting her teeth as a bartender at Paris Commune and Mary Anne’s, Anna Vanderzee started work at the Spotted Pig two and a half years ago; she now splits her time between slinging drinks and serving up the ever-popular Roquefort burger (sorry, no cheese substitutions allowed). Being a dancer has helped her survive relentless seven-hour shifts: We asked her what coping mechanisms she deploys against Jäger cravers, Jay-Z groupies, a salt-shy Times reviewer, and a certain scooter-stealing celebrity.
What sorts of characters do you get at the bar?
On Fridays, we get a lot of finance people who have a large sense of entitlement. There’s a lot of finger-snapping and hand-waving. They order five Jäger bombs and five Coronas. Then there’s the little girl who walks up and orders the Long Island iced tea — you better card her.
Is it true you’ll break the no-reservations rule under certain conditions?
For a long time, if you knew Ken or were a friend of April [Bloomfield, the chef] or had celebrity status, you could reserve a table. We’ve taken that down to where we can’t take reservations larger than six for the special people. Unless they’re some sort of Über-special special person like Ken’s mother. Or Jay-Z.
How often does Jay-Z come in?
Once or twice a month maybe. Sometimes people will gravitate towards the lounge where he usually sits in, and you’re like, Why is that big crew standing in middle of the dining room? Oh, Jay-Z’s there.
If you’re not a hip-hop mogul, when is the best time to walk in and just grab a table?
As close to the beginning of the dinner [5:30 p.m.] as possible. Sometimes it’ll fill up immediately so by 6 p.m. every table is full and you have an automatic 45-minute to an hour wait.
Is it hard to get through that kind of crowd when you’re serving?
It becomes a battle of wills. Some scrappy guy who was loud and mouthy got out of control and thought my boss [Ken D. Friedman] was trying to cut in front of him in line for the bathroom. He got in a yelling match, and Ken ended up punching him in the face.*
Any funny stories about Ken’s partner, Mario Batali?
I wish I had been there the night Mario was there with his Vespa. One of our employees also has a Vespa. Bill Murray was in that night. Mario and Bill took off on the scooters and had a little race around town. Everyone was like, “Oh, shit, are they coming back?” because they had Matthew’s scooter.
Is the newer upstairs lounge still the place to be?
We usually put more notable people there just because they’re out of the way. When it first opened, it did have an “upstairs is the new black” type thing. But it’s turned into the “gastroclub” because it gets packed and mobbed.
What did you think of Bruni’s panning the restaurant?
He said something about something being too salty; that stuff you laugh at. Either you got a bad batch, or you just don’t like the food.
Bruni mentioned two girls going into the bathroom together.
About a year ago, there was a couple weeks in a row where we had a strange rash of girls making out at the bar. It was lesbian week at the Pig!
Does the noise ever get to you?
I answered the phone late at night when Mario Batali was sitting on the bench out front; he gets pretty loud as a lot of people do when they drink. This woman said, very tempered: “Can you tell the loud man out on your front bench to please hold his voice down?”
Mario aside, have you had any other favorite celebrity encounters?
Danny DeVito is my little Buddha; he gave me the nicest, sweetest, warmest, most encouraging talk one night. And I took a shot of tequila with Charlie Rose.
* Correction, Jan. 24: Ken D. Friedman did not punch the patron — the patron punched him.