Frank Bruni had better watch out; he’s got a middle-schooler vying for his job. Well, not really, and even the kid in question, David Fishman, would admit that he should probably finish school first. He only just turned 12, but already he enjoys fine dining and keeps a notebook where he records his impressions of restaurants complete with Zagat-style ratings.
One restaurant in particular, Salumeria Rosi on New York’s Upper West Side, thinks he’s great. On his first visit, a solo one, the hostess had no problems squeezing him in on a busy night despite his unaccompanied-minor status. Of course, everyone, including Chef Cesare Casella, in the restaurant was curious about this kid eating dinner by himself:
But the young foodie has cultivated a new fan in Chef Casella, a burly man who generally tours his restaurants with a trademark sprig of herb in his pocket. Mr. Casella came over the evening of David’s big night out to extend a greeting, and sent him home with a gift of fine hazelnut spread. Though David was disappointed that the restaurant did not serve gelato, he got points with Mr. Casella for knowing a little something about Italian cuisine.
“He reminded me of me, when I was younger,” said Mr. Casella, who used to drive all over Europe by himself to try the best restaurants. “He is so cool, though — more confident than I am when I eat out by myself.”
Mr. Casella likewise made an impression on David. “He looked like a real meat guy,” David said. Like a butcher? “Like a butcher-slash-guy who would eat a lot of meat,” he clarified.
The story really is adorable, despite the fact that the kid is scarily precocious. But what’s really refreshing is to see a restaurant that didn’t assume that because of his age he’d want just spaghetti and meatballs. In fact, the kitchen staff encouraged him to try something new: tripe. We’re not saying that kids’ menus should include offal, just that they should be a bit more interesting than grilled cheese sandwiches and include vegetables besides french fries.
Here’s an idea for David: Pitch your services as a kids’ menu consultant to mid-to-high-range restaurants in the city, particularly those that see a lot of families. Help these places figure out some fun, interesting dishes that appeal to kids without being completely dumbed down. Hey, maybe they’ll even pay you in something other than free meals. Those aren’t bad, of course, but you’ve got to save for college, right?
12-Year-Old’s a Food Critic, and the Chef Loves It [New York Times]
Photo: Eating in Translation/flickr