This morning I read Frank Bruni’s article , “Familiarity Breeds Content” and I found myself thinking about my customers.
I started my life surrounded by regulars. When I was a child at Vipore the regulars were like part of the family. I saw generations of families visit us over the years. For baptisms, birthdays, and anniversaries. We had a lot of tables that we called by the names of the customers who frequently sat at them. And maybe sometimes we would even give the regulars the privilege of getting the first mushrooms that my father found near the restaurant or the first figs of the season.
But ALWAYS my father used to say to me: the regulars, they are important, but remember that every guest who walks through the door to come to eat here means that he chose us and our food out of all of the others. And every customer who comes inside has the potential to be a new regular.
I was 10 when he first told me this lesson and I don’t think I really knew the meaning. But I knew what he was saying was something important, so for a few weeks I was thinking about his words every day. Eventually I asked him to explain it to me and since that day his words are still intact in my head. Even 22 years later in 1992 when I started to work at Coco Pazzo in New York, where we had more regulars than we could hold at the tables, I still remembered his words about the customers.
And when I opened Salumeria Rosi in 2008 on the Upper West Side, a place with so many wonderful neighbors, I lived by those words and made it part of our culture. Now, 43 years later and having just celebrated the one year anniversary of Il Ristorante Rosi’s opening on Madison Avenue, I find myself feeling like I did at Vipore when I was a child. We have our regulars from the neighborhood who are just arriving back after the summer. They are coming in to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and engagements. But we are also applying my father’s law. We respect and welcome every person who walks in the door because he or she always has the potential to become our best regular customer.