Iced Tea-ing John Malkovich

I worked at an extremely fashionable Italian eatery in the mid‘90’s that was situated just west of the Ravenswood el tracks at Armitage. Before heading in, I could always count on a sloppy greeting from the chef/owner’s mammoth chocolate Labrador, Bosco, who was always tied to the black iron bench in front of the restaurant. Once inside, the kitchen would already be buzzing: newly delivered loaves of bread warmed in the oven, while curds of mozzarella were shaped into spongy orbs of cheese. Lisa, the daytime bartender and my only Front of House companion, usually sat at one of the wooden stools in front of the bar, stabbing at a plateful of scrambled eggs a olio and intermittently sipping from a mug of the best Italian roast I’ve ever tasted.

“Guess who’s coming to lunch?” Lisa asked in her smoky AM voice one particular morning.

“I dunno,” I answered, knotting my black tie in front of a mirror.

“Check the reservation book,” she said, her right cheek filled with huevos.

I looked. A reservation had been made by John Malkovich, one of Chicago’s most admired actors, who was in the City of Big Shoulders directing Ethan Hawke and Martha Plimpton in a Steppenwolf production. His lunch companion would be a local contemporary, if I recall correctly.

We waited for the guests’ arrival. About thirty minutes after starting the business day, the front door swung open, and Lisa left the confines of the bar to seat the Steppenwolf alum and his companion. Pulling two laminated lunch menus and a thick, papery wine list from a hidden shelf in the host stand, she walked the pair to a table on the dining room fringe, where Mr. Malkovich and his friend eventually focused their attention on what they would like to eat for lunch.

I approached after the appropriate amount of time had passed.

“I’ll have the melanzani alla griglia,” the actor/director stated, peering from behind the menu.

I scribbled the order on my pad of paper and then took his friends order.

“And what you like to drink, gentlemen?” I inquired.

“I’ll just have water,” replied the guest.

“An iced tea would be lovely,” said the thespian, only, in a noteworthy way.

I trod the few paces to the bar to expedite the drink order after backing away from the table with obeisance. Grasping a stainless steel ewer of tea and pouring some into a tall beverage glass, I beckoned Lisa to come to the side of the bar where I stood. She nodded and “bookmarked” the conversation she was having with the chef’s daughter, who was in the salad pantry rocking eggs from hand to hand, gently gathering the viscous yolks in a bowl for tiramisu.

“Lisa,” I whispered, not wanting to be overheard by our guests,” What would you think if I called you ‘lovely’, but said it this way?”

I pronounced the word, but accented the “L” by thrusting the tip of my tongue forward and pressing it against the gap of my two front teeth.

“Why, Dan,” she blushed,” I’d say you being flirty.”

“Then, I have news,” I smiled.” John Malkovich just made a pass at me.”

We laughed as I spiked a lemon wheel on the glass’s edge, acknowledging the preposterous.


One response to this post.

  1. I love these sneak peak stories inside your world! I like JM too, kinda envious!


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