Editor’s Note

Better Than Algebra: Lessons from a 12th-Grade Hostess Job

“Good customer-service skills will always come in handy, no matter what you grow up to do.“

By Catherine Matusow September 19, 2016 Published in the October 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Lessons you learn as a 12th-grade hostess (c. 1995)

1. There is a creation called tortelli di bietola: handmade, half-moon ravioli folded around swiss chard, ricotta and goat cheese, served in a perfect sage–brown butter sauce.

2. It is maybe the greatest dish in the world.

3. You probably shouldn’t eat a full order of it, multiple times a week, sitting at the bar after your shift, no matter how sophisticated doing so makes you feel.

4. Answering the phone isn’t as scary as it seems. True, your hands may inexplicably shake the first time you pick up the receiver and say “Good evening, La Mora, how may I help you?” But your fear will quickly fade.

5. It’s imperative to spread the love among the servers’ sections, giving each an equal number of customers. Fail on this front, and expect repercussions.

6. When the tiny woman named Mrs. de Menil comes in, always put her in the front room, by the window, in Mikey’s section.

7. Wine and apps will make most anyone forget to be mad, no matter how long they’ve been waiting for a table.

8. Smokers will happily wait, always.

9. Seat more laidback customers at the (very slightly) less desirable tables.

10. The job of server is insanely difficult, requiring unnatural strength, agility, skills of persuasion and a memory of steel.

11. You’re not cut out to be a server.

Lessons you learn later in life

1. Good customer-service skills will always come in handy, no matter what you grow up to do.

2. It’s depressing when they put a gigantic Walgreen’s across the little side street from the wonderfully romantic Montrose restaurant where you hostessed during high school.

3. It’s even more depressing when, in 2006, that restaurant closes. A whole mini-universe, gone in Houston style, just like that. Also, no tortelli.

4. Dominique de Menil—she was right there. Right there! And you had no clue how amazing that was.

5. Resurrection can and does happen, as evidenced by La Mora owner/chef Lynette Hawkins opening the adorable Giacomo’s on Westheimer in 2009—and putting her tortelli on the menu.

6. The dish makes you just as happy 20 years later, if a little nostalgic (maybe it’s the wine you are now free to order).

7. You’re not the only one who loves the place! Houstonia’s own Alice Levitt and Katharine Shilcutt have included Giacomo’s in this year’s Best Restaurants guide.

8. Everyone should listen to those two. They really know what they’re doing.

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