The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
May 11 - The Road to Rome ... and a Rant on Mediocrity

The road out of Amalfi wound its way up and over the mountains, offering an occasional bird's eye view of what we were leaving behind. As we passed Naples, we caught a glimpse of Mt. Vesuvius looming above the area. Mt. Etna is erupting on Sicily right now ... so could Vesuvius blow again? The experts say that it is quite possible. What a cosmic lesson it would be if Pompeii got buried a second time!

Of all the cars we saw along the road, this one was by far the coolest ... and the most unusual!

Fearing the worst, we hoped to avoid eating dinner at the hotel and remembered a cute little restaurant in the burg of Ostia Antica that we had heard good things about. With great hopes we headed off in that direction, but when we saw the Friday night bumper-to-bumper traffic at a dead stop between the airport and Ostia Antica, four miles distant, we gave in to the inevitable and returned to the hotel.

Unfortunately, dinner was predictably mediocre and overpriced. The good thing about low expectations is that it doesn't take a lot to exceed them, but it was not to be. I don't mean to pick on the hotel exclusively here -- there are far too many other operations in the same situation -- but I still don't understand why someone would spend all the money to build a decent restaurant facility and then offer anything less than a memorable experience?

I won't buy lack of funds as the reason. If you have the money to do it in the first place, you have the money to do it right. What is lacking is either the knowledge or the inclination. Particularly considering how profitable the rooms department of a hotel is, lodging facilities have no excuse at all.

How much more does it really cost to train the staff, to create interesting menus (even when you have to appeal to a wide market) or to hire chefs with some degree of culinary consciousness who can deliver on your promises? Not a lot, I suspect. "Good enough" never is ... and "uninspired" is an insult to your guests. If you aren't willing to do the work it takes to do it right, you should get out of the restaurant business and pursue that career in auto parts. Please don't stick around and by virtue of your lame-ness, educate the dining public that going out to eat is a mistake!

I feel better now.

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