Friday, July 21, 2006

Pete & Sam's

Here's RJA's review for your reading pleasure.

Pete & Sam's Restaurant
3886 Park Avenue

Monkey Convergence was on. It was on like a dare, like a double-dog dare. “You don’t want any part of my kids in a restaurant.”
“Your kids don’t scare me. Have you met my kids?”
“Your kids? Have you met my savages?”
“My kids bite and are very likely rabid.”

And so on.

But where to go? My sister and brother-in-law, for years, have come over to our house for dinner on Thursday nights…well, not last week…or the week before now that I think about it. Okay, they used to come over for dinner regularly, and it was inevitable that the first half hour to 45 minutes would be spent in this sort of conversation:

“What do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know, what do you want?”
“I don’t care, I’ll eat anything.”

And so on.

So add another couple into that mix, along with seven kids, and all the time in the world to plan the thing. Or so we thought. We’d agreed on last Friday night as the night, but at 5:30 we were still bouncing E-mails all over Memphis trying to agree on where exactly to eat. We almost went to Jasmine, in Cooper-Young. Even got so far as a reservation. But then a last-minute objection by Kristy put us at our alternate location, Pete & Sam’s. And I’m glad it did (as are the good people at Jasmine, no doubt).

We all met at Pete & Sam’s – Stacey & Warren with Satchel & Jiro, Kristy & me with The Quartet, yet somehow Guest Blogger Andria & Admiral Jeff got away without bringing a kid. Let me say this before any sort of review begins – you’ve all been reading Dining With Monkeys since way back in December ’05, but how many of you actually get the chance to dine with The Monkeys? Well, let me tell you then, it’s all true. Everything you’ve read. These kids are out of control, they’re under the table, they’re on top of the table, they’re hanging from light fixtures and using the potted plants for toilets. Meanwhile, their parents just laugh at each other’s filthy jokes, oblivious to everything except their tumblers full of Tom Collinses.

I’m joking, of course. The Monkeys are delightful, as were all the children present (why didn’t Guest Blogger Andria and The Admiral bring a kid?), they were just curious and friendly and a bit overzealous about things like bread and butter and digital cameras. This evening was a sort of competition, and I don’t mean to find out whose children are the most well-behaved, but just the opposite, a more twisted contest like who’s got the ugliest dog or the fattest girlfriend. Stacey insists Satchel & Jiro are truly simian and that my spawn are directly descended from the von Trapps. Dining With Monkeys is a lot more entertaining if the kids are a bit on the wild side, it’s true, and none of them disappointed this time. Jiro was the evening’s photographer, not necessarily because he’s good at it, but because he turns into the Hulk when he’s not allowed to play with the camera. And do you remember how annoying it is as a kid when your classmate across the lunch table starts copying you?

“I love Jungle Juice.”
“I love Jungle Juice.”
“Are you copying me?”
“Are you copying me?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”

And so on.

C and JP started this little game up just after we were seated, but this time it was mutual. C would do something and then JP would ape him and it was all in my peripheral vision, all of this herky-jerky movement. It was the most irritating thing that happened all day for some reason. At one point C was eating bread off his plate without his hands and, naturally, JP followed. S spent a lot of time under the table when she wasn’t walking from one end of it to the other like some sort of midget food sentry.

The food was good. I ate the veal scallopini with a side of ravioli and spinach and, for some reason, I was the only one drinking beer. Curious. I thought the veal was very tender and tasty and I was really surprised by how good the gravy was. I have a habit, which is probably irritating in its own right, of comparing all Italian food to my own family’s, and this was very good. I let C taste some ravioli and he thought it toothsome as well, though he did say that ours is better. That’s my boy. Speaking of C, he went with the cheese pizza, as did JP, if you can imagine that. S ignored a side of ravioli – there was just too much going on under the table and at the other end of it, apparently. GK slept the evening away, lulled by the shadowy, paneled interior, and the sultry sounds of Dean Martin wafting throughout this old-world family restaurant.

Family restaurant is just how Pete & Sam’s should be described. It’s family-owned and there were obviously a lot of families gathered this evening. What I really liked about it is that as we were sitting there with our friends and their kids, and our kids, it reminded me of dinner at my great-grandparents’ house when I was young. The Zanones could put on a dinner like nobody else. It wasn’t just the food, though, which was exemplary, but the atmosphere of generations coming together for one common purpose – to eat. I realized something else at this dinner, as well, and that is that my hesitancy to take The Quartet out to eat is not so much about what they do that might disrupt the restaurant and piss off nearby patrons, but what they do that irritates me. So what I learned about myself is that I need to understand that kids will be kids and I can’t expect them to stop their games and impulsive movements just because we’re in a different location. As long as no one is throwing cutlery or actually using the potted plant as a toilet, then it’s cool. I should be cool.

Eating with these people, with our family by proxy, was more than just fun and entertaining, it was a night of realization for me. The final one came at the end of the dinner, just as we were passing around checks, collecting Hot Wheels cars and discussing whether or not there was time for a trip to Peabody Park, when across the table what did I see but two little eyes peering over the edge of the table from Guest Blogger Andria’s lap. Apparently they had their very own kid the whole time.

See more Pete & Sam's Monkey Convergence reviews by Andria, Kristy, and Stacey.

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