Life of a Critic

The Art of Bizarre Conversation—With Servers


The first thing people usually say to me when they hear what I do is, “I’d love to do that; it must be a great job.” Most times it is. And then there are the other stories I could tell you …

[Upon seeing seeing a menu item of “Margherita pizza, no sauce”]
Me: "Can you make your “Margherita pizza” with sauce?"
Server: "No."
Me: "Why not?"
Server: "It's not how we make it.''
Me: "Can I get a pizza with mozzarella cheese, basil and sauce?"
Server: "We can do that."
Me: "You know what that’s called?"
Server: "No."
Me: "A Margherita pizza."

[Back when mahi-mahi was called dolphinfish]
Server: “The catch of the day is dolphin—but it’s the fish half, not the mammal half.” (This same server also told me, “I think oysters are disgusting—but they’re very popular.”)

Me: "I'm sorry to say this fried chicken is burnt. It’s actually black. And inedible."
Server: "I didn’t cook it." (This is now my favorite excuse for everything.)

Me (in a Florida restaurant): "The menu says you have Gulf shrimp. Do you know from where in the Gulf?"
Server (after checking): "The chef says they’re from Vietnam."
Me: "Ah, so that means the Gulf of Tonkin …"

SPEAKING OF PIZZA—the most disturbing ingredients I’ve been served in Orlando: a salad with a bug, in a very high-end, celebrity-owned restaurant; a piece of glass in a frosty cold mug of beer; and, nestled in a pizza, a shotgun pellet. The pizzeria owner’s response (accompanied by dramatically clasped hands and a beseeching gaze at the ceiling): “Oh my Gahd! How did that get in there!?” (No money was returned. I guess buckshot is an upcharge.)

Next week we’ll talk about the curious case of unusual wine.



  • Vegan baker superstar Celine Duvoisin (above) finally launched Valkyrie Doughnuts, near UCF, after months of snafus and beaucoup ruban rouge. She’s been selling upward of 1,200 doughnuts a day since it opened.
  • Florida legend/chef/author/harmonica player Norman Van Aken (Norman’s1921NVA) tells me his latest venture, the open-to-the-public cooking school called In The Kitchen with Norman Van Aken, in the dynamic Wynwood section of Miami, should be open by June. The adjoining restaurant, Three, is under construction now.
  • Portobello Country Italian Trattoria in Disney Springs will close April 24 for several months of refurbishment. I really like Tony Mantuano, The James Beard Award-winner and Top Chef Master behind Portobello told me with a conspiratorial wink a year ago about “changes, a time of many changes," but this is the first concrete news from the folks at Disney. Chef Trivia: Tony plays trombone.

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Categories: Savor Orlando