Wooden Eggs & Pizza Stands: Swiping Stuff From Local Restaurants (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Wooden Eggs & Pizza Stands: Swiping Stuff from Local Restaurants

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
But first, there are so many ways we can lose things, right? We might misplace them in the midst of a move, leave them behind at the movie theater or maybe they just fall prey to the wall-to-wall clutter of a messy home. But there's another way things can disappear, one a little less, how shall we say, innocent?

MS. AMY MCKEEVER

00:00:21
A pig's head was stolen, wine corks out of a recycle bin and somebody stole an entire bus.

SHEIR

00:00:29
And as Amy McKeever will tell you, this particular pig's head wasn't pinched from a farm. The wine corks weren't snatched from a recycling center and the bus wasn't swiped from a garage. No, all this stuff was stolen from...

MCKEEVER

00:00:42
A restaurant...

SHEIR

00:00:42
McKeever edits EaterDC a food-based website that launched in March, and for her regular column, she visits local restaurants to learn the wild and wacky stuff people steal. In fact, that's almost the column's name. Just swap out "stuff" for another word, one the late, great George Carlin would tell you we can't technically say over the public airwaves.

MCKEEVER

00:01:04
When I write to people to ask them to send in their stories, I usually try to say, can you just tell me about the stuff that people steal?

SHEIR

00:01:10
And one of those people is James Horn.

MR. JAMES HORN

00:01:13
General manager and partner at Graffiato.

SHEIR

00:01:15
The new Italian restaurant owned by local top chef alum Mike Isabella. Graffiato just opened its doors here in Chinatown in June but James says plenty of stuff already has gone missing. The first theft occurred during construction when James was still testing out sales reps.

HORN

00:01:30
I would have them meet me outside and sit down and do my interviews outside the front of the restaurant, and then, you know, walk and give them a tour, and I would do everything with my iPad. So one day, a salesman came in from a chemical company wanting to do our dish area, and I'm there typing and he said, oh, do you mind if you just walk into the dish room really quickly and show me around so I can spec out, you know, what we might want to put in here? And I was like, ah, okay I'll give you a minute.

SHEIR

00:01:54
So they go inside, take a 30-second glance around, and when they come back out...

HORN

00:01:59
Looked to my left, looked to my right, and thought, where is my iPad?

SHEIR

00:02:01
Sadly, he'll never know the answer.

HORN

00:02:04
Someone just walked by the front of the restaurant and just took it and walked away or ran away. Needless to say, I did not go to that guy's company. They are not doing business with Graffiato and he knows who he is, too, and he knows he owes me an iPad.

SHEIR

00:02:18
Now in terms of professional stuff pinched from Graffiato, James says they've lost one of their silver-colored bar chairs.

HORN

00:02:24
One of the construction workers broke it and didn't tell us or just decided to take it home.

SHEIR

00:02:27
They've lost one of the bowls servers bring with the check.

HORN

00:02:30
It was like a piggy bowl and then we filled it with pepper and salt water taffy and not only did all the salt water taffy disappear, but the bowl disappeared.

SHEIR

00:02:37
And there's the case of the thing or things that haven't disappeared, thanks to James Horn's sharp eye.

HORN

00:02:44
We have a lot of pizza stands where we obviously stack like the pizza trays where people eat, and one day, I just saw someone walk out with like six of them, like just in his hand. And I said, what are you doing?

SHEIR

00:02:54
But pizza stands, bar chairs, even piggy bowls, they're all relatively easy to replace. If somebody walked off with some of Graffiato's other stuff, James tells me and Amy he'd be pretty angry, albeit impressed. I wanted to ask you, what would be like the most devastating things to get stolen from here?

HORN

00:03:10
If someone walks out of here with like my Berkel slicer one day and we don't notice, that will trump all. You just took a 150 pound $5,000 slicer out of the restaurant in the middle of service, good job.

MCKEEVER

00:03:22
I think you just issued a challenge. Somebody is going to try that now.

HORN

00:03:25
I'm going to put a chain and lock on it now.

SHEIR

00:03:27
GPS tracking system...

HORN

00:03:28
I'm going to get a GPS tracking system.

SHEIR

00:03:29
James says Chef Isabella has his own prized possession that he guards closely, his Mis-En-Place tin where he keeps his pizza-making tools. He actually had the staff label the tin in a way that makes it pretty explicitly clear that people should keep their hands off.

HORN

00:03:45
And people have like picked it up and like, I'm not sure of their intentions, but that's something that someone one day I would expect to be stolen and be, like, look what I have in my house, Mike Isabella's Mis-En-Place.

SHEIR

00:03:54
James Horn isn't sure why people steal from restaurants, maybe, yeah, they're star struck over a celebrity chef like Mike Isabella. Maybe they get a thrill from pinching something novel like a piggy bowl. Maybe they're just really short on forks and knives, which, says James, go missing all the time at just about every restaurant. But whatever the motivation, what James wants everyone to know is this, the restaurants notice.

SHEIR

00:04:17
He's friends with Rikka Johnson, general manager at Wolfgang Puck's upscale restaurant, The Source, and when she notices theft, she won't say anything.

HORN

00:04:25
She'll just add to their check, like, "open item retail sale" and either they will raise their hand and say, excuse me, what is this, essentially? Oh, well, I noticed you put a wine carafe in your purse, or they're like so embarrassed they just like pay their check and get out, and so I'm going to take some advice from her and if I ever see that again, that's what I'm going to do. And then you can kind of make up a price for, oh, I notice you stole a pizza stand, those are sterling silver pizza stands that cost $400.

SHEIR

00:04:47
And the guy who took six, that would be, what, $2400?

HORN

00:04:50
Great day for sales that day...

SHEIR

00:04:52
Seriously though, not only do restaurants notice, but sometimes they cook up pretty creative ways to recover their stuff. Amy McKeever recently interviewed the manager of the Casa Nonna near Dupont Circle and right by the door, the restaurant has this basket filled with wooden eggs.

MCKEEVER

00:05:08
But I guess slowly over time, the level of the eggs in the basket started dwindling, so I talked to the manager there, Adam Sanders, and he was telling me that he would offer an amnesty week for anyone who had taken the eggs and they'd give them a free scoop of gelato if they would just return the eggs safely.

SHEIR

00:05:25
But after amnesty week was up.

MCKEEVER

00:05:27
No one did, yeah, no one, and you would think at least you'd go buy a wooden egg and give me some gelato, I have an egg for you.

SHEIR

00:05:36
Of course, if anyone actually did that, you know what would happen next. Amy McKeever would return to the scene of the brand new crime and have even more "stuff" to write about. For a link to some of Amy's past columns, including that story about the pig's head she mentioned, visit our website metroconnection.org
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