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Scary Green Dots

(by Jess Maiuro)

“Mom” and “cooking” are not necessarily two words that go together for me, but laughter and patience are. My dad is the chef in the family—literally. He has a degree from New York City’s Le Cordon Bleu, and upon graduating, he worked at the famous River Café in Brooklyn. Eventually he returned home to help his parents, Grandpop Tony and Grandmom Ide (short for Italia), at their restaurant. It was in “the ‘Burg,” a largely Italian-American section of Trenton, New Jersey, in the 1980s that had a bustling food scene.

My mom worked at the restaurant as a waitress for the first six years of my life. There are stories of her running back and forth from our family’s then home to the restaurant when it was time to breastfeed me during a shift. My first birthday was celebrated there—our VHS video of the party reveals about 100 guests (I was popular for being new to this world). My hand was never without a cookie, and a hired clown sat at the bar the entire time. When I was older, I’d unwind from a hard day of first grade and do my homework with a soda from the tap behind the bar. Occasionally I’d “waitress” like my mom and carry out a house salad to a table or two. “Please be careful!” the waiters and waitresses would warn me. “Do not ever stand in front of the swinging kitchen doors. This door’s in, and that one’s out.”