Chris, Christina, my girlfriend Ellen and I walked into Campisi’s. None of us had ever been to this restaurant before. After years of hearing how great it was, we were finally giving it a shot.
This version of Campisi’s required you to order at a counter. Chris and Christina ordered first, then took a seat while waiting. Ellen and I then shuffled up to the counter and perused the large menu.
At the time, Campisi’s was famous for their pizzas. Two of these were known as “Campisi’s Specials”: the #1 was a mix of six heart-clogging Italian meats, while the #2 was a smörgåsbord of six spicy vegetables such as pepper and onion. A medium-sized pie would be just the right amount of food. Since we were new to the joint, we figured that a half-and-half medium would be a great way to try a couple different things. We were ready to order.
“Hi, what can I get you two?” said the cashier.
“We want one medium pizza, half Campisi’s Special #1, the other half Special #2, plus two side salads and two Cokes.”
The cashier rings us up, tells us the price, and I reach for my wallet. I then hesitated — something didn’t sound quite right about the price. “Can you read that back to me?”
“Sure. I’ve got a medium Campisi’s Special #1, a medium Campisi’s Special #2, two Cokes, and two salads.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling more relaxed. “I see the problem. We wanted one pizza, half #1, half #2.”
“Right!” beamed the cashier, as if we just confirmed what he said, not contradicted it.
We reiterated our order. And again, the cashier said, “Right.”
Perhaps there was confusion about the total number of toppings, I thought. A Campisi’s Special has six toppings, and perhaps it was counting as twelve? I took an overly-analytical approach of explaining.
“Well, one half of a Campisi’s Special is three toppings, and we have two halves of two Campisi’s Specials, which should equal one Campisi–“.
My girlfriend Ellen, the laywer and more impatient of us that night, broke in and got right to the point courtroom-style.
“Look! Half of a speciality pizza plus half of a speciality pizza does not equal two pizzas!”
The cashier shriveled against her legal onslaught and squeaked, “Sorry, ma’am. That’s just how the register rings it up.”
Greatly frustrated, I asked to speak to the manager. A man with the air of authority — mainly a shirt and tie — came up and pleasantly asked, “What can I do for you, sir?”
I repeated the problem as clearly as I could. “We want to get one pizza, half of it a Campisi’s Special #1, the other half a Campisi’s Special #2. We want one pizza, but we are getting charged for two pizzas.”
“Right!” beamed the manager. I was now insane.
“We don’t want two pizzas, we want one single pizza.”
Then, déjà vu made an appearance. “Sorry, sir,” said the manager, “That’s just how the register rings it up.”
Done with banging my head against this Italian brick wall, I tersely stated, “Look, my girlfriend and I will take one pizza, #1, with the salads and the drinks. And you had better hope we like it!”
We paid for our order, then sat down with our friends Christina and Chris, who had witnessed the entire affair from afar. Our glares told them to ask what happened at a later point.
A server came over with our drinks. He placed Ellen’s before her. He started to do the same with mine, but halted just before placing it the table. He turned to look at me and said, “Dude…are you still pissed?”
My final button had been pushed. I started to raise my finger in anger, but Ellen and company restrained me before I could truly jab it in fucking little shit’s face. The server shuffled off before any additional wrath could be unleashed.
We ate our meal amidst long measures of silence, which followed us to the parking lot when we left. Before we hopped in my car, Ellen and I paused. In unison, we turned around, faced the restaurant’s facade, and gave it the fiercest old school middle finger we could muster. Fuck Campisi’s and their cash register, we thought — we give you our middle fingers, the Campisi’s Salute.
Since that night, whenever I have completely non-enjoyed any restaurant experience, I always think that it deserves some measure of that same salute.