Where Credit Is Due
A few weeks ago Dish slunk without a reservation into Mangiafuoco, a chic Guerrero Street trattoria, and was seated immediately. A good omen, like the nearby parking spot that had magically appeared? No. As quickly as Dish and friend were seated, they got up, flush of face, to leave — because the restaurant does not accept credit cards. (Dish and friend had a total of $6 in their grubby pockets. Also a MasterCard with sufficient credit to cover all but the most lavish meal.)

The experience left an unsavory aftertaste, equal parts embarrassment and annoyance. So Dish called up Sandra Siebert, the restaurant's controller, to see what gives. Siebert sputtered a bit when asked directly what rationale supports the no-credit-card policy. “A lot of it,” she began, “… difficult … they charge so much money.” The gist is that, shockingly, credit card companies charge for their services. (American Express takes a flat 3.2 percent, said Siebert; Visa and MasterCard less, according to volume and ticket size. She also said it's easier to negotiate deals with the latter.) Credit cards also create various extra tasks for the restaurant. They include waiting two to five days to be paid and sorting out the waiters' tips — which are figured into the establishment's payroll-tax burden even though the money goes straight to the staff.

Most restaurants take plastic anyway, on the theory that they need the business and can't afford to quibble over methods of payment. Although Mangiafuoco's policy so far “hasn't affected our business,” said Siebert, she acknowledged that “we might start taking Visa and MasterCard” sometime in the near future, for the convenience of “our out-of-town clients.” As for in-town clients: Visit your nearest cash machine, or bring your checkbook (Mangiafuoco accepts checks).

Point of irony: Another restaurant in which Siebert and her husband, Giancarlo Bortolotti, are involved, La Pergola on Chestnut, does take plastic (Visa, MasterCard — even American Express).

Daze of Wine and Roses
Too much going on in your life? Meditation or television not sufficiently stupefying? Campton Place Hotel has the answer: Wednesday Martini Nights, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the lounge, through (conveniently) New Year's Day.

“Once relegated to the power lunch,” says the blurb, “drinking martinis has developed into a trend among upwardly mobile business people who enjoy it while 'destressing' after work.” There's food, too, “[f]or those not wanting to head straight home” — and those not able to.

By Paul Reidinger

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