Buffalo’s Romanello’s Roseland was an Italian restaurant institution in the 1980s.
In 1986 I got a job in Buffalo, NY at a restaurant called Romanello’s Roseland. I was in college and was hired to be a busboy at the popular restaurant on Buffalo’s West side.
The job was to bus the tables, prep them for the next guests, fill water glasses, and clean the ashtrays. I’ll never forget the “technique” we had to employ to remove filled ashtrays from the tables by covering them with an upside down clean ashtray and then leave behind a new one so the guests could keep chain smoking while they ate. Nearly every table smoked.
I did this job for three weeks. I wasn’t that great at it but somehow after 21 or so days on the job there was a need to fill in as an assistant maître d’ and the owner, Jim Romanello, somehow thought to offer me this job greeting people coming into the restaurant.
The main maître d’ was a guy named Ernie. Ernie was a tough Buffalo cop who worked weekends at Roseland probably for some extra bucks. He was a ball buster. Deep down you knew he was a nice guy and definitely the kind of guy you’d want on your side in a street fight, but he put on a show of your inability to ever living up to standards. He was gracious with the guests but then would walk in the kitchen and lay into some waiter or busboy who wasn’t on the ball.
I was assigned to Ernie my first night on the job as an assistant maître d’. Looking back on it now he probably was wondering how the hell I went from busboy to front desk in three weeks but he trained me anyway for the new role.
I spent three years during college in that role greeting guests, walking the floor, making waiters roll utensils in folded napkins during the lulls, making the schedule, and delivering the nightly cash deposit at 1 or 2 in the morning at a bank drop chute a few blocks away from the restaurant.
Looking back on it now I had no idea the craziness of that — 1:00am, dark street, freezing cold, all alone, and a bank deposit zipper pouch full of cold hard cash of the nights proceeds.
If I haven’t already, I want to paint you a visual image of this Westside Buffalo classic restaurant. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was living in an era that was straight out of the…