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Giovanni Lo Coco: No Cheese on Seafood!!!

Updated: Jun 1

One evening, a middle-aged couple came into Lo Coco’s for the first time. They

said they had heard about the restaurant and were eager to try the seafood pasta.

Back in the kitchen, Dad went to work preparing two perfect portions of

Linguine Tutto Mare, a dish that derived its delicate seafood flavors from his

carefully made Tutto Mare sauce. (The secret to that sauce was the generous

ladle of his fish broth made earlier in the day with an ample dose of imported

saffron.) After artfully arranging the shellfish over perfectly cooked al dente

linguine, he summoned the waiter to walk the two piping-hot dishes out to the


Dad always enjoyed watching people take their first mouthful of his steamy

masterpieces. Peering into the dining room from the kitchen, he noted faces very

pleased with the presentation, the happy customers taking long whiffs of the

tantalizing aromas.

Then to Dad’s horror, the man picked up the grated Parmesan cheese. In a flash,

Dad leaped into the dining room—a definite feat for his age and large size—just

in time to throw his cupped hands under the tilting spoon of grated cheese,

and in one continuous swoop, he caught and flung the cheese over his shoulder,

dusting the floor and tables behind him. “You don’t put cheese on seafood, sir.

You will ruin my pasta!”

The couple froze in total dismay, and when the man found his voice again, he huffed,

Excuse me, but this is my pasta, sir, and if I want to sprinkle cheese on it, then I will

do so!”

Dad firmly gripped the edges of the table, leaned in within inches of this

customer’s face and began to shake the table just enough to rattle the silverware.

“This is my table sir—in my ristorante…” And lifting the plate of Tutto Mare off

the table he added, “And this is my pasta—that will be eaten in my way—or you

can leave!”

The couple sat speechless. Dad, having preserved the integrity of his Tutto Mare

from certain cheesy contamination and establishing undeniable ownership of his

restaurant and everything in it, felt terrifically relieved and ready to schmooze.

Gently replacing the plate of food, he poured on the charm, talking about the

chemistry of the food, the quality of his ingredients, and the cost of saffron! “This

is beautiful, clean food—authentico! If you put ’um the cheese, you kill the flavor

of the sea—it’s very delicate, and the cheese is too strong. Believe me, sir, eat in

my way, and I promise you will enjoy. And if you don’t like it—I don’t let you pay!”

The couple ate every last string of linguine on their plate and used the Sicilian

flatbread to sop up every drop of broth. They paid their bill, and before

leaving, asked to speak with Dad. The man stood up from the table, gave Dad

a solid handshake, and said, “I want to thank you, Giovanni, for one of the best

dining experiences of my life! I have never been yelled at by a restaurant owner,

had so much fun, and eaten so well. Thank you again—we’ll definitely be back!”

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