Downright Neighborly

Downright Neighborly

August 12, 2014
Mario Rojas, General Manager of Zazie, and me! August 2014

Remember the show, “Cheers!” about the Boston-based bar?  You know, the place “where everybody knows your name.”  It’s a classic.  Part of the charm of the show, everything from the staff friendships, romances and rivalries to the way that everyone called out “Norm!” whenever the bar regular arrived, was the community it created.

Well, it wasn’t a bar and it wasn’t in Boston, but I witnessed this same sense of community over breakfast last week in San Francisco.  My family and I dined at an adorable little place in the Cole Valley neighborhood called Zazie.  Inside, the restaurant is quite cozy and quaint; in back is a private patio garden with a few tables; in front is sidewalk dining complete with outdoor heaters and a full menu.  We were seated in the sidewalk section which is where we saw magic unfold.

Zazie’s General Manager is an affable fellow named Mario Rojas.  During the course of our visit to Zazie – inclusive of wait time, being seated, ordering, eating, paying and leaving – maybe 90 minutes, total, we watched Mario greet, by name, no fewer than 20 individuals.  Some put their names on the waitlist, some were merely passing by – Mario knew them all.  For some, it was a casual wave of the hand with a, “Good morning, Joe!”  For others, it was a kiss on the cheek and an inquiry about some specific item or event of importance in their life.  For others yet, it was a, “Jane, great to see you, what do you take in your coffee?”  Mario’s warmth and sincerity radiated from him.  It made me wish to be his neighbor, too!

Oh, and by the way, the reactions his kindness elicited were no less authentic – each of his neighbors/friends/acquaintances was genuinely delighted to see him, too.  I gotta say, I really loved his style!  Plus, the food was great, the wait staff attentive, the tea and coffee inviting (not sure what the chef put in the “Miracle Pancakes,” but they were, indeed, miraculous!).  My family and I cannot wait to go back, to dine in the warm embrace of this tiny restaurant, to spend a little more time with Mario.

What if we were all so neighborly?  What if we made everyone who entered our home, our place of business, our academic institution, our industry trade association, etc. feel so welcomed?  Think of what a happy and inviting world this would be.

So, next time you find yourself in San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair and don’t forget to pop into Zazie for a delicious brunch and introduce yourself to Mario.  Give him my regards.