By Charlie Sacchetti
I really enjoyed the weekly breakfast sessions with my young son back in the early ’90s. For several years, nearly every Saturday after our hour of adoration at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, we would visit one of several local diners to eat and discuss whatever sport was in season. One such place, about 10 miles from church, was our particular preference because it served the best banana-walnut pancakes around. Also, adjacent to it was a newsstand that sold various papers from all over the country. We frequently bought The Sporting News, the bible of professional baseball, and discussed several of the stories over breakfast. My kid was very in tune with sports at that age — 10 or so — and his food typically grew cold as it took a back seat to his numerous questions and opinions. Cold or not, his pancakes always disappeared, and the hour or so we spent together made for some great father-son time.
On Sundays, after Mass, the whole family often went out for breakfast. My wife and daughter had their favorite places, so we usually accommodated them. They preferred one of many nearby diners on Route 130 near our church. Of course, the males in the family lobbied hard to get the ladies to give our pancake joint a shot. Let’s face it: We had never had a bad meal there, and it would be good for them to try something different and expand their horizons. However, the girls had no interest in our favorite spot. Alas, The Sporting Newswas not a big selling point to them. They couldn’t see the big deal in our loving that place so much, writing it off as a “guy thing.”
Finally, after six months or so, the ladies consented to try our restaurant. As was typical on a Sunday morning, the place was pretty crowded, so we had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. When we first walked in, the young hostess, recognizing my son and me, said, “Oh, back again, huh? Looks like you guys can’t stay away from here,” obviously pointing out that she had just seen us the previous day. All four female eyes rolled simultaneously. We were seated at a table in the main aisle. My wife was across from me, and our end of the table jutted up against a very nice wall, beautifully decorated with a country scene. The waitress brought coffee for us and juice for the kids, then left to put in our orders.
It was at that point that our table of four had a fifth visitor who was not quite a welcome guest. An obviously energetic cockroach decided to scale the wall only inches from my wife. When she saw it out of the corner of her eye, she let out a scream worthy of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Jumping up, she grabbed our little girl’s hand and ran out of the restaurant. My son and I looked at each other, and he asked, “Do we have to go, too?” After one last sip of my delicious coffee, we did leave, trying to avoid meeting the quizzical looks that followed us to the door. The apologetic manager told me not to worry about paying for the drinks.
Of course, this incident was an aberration. The restaurant was always neat and clean. They couldn’t have had a bug problem. That little antennaed intruder must have hitched a ride on an outsider or was trapped in a soda carton arriving at the restaurant. Of course, this flawless logic was to no avail when I presented it to my wife — a lady, mind you, who was so afraid of bugs that she once called me at my office to let me know one had found its way into our home!
However, the men in the family were unmoved by the whole affair. For fun, we dubbed the restaurant “El Roacho,” but we happily continued to eat there each Saturday, and, upon our return, would give the girls a glowing report on both the cuisine and the cleanliness of the facility. In fact, after a month or so, we resumed our lobbying for them to give “El Roacho” a second chance. We got nowhere.
Then fate stepped in.
My wife’s good friend, who was unaware of our story, happened to mention that she and her husband had eaten at that restaurant, loved it, and had actually become regulars. I couldn’t pass up the golden opportunity to leverage this favorable review and give one last pitch for a second chance.
Amazingly, my wife agreed!
So, after Mass the following Sunday, we made the 10-mile trip to our spot. After being greeted, I was struck by a mischievous idea that came out of nowhere; it was risky, yes, but too good to pass up.
I decided to go for it.
As the hostess escorted us down the main aisle, I began stomping my feet on the rug as if to annihilate any unwanted critters in the area. We laughed all the way to the table, baffling the other patrons. Our triumphant return to “El Roacho” was complete.
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of two books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change,” and “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org