Grated Cheese And Ground Pepper: When Did This Become A Luxury In Restaurants?

You go to a restaurant (of late, Italian restaurants) and after you get your food, the happy waitperson comes barrelling in asking, “Would you like grated cheese/pepper with that?”

Hey, both my arms work, leave it here and I can do it myself, or has Parmesan and peppercorns become a luxury item? Afraid I will overdo it with the pepper or indulge in over a half ounce of Parmesan?

Or are we Americans too lazy to grate for ourselves?

If you are talking about freshly ground pepper and freshly grated cheese it has been like that for as long as I can remember for obvious reasons. Why provide a peppermill and grater for every table when the waitstaff can just stroll over with them. And why leave chunks of ungrated cheese that if not used will have to be thrown away.

Big, brandished peppergrinders are a sign of a crap restaurant. They offer it before you’ve tasted the food, they don’t know how much you want and they don’t know how coarsely you like it ground. A little grinder on each table is expensive but necessary.

Cheese is a little different. A nice place will serve parmesan that costs around $A50 a kilo. If you provide a little hunk of p reggiano for each table, it’s going to set you back a fair bit. And people will sit there nibbling it.

They also tend to grow legs and walk out.

Damn, you KNOW you’re in a fancy place when they have to give the prices in hexadecimal. They must cater to executives of software companies or something. Of course, I don’t care if you’re Sergey Brin, $2640/kg is a touch more than I care to pay for mi formaggio.

The restaurant I used to manage had one of those humongous pepper mills we were supposed to carry around from table to table. Most of our patrons, from what I could tell, found this either annoying or highly amusing. Personally, I like fresh pepper, but there is a definite and pronounced difference in the effect of the spice based upon the quantity and coarseness of the grinding. Offering it as a “luxury” in this fashion defeats the purpose in a rather obvious way, and makes the establishment look every bit as pretentious as it’s making an effort to be.

I know this was a joke, but just for those who don’t want to “translate” it like I did, $A50 per kilo comes to $16.58 per pound in American dollars.

I’m not saying pepper mills are or aren’t a sign of a crap restaurant, but in the places I’ve been to, fresh pepper is offered ONLY on salads and not any other course. That said, the times when I DON’T want fresh ground pepper on my salad are rare, and I assume I’m not the only one if they offer the service in the first place.

It’s a way for the waiter to show you he cares about you and hopefully increase the tip; he doesn’t, but you might.

That’s pretty cheap, isn’t it? Or am I being whooshed here?

If so, I’m whooshed, too. Who would think Australia is the place to buy Italian cheese?! I pay almost $40 US per pound for p. reggiano.

I liked Roland’s answer better. :smiley:

I get $80.36 USD/lb: ($50 Aus/kg * 2.20462 lb/kg * 0.782996 USD/AUD)

Where the hell do YOU live? Even in Alaska it’s no more than $12-13 a pound. You can mail order it for $12.99 a pound. I’d say you’re getting ripped off royally.

Your figures are right, but your calculations went the wrong way.

1 kilo = 2.2 pounds.

That means $A50 per kilo = $A50/2.2 per pound

That’s $A22.73 per pound.

$A1 is worth US78.3c

So to get the amount in US dollars we multiply 22.73 by .783.

The result is $US17.80 per pound.

(obviously, results will differ slightly depending upon where people get their currency conversion rates from)

Yeah, i just looked online at a few gourmet cheese places, and the most expensive parmigiano reggiano i found was $22/pound.

I’m sure it’s possible to find it at $40/pound, but i’m afraid my budget wouldn’t be able to sustain that sort of price, and i have trouble believing i would notice that much difference on my pasta and in my cooking.

That math would come out to $80.36 (USD * lb)/(kg^2).

Ahh yes, 1 (USD*lb)/(kg^2) = 1 Batali . Batali’s are a highly technical unit that should only be used by experienced food physicists.

:smack: **Betali ** , waterj, you are right of course. Don’t know what I was I thinking- Of course you divide by 2.2 to get the price per pound .

Now I have the urge to go to La Pasta Pompous and when buddy comes over with the cheese grater, keep saying “…yeah, more…more please…little more…not yet…” and see if I can get a kilo. If the grater runs dry, well, go fill it up again!

Can I also include the “Dressing the Potato” ritual in this rant? I am somewhat skeeved by the wait-human flitting about from table to table with an open container of tater fixings, dangling it in the face of possibly post nasal drippy and/or say-it-AND-spray it- diners. The difference between 15% and 20% is based more on how many beer runs I request from the server than obsequious service tableaux.

A lot of it is just ritual to buy time while the chefs complete your real meal. Diners who notice the time it takes for the main course are less satisfied. So they go through the slow deliberate presentation and eat up 5 more minutes while they walk around the table to each person. The same thing with made at the table Ceasar salad. It would be a lot more labor efficient to toss up a big vat’o’Ceasar in the kitchen and throw it on a plate each time it’s ordered, but then eaters just finish it faster and have more time to twiddle thumbs and get impatient.

I like a little cheese on my salads, and two or three times that amount on pasta. Since the salad usually comes before the entrée, I’ve had the waiter grind out a pile in a saucer, so he doesn’t have to keep returning to the table.