Contact Kathryn at: kathrynspira60@gmail.com

Forbidden Foods at Formerly Joe’s

Back when I was living in New York City and working in the West Village in Manhattan I used to work at a place called Formerly Joe’s.

It was on the corner of West Fourth and 10th Street and the tongue-in-cheek name referred to the former “Joe’s Place.”

They did lunch and dinner with a raw bar and a fully stocked regular bar.

This is the restaurant I worked with Edie Falco and Michael Chiklis.

Every afternoon before the dinner rush, we would sit down at the designated staff table and eat whatever the owner and chef came up with-usually leftovers from the night before. But because the owner was a bit of a cheapskate, certain foods were off limits.

One such item I always tried to scarf was linguini with white clam sauce.  Michael liked spaghetti with meatballs, so he was easy to please. Edie liked raw food that was strictly off limits because of the cost.

The chef also made a great chocolate fudge cake that was off-limits. We all liked it and scarfed it whenever we had the opportunity.

I remember one way we got the cake was by writing extra dupes for it. The dupes were receipts for orders that would have to appear on the bill.

We just hoped the owner wouldn’t check the extra dupes against the register tapes. Unfortunately Andy Menschel, the owner, knew all the tricks, since he used to be a waiter himself. So we rarely got away with it. He made us pay for the cake or off-limits food items we took.

I remember hiding in the kitchen with Edie and Michael, gobbling down fudge cake and giggling like children during slow times. The problem was, the chef, a Chinese guy named Pahn, was in cahoots with the owner to try to catch us at it. So we not only had to rectify things with Andy but also with the kitchen staff.

It was Menschel who gave Chiklis a hard time when Mike was offered the role of John Belushi in the feature film “Wired.” Chiklis wound up leaving the job for the film opportunity and from there his career took off.

After Chiklis left (owing me money he had borrowed for his Con Ed electric bill), Edie and I continued to work there for some time. We both left about the same time; she heading out to Hollywood and me going to another restaurant in the city called Columbus Restaurant on the Upper West Side.

Since their humble beginnings, both Chick and Falco went on to win Emmys for their respective roles-his in “The Shield,” and Edie, of course, in “The Sopranos.” I have to tell you, I’ve never seen “The Sopranos,” and what little I saw of “The Shield” was too gritty for me.

But I will always remember the times we had laughing and eating together in the kitchen and staff table at Formerly Joe’s.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com.