When my husband and I are too tired to make dinner and there's not a scrap of leftovers to forage, we consider the pizza place around the corner.
Good pizza, killer Greek salad. But …
When we are tempted by Cappy's on Tampa's Florida Avenue, we think:
Are we really up for this?
Is a really good pie worth the risk of an evening of potential Chuck E. Cheese-level insanity? Do we feel like dealing with youngsters romping, yelling and banging wooden booths while their allegedly adult parents dine obliviously on?
Cappy's is casual, cavernous and loud, with vintage video games and assorted kitsch, a toy train circling overhead and a definite kid-friendly vibe. Still, it is a restaurant and not easily mistaken for, say, an inflatable bouncy house. Craziness does not occur every time, and certainly doesn't involve every kid. But it's enough to make you think about it before you grab the car keys.
I bet Cappy's owner Scooter Gabel thought about it every time he politely asked parents not to let kids yell or run laps and sometimes got responses like: Kids are kids and don't tell me how to raise mine. I bet he thought about it when a diner was overheard on his cellphone telling his wife their child was in a "kid mosh pit," but don't worry, this was apparently okay at Cappy's.
I'm guessing he thought about it most when some diners said they would not be back.
So on a chalkboard by the hostess stand, Gabel recently wrote his unambiguous fair warning, as reported by the Times' Laura Reiley: For the comfort and safety of everybody, if you allow your child to run, scream or misbehave, you will be asked to leave.
In the heated aftermath — some negative, but much of it positive, Gabel says — some parents may well take their pizza business elsewhere (Chuck E. Cheese's, maybe?)
But here's hoping that kind of sign starts to sow some seeds of sanity.
Parents who let children ricochet around a dining room (and I don't mean a party center for kids like Chuck E.'s) mystify me. This I witnessed just recently in a nice restaurant, at night, in the bar, not exactly where you'd expect a toddler to be.
Maybe it's because when we ate out as kids, even a subtle move in the general direction of what might be construed as misbehavior brought sure and swift correction. You were outside before you could even begin to disturb other diners. Rarely did this have to happen twice.
No, I don't have kids. But I have changed a whole lot of diapers, dealt with many a toddler meltdown in public and mopped up more than my share of kid-related unmentionable substances. I've done my time with Chuck E. I like kids and eat out with them often, babies to teenagers, fast food and fancier.
But we are not talking about a baby wailing on a plane here, which calls for sympathy and not the collective fellow passenger stink-eye. We're not talking children fretting as children will, or parents doing their best. This isn't kids getting a little rowdy around the table. It's about a time when in some quarters, any behavior is adorable or at least acceptable, and a child in public is the center of the universe instead of being taught how to be a good part of it.
But the pizza guy who took chalk in hand and wrote, "Enough"? That I'd call a good sign.