Petulant Patron Meets Plainclothes Police

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 04/27/2010

Where are the cops when you need them? I’ve asked myself that question several times over the years, especially watching cars racing by me on the highway, dangerously weaving in and out of traffic. Well, the cops were exactly where Anthony Caturano, chef-owner of Prezza wanted them on Friday night.

I had a chance to sit down with Anthony on Sunday afternoon just a few hours before a party he was hosting to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his highly-acclaimed Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End. Here’s his story:

AC: On Friday night at about 9 o’clock a customer was having dinner and watching the game at the end of the bar with his girlfriend. After a waitress dropped a bottle of wine, the guy whistled so loudly that the entire restaurant stopped and looked at him. He whistled at the waitress and yelled, “Hey, quiet down.” The way some people act in restaurants today is just different. We try to address these situations immediately. If we don’t, the behavior will continue.

Our General Manager approached the customer and told him that his behavior wasn’t acceptable, and asked him to refrain from whistling and clapping and to lower his volume. A few moments later after the GM walked away, the customer approached him and told him he didn’t like the way he had spoken with him. He swore at him and demanded to speak with the owner. When I came out, the customer started swearing at me and telling me he’s spending good money, and that the customer is always right. I told him, Not when you whistle in my dining room. He said, “I should just take my business down the street.” I told him that was a good idea, considering how rude he was being. He told me, “The only way you’re getting me out of here is to call the cops.” So I headed to the phone.

Unbeknownst to Anthony or the whistling customer, two undercover Boston Police officers were standing right behind the couple and saw and heard everything. The officers just happened to be patrolling the North End doing random restaurant permit inspections. When Anthony picked up the phone the police officer introduced himself and said, “We’re already here,” and offered to remove the patron.

AC: When the cops approached the guy, he started giving them a hard time and stated that he was just trying to enjoy his dinner. The officer told him he heard the whole exchange and that it was time to go. His girlfriend was embarrassed because she knew he was acting like an idiot. After being threatened with arrest, the guy finally paid his bill and left. His girlfriend was very apologetic. The other customers were relieved to see him go. I’m all for a good time, but it’s just amazing how some people act in restaurants today like they’re in their own living room. We’re very fortunate that most of our customers are great, but there’s always a few…

Anthony is also fortunate that his permits are up-to-date and that the plainclothes officers were on the scene…

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16 Responses to “Petulant Patron Meets Plainclothes Police”

  1. Bren says:

    That’s *fantastic*! I simply can’t believe how some people have completely lost the ability to self-monitor their behavior. Unfortunately, the ejected jerk likely has gone off believing *he* was wronged….

  2. Steve says:

    Love it! Fortunate the police were so nearby and heard everything. In New York, we call 311 and pray that someone responds, so the threat to call the cops is often only that, a threat.

  3. Kim M says:

    Bravo Anthony for sticking up for your customers and your employees. If I was there, I may have clapped as Mr. “I Should Take My Business Elsewhere” skulked out, or at the least shook the General Manager’s and owner’s hand.

    Great story, Patrick.

  4. Melinda says:


  5. Mindy S says:

    This is fantastic – thank you for sharing! I grew up in the restaurant business (my family has had a restaurant for 33 years). It always amazing me when these things happen! I love how someone thinks that saying “maybe I should take my business elsewhere” is a threat….! Great story.

  6. Debra Demarais says:

    It always seems to me that one jerk can ruin everyone’s night..and almost always it seems..instant asshole, just add alcohol..this is a great story because finally someone is in the right spot at the right time and so there are no two sides to present to the police because they have already witnessed the whole episode…YAY..nice guys finally finished first..!!

  7. Debra- So true. Some people don’t realize the “ripple effect” of how one customer’s bad behavior can have such a negative impact on everyone around the bad apple. A lot of owners and managers are so fixated on placating one bad customer, but don’t realize that they lose the respect of their staff and other customers by not handling the source of the problem appropriately.

    You are so right about the police not being required to sort out both sides of the story. That’s one of the first things I thought of when Anthony told me what happened. Another good thing about the officers being there already is that no cruisers had to come racing down the street with their sirens on and lights flashing, drawing negative attention to the restaurant. I can imagine that Anthony felt the same way that a flight crew would if an undercover Air Marshal spoke up to support them while dealing with difficult passengers.

  8. Eben says:

    Not to make light of the situation, but man, that must have been a satisfying thing to witness as a guest, or an employee for that matter. Sometimes people take it to a level so unruly that its almost surreal.

    Shame he likely left the establishment believing he was wronged.

  9. WOW! Boy no “magic” for that guest or whatever! Sometimes you just need to cut the cord and be done with them. An excellent example of a way out of line customer that needs to be removed. I believe it could not have been handled better. Excellent article, learned something good and hope I never have one like that. I’d have to drop kick him! All of a sudden I think I hear camera phone click into position! Way to go Penelope!
    Cheers to you Patrick, another very interesting example of how a customer should not behave!

  10. Penny says:

    Standing to applaud everyone who moved this sub-human species out of a civilized place!

    But, I have to wonder if he would have been at a great dining spot like Prezza if they didn’t have a TV and “the game” on at the bar.

    I love dining at bars, but I’ve learned to be very careful before ordering if they have a TV. It seems to attract less desirable bar-mates and more unsocial behavior.

  11. Chris F. says:

    Every once in a while justice prevails…hopefully his girlfriend will tell this belligerent dope to go screw…trust me, he is not going to change…If it was my friend David P/GM who first spoke to this ass, I am sure David gave him an earful…Dave has seen it all.

  12. Jenny says:

    Everyone gets what they deserve in the end. We can only hope when idiots get there comeuppance we are there to see it happen. Bravo to the team at Prezza for standing up for their customers, and bravo to the cops for stepping in. As a customer, knowing that Prezza management enforces a fun but not moronic atmosphere ensures that it’s a place I will seek out the next time I go out to dinner.

  13. Paul Paz says:

    How much alcohol was this customer served during his visit?

  14. Sally says:


    Thanks for this great post! i love reading your blog and all the stories you share about respecting those who work in the service industry. your insight is invaluable in our society- one which has a hard time creating an enviornment of mutual respect. I thought i would share the link to vote for this as Boston’s best blog! i try to vote every day! you deserve it! i hope everyone else here who has commented votes too! i support you giving a voice for service industry workers everywhere!

  15. Scott Hoskins says:

    Great story, but whenever I hear, “The customer is always right”, it makes me cringe. There are no absolutes, and this guy sounds like he got what he deserved!

  16. Susan says:

    I would add that customers don’t act like they are in their own living room – they are worse. Chances are, they would never speak to their girlfriend or mother like that!

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