Whenever we go out to dinner and see a pricy menu - or more to the point - don't go into some restaurant or another because the posted menu is out of our budget, I am reminded of the old Mamma Leone's in New York City. I remember going there with my parents and brother when I was a kid, sometime in the early "60s, probably around 1962. (OMG, that was 50 years ago!) Mom put in her special request, (maybe it was their Anniversary or something, I don't recall) and Dad agreed.
I was probably there two or three more times after that.
People don't believe me when I tell them that dinner, which included Bread, Antipasto, Pasta or Soup, a Main Course, a Cheese Platter, Dessert and Coffee, was $5.00. And the portions were huge, at least for a kid.
Mamma's also had ambiance: decor, strolling violinists, and an impeccable, and, I believe, an all male wait staff. Even then I appreciated certain elements of class and atmosphere of a place.
|Note the "Regular" Dinner Price of $5|
I remember Dad checking his wallet to make sure he had enough money for the bill because he was sure it would come to more than $20 for the four of us for all the food they served us. I wouldn't doubt that Dad was even sweating over the $20 tab plus tip which was quite extravagant and way over his normal budget. I'm sure it was a healthy chunk out of his weekly paycheck.
$5 in 1960 would be about $37 dollars today. $20 (about $150 today) could probably buy our groceries for a week back then. I doubt you can get today for $37 anything near what you could get at Mamma Leone's for $5 in 1962.
So, reasonable or not, Mamma Leone's full, five-course meal and the $5 tab has become the Gold Standard against which I measure the quality, quantity, price and ambiance of a restaurant to this day.
Needless to say, this precludes my dining at elegant establishments and has gotten me used to the ambiance of McDonald's. OK, maybe the Olive Garden for a real splurge.