This week I interviewed Tony Della Rose, who owns two restaurants, Della Roses’ at the Avenue and Della Roses’ at Canton Crossing. He explained how he started bartending at a young age back in the late 80s at the original Della Roses’ on Belair road. At the time, it was owned by his parents who allowed him to get out of the kitchen and try his hand at bartending. Tony says that he enjoyed it but was a little intimidated at first. I could understand that feeling and remember the initial fear of my first night behind the bar. The conversation was interesting and I made it a point to ask him what he thought about bartending school and if he hires people based on if they have attended or not.
He shared a story with me that answered my question thoroughly. He told me about the first time the electricity went out while he was tending bar and how he became the source of entertainment for the night. This particular night impacted the way he felt about the art of bartending and he no longer dreaded being the center of attention. I thought that people would just go home if the lights, TV’s, and music went out but he explained that the “weather was severe and people really wanted to drink and listen to his jokes and stories.”
Now I can’t imagine wanting to even go out on a night like he described, let alone stay out while the weather is getting worse. Then I think to myself, he told me the average patron was a single man between the ages of 40-65. These were neighborhood guys that really had nothing else to do, no one to go home to, and just another day of work to look forward to. So instead of staring at a TV screen that showed another Orioles game, they were forced to interact with other people. They told stories, reminisced about the “old neighborhood” and had a truly unexpected experience that night. “This night, as foolish as it sounds, changed the way I looked at those guys and I gained a certain respect and interest in the guys my dad just called regulars.”
When it comes to bartending the only thing regular about people we call “regulars” is the frequency in which they visit the bar. There really is nothing regular about these people, they are usually unique, have a lot to say and have strong opinions about everything and anything pertaining to the bar. Call me sentimental but I always remember the “regulars” and their stories from each bar I have worked. Maybe I just remember them because they were in everyday drinking and complaining about something and would get on my nerves to the point of cutting them off and telling them to leave! Either way, I appreciated Della Rose’s story and it made me think about the people that I’ve met by being their bartender who I would have otherwise, never given them a second glance or time to tell me about their trials and tribulations.