Tableside food prep’s all the rage

In the mood for dinner and a show? Why not combine the two at a restaurant that pampers guests with a theatrical approach to topflight service?

Truly inspired tableside service is more than just a turn of the pepper mill or a ladle of sauce over a dessert. Once confined to the tossing of a Caesar salad or the preparation of a flaming dessert, tableside service can now range from over-the-top eatertainment – dramatic cocktail shaking, customized guacamole, baked Alaska delivered a la minute – to the more refined attentiveness that involves the skillful boning of Dover sole or precise carving of a rack of veal for two.

Firmly rooted in European-style white- tablecloth dining, personal prep is showing up in family-owned trattorias and even chain restaurants like P.F. Chang’s, where servers mix chili, mustard and vinegar sauces tableside to the guest’s specifications. There are no hard numbers on the trend, but it goes with the dining public’s fascination with all things food, from celebrity-chef shows on TV to grocery-store cooking demonstrations.

This kind of personal attention appeals on many levels, noted Roberta Adamo, executive chef at Penne Restaurant, in University City. “I think guests like the idea of seeing exactly what they’re going to eat, prepared right in front of them,” said Adamo, whose eight-seat pasta bar is always booked. There, at lunch and dinner, guests can watch Adamo create everything from fava gnocchi to carrot cavatelli. The ever-smiling chef, who also offers private pasta-making classes at the bar, chats with guests as she works, adding intimacy to the experience.

Continue reading . . .