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Restaurants & Bars 18

Tipping the Customer – What a Concept!: Casa Nostra and Gina’s Italian Ice (Redux)

David Hammond | May 12, 200404:30 PM

Today, I was out biking and stopped in Casa Nostra, a little bakery on Belmont near Harlem. I wandered around listening to the old Italian mama/proprietress give some delivery guy a super hard time (mingled with good-natured laughs and incredulous eye rolls). When I got to the counter, I spotted some ciabattini (little “slippers” with onions punched into the top), and asked for four; she gave me five. I spotted some nice-looking focaccia, and asked for two, and she gave me the two, as well as two fresh long rolls and a square of pizza, no charge, just to be nice.

Last week, at Gina’s, my wife and daughter ordered some little ices; I demurred and ordered just two big containers to go. Gina gave me the two containers; then she gave me a little cup of Italian lemonade, just to be nice.

The margins are probably tight on little places like Casa Nostra and Gina’s, so "tipping the customer" by giving away product hits the bottom line, but for customers like me – schmos who almost expect uncaring “whatever” service – small acts of niceness mean a lot, they’re ways of saying, “thanks for shopping with us; hope we see you again.” Undoubtedly, both these places will.

The ciabattini was very good; light, flaky, fresh, and made more interesting with the little onion studs perforating the crust. Haven’t had the focaccia yet, but at a buck a pop, I like them already.

Casa Nostra Bakery
7138 W. Belmont
Chicago, IL 60634

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