Welcome to our feature, The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tables.
Bacchanalia manager Frances Quatrano does it all. She greets diners, handle reservations, ensures the kitchen and bar are up to speed and even cleans the bathrooms. "It's an everything job," she says. The one thing she does not do, however, is cook. She leaves that to her sister, chef and owner Anne Quatrano, and brother-in-law chef/owner Clifford Harrison. Her heart, however, is in mingling with the customers, many of whom she's come to know after 20 years at the restaurant. "6 p.m. is my favorite time of day, because that's when the guests start coming in," she says.
How long have you worked at Bacchanalia?
Since it opened in 1993. I moved to Atlanta [from Connecticut] with my family in 1992 to open Bacchanalia. My mother grew up on Summerland Farm in Cartersville, Ga. The farm has been in my family since 1840. We were way ahead of the farm-to-table trend. We've been cooking with herbs from our garden since the day we moved here.
What's your favorite table in the restaurant?
Our dining room has a beautiful layout. I think it is important for any restaurant to have the tables be as evenly desirable as possible. If pressed, I would have to say I like the tables with a full view of the kitchen.
What's your favorite thing on the current menu?
My answer will be different from week to week because our menu is ruled by the seasons and changes every day. We just added a new dessert this week – blackberry semi-freddo with lime custard and granola – it is beautiful.
It's 8 p.m. Saturday, can you walk in and get a table? If not, what's the wait?
Most Saturdays it is not possible to walk-in and get a table. We don’t have a large dining room and we use every table for a reservation. We have a small bar that is not reserved but is available for walk-ins. If we are able to accommodate a walk-in with a table we certainly do.
Do people ever try to slip you cash or anything for tables?
Not too often, we aren’t really that kind of place. I would never accept anything for a table.
Do you have regulars, and what are they like?
Of course, we have plenty of guests that have been dining with us for years. We love all of our regular guests.
Do you get a lot of celebrities coming here?
We have had our share of high-profile guests come in to dine, but it is not something we seek out.
Anyone in particular that you remember?
Betty White. I have loved her my whole life. She was delightful and it was an honor to meet her.
What happens if the restaurant is packed and a VIP comes in?
Of course, we would try to accommodate them any way we could.
What's the strangest request you've ever received from a customer?
We try to accommodate any request without question. A while ago we had a guest that said all he ate was cheese toast and baked potatoes. It was a little hard to make that into a multi-course dinner, but at that time we were in our old location and we were serving four courses. I went over to Bone's to get a baked potato and Clifford used our bread to make a couple types of cheese toast.
At the end of the day, what's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job?
Be well prepared for every evening, expect the unexpected, be very flexible, have a lot of patience and never lose your smile. Uh oh, that was more than one thing!