Proud to Serve

For most people, the experience of eating out doesn't often include maitre d's, headwaiters, or sommeliers. Usually, what we seek when we go to a restaurant isn't to be fawned over but to sit down to honest food served by honest people—people like Sandie Lancellotti of the Bronx, New York. I made the acquaintance of Lancellotti when I stopped for breakfast at her place of work, Quality Cafe Restaurant, a 60-seat diner in the Pelham Bay neighborhood. I went back a few weeks later to see how this Bronx-born waitress spends a typical morning. Lancellotti starts her shift at 6:15 a.m. with a quick cup of brewed coffee (which a neon sign in the restaurant's window proclaims to be the "World's Best"). By seven o'clock, the morning rush is on, and the regulars have begun to stream in: nurses, construction workers, city employees, teenagers heading to school, and more. "I love my customers," she says. "I'm just out and open, I guess. You'd never catch me behind a desk."