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June 29, 2010

Top Ten ways to enhance your Iggies experience

Iggies PizzaA co-worker came back to the office chuckling after picking up an Iggies pizza for lunch the other day.

There was nothing funny about her pie. (I believe she had the pizza of the month, the PLT, which involves nothing more humorous than sliced fresh tomatoes, pancetta, mozzarella and arugula.)

What amused her were the many customer rules Iggies has plastered on its front windows.

That got me thinking about doing a Top Ten persnickety restaurant rules post, with a sampling from different eateries. Then I got a look at the Iggies website and realized the pizzeria merited a list of its own.

The place actually lists eight rules, under the title, "A few helpful hints to enhance your experience."

Let me pause here to say that I adore Iggies' thin-crust pizzas and inventive salads. I also appreciate the place because it is just a few blocks from my office. I'm sure the rules really are meant to enhance the dining experience. It's just that when you see how many there are, and how strongly they're worded and punctuated -- they use exclamation points here like most pizzerias use mozzarella -- it brings back memories of "Seinfeld's" Soup Nazi.

Like the TV soup-maker, it seems Iggies pizza-makers are perfectionists. So they have high standards for themselves  -- and for their guests. For pizza this good, I'm willing to make sure I don't grab a four top when a table for two will do. Does that make me a food-Nazi sympathizer?

I'm sure there are lots of other restaurants out there with strict rules. Golden West's no-sauce-on-the-side stance comes to mind, as does Pazo's "no visible underpants" policy. (Personally, I appreciate the undies rule more than the sauce thing.) Please share your favorites here if you are so inclined.

And now, finally, we come to this week's list.

Top Ten ways to enhance your Iggies experience

No. 1. "although typically you would seat yourself, when there is a line at the register we take names and will seat your party in an orderly fashion. Don't even try to jump the line!"

No. 2. "as noted above, we are self-service, therefore PLEASE clear your own table, placing dishes in bus pans, glasses in racks and trash and recyclables in appropriate bins."

No. 3. "BYOB means Bring Your Own Alcoholic Beverage. We do offer non-alcoholic beverages (quite a nice selection actually) and won't allow you to bring in your own bottled water or 2-liter of coke (or pepsi). Likewise, please don't bring in your own chips, dips, subs, fried chicken, ice cream, chinese carryout, pb & j, etc., etc."

No. 4. "We're a small restaurant with limited seating. Therefore, please sit a table appropriate for the size of your party. In other words, do the two of you REALLY need a table for 4?"

No. 5. "when invited to a friend's home, you wouldn't rearrange the living room, would you? Don't move the tables here either!"

No. 6. "WAIT! That's sea salt on your table NOT cheese! We don't put shakers of (fake) parmesan cheese on our tables. Instead, we use only the freshest ingredients, thereby negating the need to add artificial flavorings."

No. 7. "Need anything? An additional pizza stand? More chairs? Just ask rather than SWIPING THEM FROM THE TABLE NEXT TO YOU!"

No. 8. "And speaking of the table next to you ... even when empty, it's not a coat rack, bus station or your own personal buffet! Please! ONE TABLE PER PARTY!"

Iggie's only enumerates eight (eight!) rules, but here are a few more that can be gleaned from the site.

No. 9.  "Iggies was founded upon the notion that great pizza relies upon fresh ingredients and the utmost respect in the handling of them. To that end we use only imported '00' flour, bottled water and fresh yeast in our dough and 100% D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes in our 'ragu.'"

The pizza-makers have their own set of rules to follow, ones that make customers willing to put up with Nos. 1-8. If they stick to those D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes, I'm willing to do my part.

No. 10. No tipping.

No problem.

Sun file photo of an Iggies pizza
Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:21 AM | | Comments (69)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

Comments

We have always loved Iggies. but the rules and there attitude has gotten worse and worse. We decided after the last time to take it off our places to go

Isn't there also a rule about no talking/asking questions of the pizza maker?

Boy, this sure makes Iggie's seem like an unwelcoming place. I've enjoyed many meals, and I like the minimalist service and atmosphere. I truly loved their potato/pancetta pizza, which is no longer featured.

The pizzas are great but unfortunately Iggie's has become yet another P.W. fiefdom.

sadly, we've stopped going to Iggies. i used to love it there - but the quality of the pizza has gone down while the attitude displays have increased.

for anybody looking for an alternative, i recommend Bagby's in harbor east. i've been there 3 or 4 times in the past few months, and i've enjoyed it. pizza is good and the staff very friendly.

Most of the rules you'd like to think don't reeally need to be listed or posted, so I'm assuming the fact they have done so probably means they've had some problems with customers not using common sense (no restaurant that makes its living by selling food and drink is going to be happy with customers who bring in their own).

A lot of the rules on this list seem to reflect the fact that Iggies is a small place and doesn't have a very large staff. That being said, I have a definite problem with rules 5, 6 and 7.

#5 - while that's true, my friends typically aren't in the habit of charging me for the experience when I stop by for dinner. I understand that Iggies is trying to go for a homey atmosphere, but who are they trying to kid? They're a restaurant and at most restaurants it's not unusual to move tables and chairs around if the current arrangement won't accommodate the group. If there were wait staff you'd ask, but as their website makes clear, they don't have any.

#6 - OK. So Iggies apparently acknowledges the fact that their pizza may not be seasoned sufficiently for some patrons, but they've decided in advance that none of their pizza's require any additional cheese, no matter how much a patron might want some.... and oh by the way... while the concept may be incomprehensible to Iggies, some restaurants do provide real parmesan to put on their pizza. Iggies chooses not to and that's certainly their prerogative, but how about losing the attitude.

#7 - this rule probably bothers me the most, and strongly suggests the owners could use some lessons in social graces. If I need additional pizza stands or chairs while dining at Iggies, and decide to help myself (seeing as how they do describe themselves as "basically self serve"), that's not called stealing any place I've ever eaten. One gets the strong impression from the tone of the website that Iggies is often crowded, which I'm guessing makes it kind of tough to get someone's attention if you need an additional chair or stand. In such circumstances helping yourself would seem to be the logical course of action, but apparently not at Iggies.

Granted, it's not always easy to find good pizza in Baltimore, and I do admire Iggies committment to using all fresh ingredients, but nevertheless, I do believe I'll take my pizza money elsewhere.

As someone who works in the service industry I'm happy that Iggie's has the rules posted and people think about them. They don't seem that terrible to me. Also, if you speak to the owners you'll find that they are incredibly warm and friendly. Not the stern schoolmarmish type people seem to think these rules suggest.

i think it is important to embrace the rules of iggies. once you have been in there on a friday night at 8 pm, the rules make perfect sense. the owners are uncompromising and the food is amazing (though it sucks to be yelled at by that lady). iggies-- like hamilton tavern, golden west, sobo, dizzys, and many others-- is best enjoyed on a weekday evening with locals.

Depends who's working there, I've found. Some staff members will do anything for you, with others (maybe it's just one person?), no matter how you order, where you stand, how you ask a question, what question you ask -- it is always, always wrong.

So, even if you ask nicely and respectfully about smushing together the two tables on the platform, because you have a special need for privacy, you might be refused and directed to the bigger area.

Love the Iggies. On the subject of rules, the best belongs to Mum's, a small neighborhood bar near Federal Hill. (The list is a carryover from another bar, Tio Loco's which used to be where MaGerk's is now.)

One of the Mum's rules is, "don't be a tool." And, really, isn't that the point the Iggies list is trying to make?

This of course is just my opinion.

My family lives and work in downtown Baltimore. My law firm is located in Mt Vernon, not far from Iggies. Also I have a blog on Baltimore Family Restaurants, but I haven't included Iggie's because I think it has problems. Iggie's collects money for charities instead of tips, which is wonderful. And their pizza is very good as well as inexpensive, but my family seldom goes there.

We once were yelled at for "cutting," even though we had no idea a table line had formed with one group. In fact I think we were actually at Iggie's longer than the one group we "cut in front of," but we just didn't know where to stand then. Plus my son was a baby, which isn't an excuse for cutting, but my point is we didn't mean to cut-We just didn't know where to stand right then.

My other more general problem with Iggies, which I think is an issue especially for families, involves their turn-over (which they apparently have no rule about). Iggie's is cheap, and it's BYOB. So it's not uncommon for groups to go to Iggie's with a substantial amount of wine or beer, order a couple pizzas between them and then not leave. This happens a lot on the weekends. They get a "night on the town" for cheap in Mt Vernon, but, even when I was a student, I would have thought that was really weak. And I don't understand why Iggie's allows it.

The place is BYOB- They need volume. But this results in lower turn-over, lower revenue and it causes people to just not to go there.

It's a shame that Iggie's great pizza is overshadowed by poor service.

Hiring a wait staff and getting a space that fits demand would make Iggie's much more enjoyable for everyone, even if the pizza's would cost a few dollars more.

I'm going to be honest here.

One of the reasons I adore, enjoy, and patronize Iggie's is that its business model dissuades a certain kind of entitled patron that I simply don't care to dine alongside.

So, seriously - if you can't follow some simple, basic house rules, please stay home. More space for me to linger.

I don't get #6. You don't need to add cheese but you may need to add salt?
And I'm sorry, but when a place is self-serve and self-seat things like chairs being dragged around and stuff splayed at other tables is gonna happen. If you don't want that, SEAT people. I don't need all that hassle. If their pizza's that great, I'll just get takeout.

(Also, that GW rule isn't written in stone. I have an allergy to chilies and the last time I was there asked if the special was hot, explaining my condition. The waiter OFFERED to bring it on the side.)

I was at a conference downtown and took some other members (who were from out of town) there. It was embarrassing. When we arrived, there were people but it wasn't packed. There was no a/c so we chose to push two 2-person tables together instead of sit in the back near the ovens where it was SWELTERING. We got talked to about that and warned that owners would "pitch a fit" if they caught us. It's not like the place was full or that we were in the way of any other customers!

Also, while we were there our pizza slipped off the rack because the table was wobbly. The woman who took our order eventually helped us clean up, but never offered us a new pizza. I had to walk over to the kitchen and ask them to give us a new one. They were reluctuant, but finally agreed.

The people I took said if they were locals they wouldn't go back. I agree with them. It'll be a long time before I go back.

The rules and accompanying attitude prevent me from eating there -- no matter how great the pizza. Before swearing off Iggie's altogether, I was scolded time and again for the silliest things. My favorite was being shamed by the female owner because my friend and I ordered a pizza to go and decided to sit down and eat a few slices before rushing back to work. The audacity! The owner, in a tone I haven't heard since I was grounded as a child, said to us, "Next time, I'm going to charge you for the box." (The place was emtpy, I might add, and from that point on, they had one less customer.)

i just don't understand their style. it is supposed to be self-service so why is it wrong to serve my party by pushing two empty tables together? why is there an issue if i move some salt shakers to make room?

personally, i find the attitude of the staff there very hostile. i will only eat take out from there

I think the pizza is mediocre at best. I'm sorry, but I can make pizza (IMHO as good as Iggies). When I go out, the markups I am paying DO entitle me to certain basic amenities when dining. If they choose to blatantly ignore those, time to head elsewhere.

At least the Soup Nazi had great soup.

S*ck it Iggies, I'm out.

Iggies isn't the only self serve pizza joint in town...try Bagby and BOP to name a few. I've never been to Iggies, but I have been to Bagby and BOP many many times. I've never seen silly rules posted at any of these places. I have also never seen people acting foolish either. I'd imagine BOP would get the foolishness since it is located in Fells Point and subject to drunk people. I've seen people move tables, order pizza to-go, but decide to dine-in, and the owners have never had an issue! If Iggies has a problem with their customers, then it is their job to fix the issues, and posting rules is not a way of fixing issues. It is a cheap way, but not the correct way!

i've been going to iggies since they first opened, and they never started with that many rules. i can pretty much guarantee they were created and added out of personal experiences from their customers.

i will agree that because of the BYOB, tables tend to linger pretty long. then again when i go to iggies, i know what i'm getting myself into since it's usually packed. most of these rules are for just that.

i don't mind it one bit. and if i don't feel like going there and dealing with said rules, i will gladly get my food to-go.

but like i said, i've been going there since the beginning, so i'm partial. that said, i have never had anything but good service if i talk to someone first about maybe putting some tables together, or getting an extra stand, etc. if you ask FIRST they seem to go out of their way if they can.

i've been going to iggies since they first opened, and they never started with that many rules. i can pretty much guarantee they were created and added out of personal experiences from their customers.

i will agree that because of the BYOB, tables tend to linger pretty long. then again when i go to iggies, i know what i'm getting myself into since it's usually packed. most of these rules are for just that.

i don't mind it one bit. and if i don't feel like going there and dealing with said rules, i will gladly get my food to-go.

but like i said, i've been going there since the beginning, so i'm partial. that said, i have never had anything but good service if i talk to someone first about maybe putting some tables together, or getting an extra stand, etc. if you ask FIRST they seem to go out of their way if they can.

captcha: "known chiding"

Love the pizza. Hate the rules.

And yes, a certain proprietor (already mentioned several times here) does seem to be imbued with both a perpetual scowl, and a lunch-lady iron-fist attitude.

Btw, try the pignoli cookies - they're delicious!

I have to agree with a previous commenter that weekday nights are best for a stress-free meal.

In the spring or summer of 2008 they had political posters of a candidate I supported, but I prefer my dinning experiences to be free from that, and I don't return for months after that.

Also, has anyone else seen the large table 'reserved'?

"I'm going to be honest here.

One of the reasons I adore, enjoy, and patronize Iggie's is that its business model dissuades a certain kind of entitled patron that I simply don't care to dine alongside.

So, seriously - if you can't follow some simple, basic house rules, please stay home. More space for me to linger."

Bingo. Sure, the rules could be cut down and/or written in a friendlier tone, but a cranky lady or two isn't enough to make me give up on top notch pizza in a NYOB setting.

I am going to aware El Generalissimo the comment of the day award. Well said, sir! See you at Iggies with those of us who prefer perfect pizza to being coddled.

You guys are too kind.

But it's ultimately, and always a matter of personal preference. I don't mind that a certain kind of patron doesn't care for Iggie's spartan service model.

That's cool with me. Iggie's doesn't seem to be hurting for business. Though, I won't be surprised or alarmed if they turn up a little extra-friendlier in the coming weeks with this being a hot topic of conversation.

If anything, it seems to me that the heart of their issues stem from wanting to constrain supply in the face of mushrooming demand. We've recently confronted similar issues with the availabilitiy of Brewer's bottling.

I've never had a bad experience with Iggie's -- whether the food or the service. I read everyone else's complaints, and they simply don't match my experience.

I don't begrudge anyone that they have a right to not like Iggie's style or business model. I, for one, not only don't mind, but actually prefer it in many ways. The long queues out the door tell me I'm not the only one.

Oh, and FWIW: I competely disagree about BOP. Their pizza will do in a pinch; but it still reminds me of greasy Brooklyn corner pizza. Iggie's takes me back to the lovingly-made nouvelle California pizza of my youth. Comparing apples and foie here.

huh. We've dined at Iggie's a couple of times and I've never noticed the rules (except the one about not talking to the pizza maker), enjoyed the pizza, and had great service.

Rule #11 Go to Bagby's. They like you there.

No one goes to a self-service eatery for the "service." They go for the food, or the convenience, or the price. And certainly no one dines out hoping to be treated with contempt, which is what the angry signs at Iggies accomplish. The signs are full of capital letters, exclamation points, negative word choice -- this is what we colloquially call bad attitude...."We don't like you, but we'll take your money and laugh all the way to the bank." It isn't just the signs that show contempt -- the staff shows it by refusing eye contact, by angrily shouting your order, by rolling their eyes when customers can't decide what to order, by sighing dejectedly when customers make suggestions, by answering a comment with a sneer -- all of this happened to me at Iggies the one and only time I was there. They do it intentionally, and they know they are doing it, and they don't care, and THAT'S why I will never eat or recommend Iggies.
I agree that the self-service concept (combined with the contempt) keeps finicky diners away, and that's what non-finicky diners prefer. Good for them -- they can continue to go to Iggies while those of us who want to be treated like humans will go elsewhere. Iggies shows contempt for its customers, and anyone who gives money to people who hate you, gets what they deserve. I will say that I found Iggies food to be VERY tasty and the ingredients top notch, but it's not so good that it's worth being treated like sh*t for.

I am very surprised that someone from Iggies has not weighed in here yet to explain their point of view. That would go a long way, perhaps, to warming up some of the people who no longer go there.

Don't you get it anon.e.mouse .....they don't care! It would be beneath them to comment on this board

Rule Number One for Iggies employees:
The Customer Is Always Wrong.

The buck stops with the boss.

Is there a guy named Peter Wood running that place? If so, I worked for him years ago in Rockville. Weird guy way back then !

Iggies shows contempt for its customers, and anyone who gives money to people who hate you, gets what they deserve.

I think you miss the point that I've never had any less than a smile there. I realize that my experience doesn't match everyone's -- but I've simply been spared any ill-behaviour or mistreatment on the part of the management or staff.

Having never experienced it myself, I can only surmise that it's perhaps part of the formula that keeps me coming back, and keeps lines going out the door.

I'm happy to give them my money the same way I'm happy to patronize other neighborhood institutions that treat me decently, and provide good product for good value.

Again, while I sympathize with what everyone must be feeling. But until it happens to me, I say whoopee. More for me.

El G, you and I must have been there on the same friendly, treat-the-customer right days or something. It can't be a coincidence that so many people report having bad customer service experiences at Iggie's, but I'm wondering what puts me in the (apparently distinct) minority of people who haven't. We're always greeted with smiles or, at the absolute minimum, politeness. I've never eaten anything there that wasn't amazing, and the folks who actually make the pizza have always accommodated our (frequent) requests to have the delicious balsamic reduction added to pizzas that don't normally come with it.

I haven't been to Iggie's since The Rules were imposed. The last time we were there was Valentine's Day (we don't get to Mt. Vernon as often anymore), a VERY active night that found the dining room filled to capacity with happy, boisterous patrons being served by a busy but cheerful staff, and I doubt that when we return, our experience will be any different.

Rule #2 reminds me of Jackie Mason's classic routine comparing Starbucks with the coffee shop in his old Brooklyn neighborhood. From high stools (rather than comfortable booths) to lines at the counter (rather than table service) to turning customers into their own busboys, everything Starbucks did, Mason pointed out, enabled them to charge more for a cup of coffee.
P.S. Speaking of reminders, the response to this topic is a reminder that when D@L deals with restaurant experiences, pro and con, the comments pour in.

Like El G and Sean, I've never had a bad customer-service experience at Iggies, which is probably why I find the rules more amusing than off-putting. But I'm sure I'd feel differently if I'd been chastised by the staff for something silly.

Can't wait to hear what Iggie's people have to say...they are closed for vacation. Hmmmm did LV plan it this way?

Love Bagby and don't think the staff could be any nicer!! That is my #1 choice now!

I seem to be in the habit lately of writing about places that are closed for vacation. (Jack's Bistro's shandy, just this week.) LV

I find it amazing -- but not surprising -- that no one has commented on the origin of the "rules." I started going to Iggies when it first opened. There were no rules then; but time passes and things change. The rules simply reflect the experience of the owners. And I have seen that same experience at a number of restuarants. Unfortunately, there are a number of people in this town (and elsewhere) who simply do not know what common courtesy is. They are either unaware of everyone else or simply do not care about anyone other than themselves.
I have always found Iggies to be a pleasant, friendly restuarant with great pizza. And don't tell me about Bagby's -- they just opened. After some of these complainers go there, things will be more pleasant at Iggies, and Bagby's will need rules.
Instead complaining about rules, why not go out to dinner, act like a caring, sensible human being, and you will be surprised how well you will be treated and how enjoyable the evening can be.

As for this blog -- it merely confirms my belief in what bloggers are -- whinners!

Maybe we do whine...when there's something to whine about. If diverse unconnected individuals not friends with or in the employ of a restaurant all report similar experiences, these may be worth taking into consideration when weighing one's choices. For whatever reason, customer misbehavior, too much caffeine, owner choice of quirky counter help, this place repeatedly engages in customer service interactions that are perceived as unprovoked and off-putting to at least some. The value proposition decision for many: the pizza isn't worth the parking or the attitude.

Are "whinners" whining winners?

ReCaptcha: moodiest Training.

I've been to some of those.

Why is it that the people who tell blog contributors what jerks we are invariably have the same name...Anonymous?

I love Iggies and have never found the rules to be a major deterrent (the warning about salt is particularly useful), but we split our time between Iggies and Zellas (great Hollins Market pizza of a totally different style). Our daughter raves about the pear pizza at Iggies.

All businesses wouldn't exist without customers -- doesn't that imply that there should be gratitude from owners and staff, as compared to rolling one's eyes while resentfully shouting your customer's order number?

I went to Iggies with a group of 9 people that had distinct political leanings -- all but one were either very conservative or very liberal. The conservatives roundly found the service to be contemptuous while the liberals said they weren't bothered by it or didn't notice it. The liberals discounted the signs by saying, "young people run their restaurants today more casually. That's just colloquial mannerisms of a fast-moving world." I bet Iggies staff and ownership is liberal -- they don't notice the service or they don't care or they think it's acceptable, and, to liberals, it's acceptable and that's fine with me because I am free to choose to not go there.

I am not a picky diner -- I order straight off the menu without making substitutions, I have no dietary needs, I rarely use coupons, I tip 20%, and I don't complain if I have a bad meal or bad service (I simply do not go back). I am a fat person who eats out solely for the food -- that's how I got fat. I don't care about wine lists or waiters or decor -- I care about food and its taste and presentation and temperature and creativity and textures and the company I eat it with. The problem I have with Iggies is that everything about it SCREAMS "we hate you," and I'm not the only person that notices this. Here are some examples, and I apologize in advance for the length, but I appreciate how everyone is civilized in their commentary so far.

1) Iggies literally screams your number when your order is ready even if the place isn't full or loud, and the tone of the scream is filled with resentment. Starting off your meal with someone angrily shouting at you doesn't make for a memorable pizza experience.

2) Iggies likes greyhound dogs better than they like humans. Again, look at the signs. The signs about dogs are sweet and loving while the signs for humans are filled with sneering dismissive contempt. If you like/accept the service at Iggies and you also dislike most humans, you are consistent, and I'm glad you are supporting Iggies because I won't do it.

3) Iggies has a no-cheese pizza, so I suggested they put it on a gluten-free crust since more people are avoiding gluten these days. The woman behind the counter stared at me for too long, and then the guy making the pizza came over and said dismissively, "that wouldn't be authentically Italian and all our ingredients and products are authentic." He then immediately turned away, which ensured I wouldn't respond. I was stunned into silence.......pizza is AMERICAN, not Italian. So not only does Iggies hate their customers, but they are snobs and phonies.

Because I was with friends when I ate at Iggies, I actively decided to ignore the attitude to stay and eat my pizza and be with friends. I found the pizza to be delicious, and vowed to never return again. Waiters and cooks come and go, but signage is permanent. The 6 signs containing all the rules posted all over the joint aren't going anywhere.

I will repeat that Iggies food was quite good. But I cannot support a place that resents my presence.....if Iggies were the only game in town, I'd be skinny.

I like the rules. They work for most people, and those are the people that continue to dine there. Obviously, thats A LOT of people, as its usually crowded.

Despite all the jabs at the owners, Iggies is VERY good to the community. Monthly charities benefit from the "no tipping" rule.

And each Thanksgiving, Iggies remains open to serve traditional Thanksgiving meals to the homeless, serving a few hundred homeless over the course of the day.

Get your facts straight before you go bashing peoples' compassion. The age-old lesson of "don't judge a book by its cover."

Jules -- the rules DON'T "work for most people" as you say. You don't KNOW "most people" or their opinion of Iggies (and neither do I). You only know that Iggies often has a line and that people who like it return there, but that doesn't tell you anything about the quantity of people who do NOT like Iggies. The people who like Iggies are okay with the rules, so your statement is true only for the subset of people who like Iggies for whatever reasons. But it is NOT true for those who dislike the service (even though I liked everything else about Iggies). And that is true regardless of the rules or the charitable giving of the owners or anyone's opinion of the owners. Lots of restaurants give to charity, anonymously or quietly, so no one knows what other restaurants give to charity. I wasn't speaking for anyone but me; you were speaking for most people -- define "most people."

I'm glad you like Iggies -- pleasure is a good thing. I DON'T like how I was treated at Iggies, despite that they have arguably the best and most-interesting pizza in town.

There's a reason that Iggie's rules became a blog topic, and one that has garned a LOT of commentary, a lot more commentary than most of the dining blog posts. That reason is because the rules are controversial.

I think the rules are part of the character of the place. They run a unique operation and to do so requires a certain flow. Having worked in food service it is absurd and how some people think they can behave when they go out to eat. Iggies is right up front about how they run things. What's great is that you don't HAVE to go there. I just hope that people make this choice based on their own experience.

Note - The potato pizza is seasonal and returns every fall.

Ps - Next time you go to Bagby ask them how many times they ate at Iggies before they opened? They might have lost track.

Disclaimer: I love Iggies and go there at least a couple of times a month. Their pizza is the best in town without question, and the salads are also amazing.

--------

I can see some people finding their rules weird. They are for sure not typical for a Downtown restaurant. However, I think the owners are not typical restaurant owners either.

They are kinda like the "Apple Inc." of Baltimore pizzerias. They won't go mainstream just to be like other restaurants. They only want to make the best pizzas ever and they want to enjoy doing it their own way. They don't want to be millionaires but only to have a decent living out of it. They won't sacrifice their way of life just to please everyone, but only the ones who accept their way.

They are like an open kitchen of a family: you are a guests there, not a customer. Actually, that's how family style restaurants work in Italy too.

It's simple. If you have a problem with their rules, then don't dine there. No one is forced to enjoy their delicious pizza time after time.

"I Ate at Iggie's Once" provides a definition of a liberal that even Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly haven't come up with -- someone who has no problem delivering or receiving contemptuous service. In return, I say that a conservative is someone who dunks kittens in cocoa while humming "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Makes about as much sense.

MAG, if we still did Comment of the Week, you'd be a shoe-in. That, sir, was hilarious.

You can feed Pop Tarts to a bobcat, but he ain't gonna poop diamonds.

I've been to Iggie's a bunch of times and it was always good. I didn't care much for the yelling or the attitude, but that's kinda typical in Baltimore. But when I went to the website and read their ridiculous list of rules, it offended me to the core. I haven't been back. Being a business owner, I would never dream of speaking to a customer that way. That they have the audacity to express such contempt for the people who keep their business alive is misguided and borderline pathological. Go to Bagbys!

I've been to Iggie's a bunch of times and it was always good. I didn't care much for the yelling or the attitude, but that's kinda typical in Baltimore. But when I went to the website and read their ridiculous list of rules, it offended me to the core. I haven't been back. Being a business owner, I would never dream of speaking to a customer that way. That they have the audacity to express such contempt for the people who keep their business alive is misguided and borderline pathological. Go to Bagbys!

...or maybe RayRay would get it...

I have never been to Iggie's, but I just looked at the menu online. I am a little put off that they need to explain that "pancetta is meat," but the pear and gorgonzola pizza sounds interesting. Opinions on that?

Dahlink, the pizza really is delicious.

Gotta say, I've been to dinner numerous times with people who whispered to me, "What's pancetta?"

"In return, I say that a conservative is someone who dunks kittens in cocoa while humming "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Makes about as much sense."

Wait a second, wait a second... are you now trying to tell that ISN'T the definition of a conservative???

My thought is simply this. There are plenty of places in Baltimore that somehow manage to provide good food and an above average dining experience without posting a set of rules concerning what they perceive as proper customer behavior. God knows how they do it, but it would be my recommendation that the owners and staff at Iggies ask around.

Maybe those of us who find Iggies signage distasteful should rewrite the rules, for free, making them polite and digestible (pun intended) for the customer. I'm no artist, so I couldn't paint the nicer rules, though, or draw on a chalkborad. I wonder if Iggies would accept new signs with nicer wording if they came free.

I have never been to Iggie's, but I just looked at the menu online. I am a little put off that they need to explain that "pancetta is meat," but the pear and gorgonzola pizza sounds interesting. Opinions on that?

I actually asked the Iggie's staff about that once.

Hell hath no fury like a vegetarian scorned.

I like to imagine that most vegetarians are rather educated when it comes to food products, particularly what items to avoid -- but it takes all kinds, I s'pose.

This bunch has burnt alot of bridges. They seem to have forgotten the MV crowd that initially backed their venture and got the word out. They have refused to join MV Community Assocation and treat most of the locals with contempt. Their approach to the community and most customers is deplorable.

It's funny that I don't mind the Iggies rules all that much. Somehow I also have escaped getting yelled at all the times I've been there. They've also been extremely nice about bringing your own desserts for birthdays.

I do mind, on the other hand, the note in the menu of Vaccarro's that says something like "we're very busy and service is going to be slow, too bad". That drives me insane and I haven't been back in years.

I'll join the list of those who have never had a problem at Iggie's. The rules are common sense, which unfortunately seems less than common. It's stuff we learned in kindergarten. Wait your turn. Don't do things that will inconvenience others. Ask, don't just take. Don't linger if there's a long line of people waiting to be seated. Play nice.

The only times I've seen any
"attitude" on the part of any of the staff or the owners, it has been triggered by a much larger dose of "entitlement" on the part of the customer - such as the guy who demanded to order eggs (don't recall if he wanted them scrambled or fried). "You must have eggs if you make a Caesar salad, and I want eggs, so you should make them for me!"

I'm not discounting the experiences of those whose perspective differs, just stating what I've seen - and I go to Iggie's a lot.

Actually, that may be the biggest factor in whether one "gets" Iggies or not. Those that I've seen who haven't, generally seemed to be in the mode of "I'm the customer, and it's the restaurant's job to please me, and nothing else is relevant." If you think about it, that's the model we've been trained to expect in dining out - strictly an interchange between the customer and the establishment, considered in isolation from anybody or anything else.

The ones who do best at Iggies seem to be the ones who take the view of what will get the most people seated, served, satisfied, etc. - including others not in their own party. Like them or not, the rules are pretty much geared toward accomodating the largest number of customers as smoothly and efficiently as possible, which is particularly important on busy nights, when the customers have to "referee" themselves if the whole thing is going to work smoothly.

As E.G. said, they are doing plenty of business, and those of us who enjoy their modus operandi cherish the place. That doesn't make us "right" and others "wrong". If you don't like the rules, or the way somebody looks at you, by all means take your business to somebody you prefer dealing with. Iggie's has a model that works for a lot of people, and in order for it to work smoothly, everybody has to play their part. Seems pretty simple to me, though I can see how it might not fit everybody's preference. There are other places whose script for the theater of dining out doesn't particularly match my needs, and I don't go to those places.

For others, the answer may be to simply go on a less busy night, when there is more ability to accomodate your needs.

One other thought that might provide an additional insight. Sometimes, the owners or staff play "bad cop" to prevent other customers from getting into confrontations.

As an example, I was there once on a busy night, and as is wise, I first found a table, put my stuff there, and then got in line to order. While I was in line, another couple who had seen me do so came in, went to my table, gestured across the room that they were taking my table, and sat down.

I went over to the table, and asked what they thought they were doing. They replied that they had asked the people at the next table if it was OK to sit there, and that they were sorry that I'd have to find another table. I was so astonished and furious that I left before somebody would have needed a vacuum to pick up the pieces of the two dolts. Luckily, I had not yet placed my order.

The next time I was there, one of the owners pulled me aside and indicated that the incident had been witnessed, but that they weren't able to catch me before I left. The instruction I got was that if such a thing happened again, to notify them, and the offenders would be asked to leave.

The point? Those two dingbats knew what they were doing was wrong, and they didn't care. In a normal restaurant, the hostess would seat people, so it wouldn't have happened.

In Iggie's model, they operate on the assumption that most people are capable of behaving well, and making the system work without somebody playing hall monitor. But sometimes it doesn't work, and the owners are put in the position of either being the enforceres or at very least explaining proper behavior - usually at a tinme when the place is slammed, and they are already under stress.

Another example is the "don't talk to the pizza guy" sign. They do a large volume of pizzas. Every time the door to the oven opens, the oven temperature dips, and the recovery time has to be factored into the calculation of when each pie has to be rotated or taken out. On a night when they are operating at capacity, it's a tricky job to do well. But many people either don't realize this, or consider it more important that their needs be met or their questions answered immediately, by the pizza guy.

Personally, I doubt that I'd be as patient as he is.

Again, the issue seems to be that Iggie's operates on the basic assumptions that adults can handle seating themselves, bussing their table, and cooperating with others well enough that additional staff is not necessary. Some handle it. others wish that Iggie's would go to the conventional model where the host(ess) and waitstaff spend a lot of their time making sure that the customers don't have to be an active part of the operation of the dining room.

I don't think one way is right and the other wrong, but they are different models. I'm very puzzled at how offended some folks seem to be that anybody would have the nerve to operate in a non-standard manner. It's not personal - they're just trying to make the system work.

What a bunch of cranky dough tossers. If the rules are common sense, they wouldn't need to post them. If they are spending too much time policing this, maybe they need to hire a host and maybe assigning someone that task would actually save them money. You have to break some eggs to make an omelet!

nice story Warthog, but the fact remains that you broke Rule number 1 by seating yourself.

No. 1. "although typically you would seat yourself, when there is a line at the register we take names and will seat your party in an orderly fashion. Don't even try to jump the line!"

That has Peter wood written all over it. What a Dork. He was a nerd in high-school. Overcompensation.

Nice try, Anonymous, but no, I didn't break the rules.

There are three general stages. When the number of available tables/seats is clearly greater than the number of people in line, you can seat yourself, then get in line, which I did - I got there just before the rush hit. When the line builds to the point where the number of available tables/seats is getting close to the number of people coming in, there's an interim stage where they check that you've found a seat before they take your order. Once it's clear that the people in line will not be able to find seats, they take names, stop letting people seat themselves, and sometimes will not take an order for anything other than take-out until tables free up.

Another danger is in the summer when you don't have coats and such to mark your table, if you eat your first order and go up to order something more to eat, there are occasionally instances somebody decides that you're done, clears your table, and claims it as their own while you're standing in line waving frantically. Also very annoying, especially when it's clear that they knew exactly what they were doing.

Anyway, the exact invocation of the seating rule varies from situation to situation, but as noted previously, it's pretty much common sense, as long as everybody plays nice. But as also noted previously, common sense is not always common, and so it appears that the rules have been posted so that if somebody is called on misbehavior, they can't say "I didn't know, nobody told me, there's no sign saying that I can't!"

Most of the rules are like that. They are on signs because of repeated instances of problems.

One night I sat next to a table where a guy was bragging to his friends that he's the guy that led to the "it's salt, not cheese" signage. He said that he got his pizza, and sprinkled the salt heavily over an entire large pizza, apparently not noticing that salt is white and crystalline while cheese is more cream-colored, with a totally different granular texture. But then, I once witnessed somebody do the same thing with artificial coffee creamer, so go figure.

Same thing with the "pancetta is meat" signs. You'd think people would know, but apparently, many don't, and some pretty would much finish what they order before figuring it out. Thus the notices all over the place. No, you can't get a refund after you ordered and ate a pizza or salad containing meat by claiming you were not warned and did not know the foreign word.

As I said, Iggie's rules may be "common sense", but it's not always as common as we might hope.

But as E.G. said, if people can't figure it out, there's more room for those who appreciate Iggie's as it is, and the place seems to be doing a good bit of business most of the times I've ever been there.


Since someone brought up the point, there are other restaurants nearby that have had to take up measures to smooth over poor behavior and misunderstandings between patrons.

I'm thinking of City Cafe's cafe side. They were among the first in the neighborhood to introduce wireless a number of years back. It's been expectedly and understandably popular, probably too much so for its own good.

More than a few people over the years have taken to abusing the privilege, ordering a single coffee and camping out for endless hours.

It's been an occasional problem during their weekend brunch rush - with confused looking people standing around for tables.

This, Baltimore, is why we can't have nice things. Because you're greedy.

Some of City Cafe's solutions, I find disheartening, though I completely understand.

1) The renovation took away the freestanding islands, freeing up space for more tables, even though the cafe side is now smaller.

2) User/pass codes to access the network, which max out at two hours.

3) There's still a bottomless mug of coffee, but you now have to get it refilled behind the counter.

it's still possible to while away a productive (or not) afternoon on your laptop there, just not as painfully easy. On top of that, there are other venues in the neighborhood that have piped up with their own free wireless promotions: Marie Louise, Kyro Pizza - I'm sure I'm missing some.

An unfortunate lesson for Baltimore restaurateurs. Be careful how many inches you provide -- you'll be giving away miles.

Max's "No popped collars" rule still rules.

I had a terrible experience at Iggie's. I went with my two young children and a friend. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by the owner, who asked us if we were going to be staying. I told her we would be staying. She said, "well then you can't order. You'll need to wait until I tell you its time to order." Meanwhile, two couples ordered without questioning by the owner. So after seeing the other couples order and waiting for a bit, I re-approached the cash register, and tried to order. My children were getting hungry. The owner approached me again and said it was not time to order because she had not called us to a table. I said that my kids were getting hungry and if the pizza was ready before the table was ready, that we would take the pizza to go. She said that is not possible at Iggie's. (I found her attitude and behavior very anti-family). She did not stop the 2 couples from ordering. Only the group with young children. I told the owner that I thought this was an anti-family, and she replied that it was her policy and just common sense. We left and I have not been back since that awful experience.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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