After their recent concert at Reliant Stadium, the Rolling Stones called Da Marco (1520 Westheimer, 713-807-8857) looking for a table. Da Marco turned them down.
"It was a little after ten and we were crazy busy. We had a private party of 20 people out on the veranda," says Gloria Wiles, manager and co-owner of Da Marco with her husband, chef Marco Wiles. "The kitchen was backed up and Marco was coming out of the kitchen yelling at me. 'Never take a private party for à la carte dinner on a Saturday night,' he said." That's when a woman called, saying the Rolling Stones and a party of 20 wanted to come by for dinner after the concert.
"Sorry, I'm totally booked," Gloria told the woman. "When I told Marco I had just turned away the Rolling Stones, he wanted to shoot me. 'But you just told me not to take any large parties on Saturday night,' I said to him. The waiters and everybody else are giving me a hard time. 'I can't believe you turned away the Rolling Stones,' they keep saying."
Many Houston restaurateurs would no doubt give their eyeteeth to have celebrities of such magnitude come and eat at their joint -- if not for the publicity, then for the prestige. The incident brings to mind Stanley Tucci's movie Big Night, in which the owners of a struggling Italian restaurant try to bring high-quality Italian food to New Jersey in the 1950s. Their restaurant is failing miserably, so to save themselves, the owners go all out to put on a special dinner for celebrity singer Louis Prima. A celebrity of Prima's stature merely setting foot in the restaurant would surely guarantee its risotto eternal fame. But in the movie, Prima never shows up and the restaurant goes out of business.
Da Marco, on the other hand, is doing just fine, with or without the Stones. In reality, celebrities aren't always a blessing to restaurant owners, and Gloria suspected this bunch might be more trouble than they were worth.
"Gloria tells me, 'These rockers would have probably been here until five in the morning and torn up the whole place,' " says Marco. "I said, 'Give me a break, they're in their sixties! If it had been Julio Iglesias, she would have said, 'Sure, come on in,' " he teases his wife, who was born in Mexico.
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Marco doesn't know where the Stones ended up that night. "I heard they were at Mockingbird Bistro the night before," he says.
Would he have handled it differently?
"If I would have answered the phone, they would have been here," says Marco. "You notice Gloria didn't the answer the phone when you called. She's not allowed to anymore. We could have had the Rolling Stones here, but noooo," Marco jokes. Gloria may never live this one down.
"One of our waiters is a big Rolling Stones fan," Marco muses. "He said, 'I don't know whether it's cooler that they wanted to eat here, or that you turned them away.' "