The XX Factor

Yes, the Restaurant With No Kids’ Menu Is Judging Your Parenting

Mothers-especially new mothers-are quick to assume that others are judging their parenting skills. Yesterday’s USA Today had one of those classic articles featuring moms relating conversations in which other moms have dissed their parenting skills (or at least they took it that way), and anyone reading it might conclude that, with hackle-raising subjects like sleep, sports, juice, and school off the table, the only safe conversation to have with a woman raising a child involved the weather (and not how she’d dressed that child for it). At least with I Trulli restaurant owner Nicola Marzovilla, if you sit down in his establishment and ask for a children’s menu and suspect a faint, judgmental sniff, you can now be absolutely sure that you were right.

Children’s menus are the death of civilization,” is what he wants to say, he tells the New York Times , instead of gently murmuring, “I’m sure we can find something on the menu that your child will eat.” Marzovilla’s point is a good one-if you serve your children nothing but chicken and french fries, they will eat nothing but chicken and french fries, and in that case, you have no one but yourself to blame. And he makes it at a moment when another New York Italian restauran-Fornino, of (naturally) Park Slope-faced a furor recently when it opened with no menu accommodating the youngest diners . But in this age of obsessive fears about childhood health, nutrition, and obesity, there is no more self-satisfied parent out there than the parent whose child will eat anything, and a forceful advocation of the “real menu” has more than a little whiff of challenge in it. Force your kids to try new things, Mr. Marzovilla seems to demand, or there’s a McDonald’s down the street that would be glad to have your business. In truth, it’s just as easy to judge his policy of mandatory tasting as one that might lead to battles over the table and a whole host of other possible food issues. Or it might not.

There’s really no “right” way to handle any of this parenting stuff. There’s your way, and then there are all the other possibilities that might or might not work better. That’s why I like Mr. Marzovilla’s real response better than the one he obviously relished finally uttering out loud. “I’m sure we can find something that will work” is polite, and it admits to the possibility that you’re asking not because your kid will eat nothing but macaroni and cheese, but because you’d prefer not to order an adult-sized meal (at an adult-sized price) that’s more than your child would or should eat. It’s civilized and open to many possibilities-just like we hope our kids will be.