Caronas Sandwich Shop

A new series where I review one of my former jobs. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

In 1995 I took my second trip cross country, and upon arrival at my half-brother’s house in San Diego, broke up with my hippy, vegan, dreadlocked girlfriend, Caitlin. She and I had come to the point in our relationship where constant bickering over life’s inconsequential minutiae had become surprisingly less entertaining than expected.

Alone, immature, and crashing at my then thirty-something brother’s pad with his new wife proved inconvenient for both of us, namely him, so it was on me to get a jobby job and find a place of my own. This being  San Diego’s mid-90’s salad days, I was quickly able to find a job at a Mission Hills sub shop,  the most menial possible job possible within a bike ride of my temporary home base in Normal Heights.

My job was clear: I’d do all the sh*t work that no one else would be bothered to do. In food service this means lots of cleaning, from grease traps to ovens, and then for a treat,  the lowest end of food prep, i.e shredding lettuce, cooking bacon, and slicing tomatoes, i.e. anything that requires zero cooking skills.

The boss was Steve Carona.   His namesake eatery was a typical non-descript sandwich joint in that one spot that has turned over 10 times on an otherwise nice little restaurant row.  Steve had a standing order for at least a few dozen subs a day on to the base, which basically kept the place running while he squandered any meager profit either on one of his many ex-wives and mistresses or more likely, up his nose.

Steve was a massive pain in the ass, but was rarely there.  My day started with Howard Stern on the radio while sweeping the leaves from a nice, shady upstairs eating area.  Then it was time to prep for the lunch rush.   My least favorite job was in the afternoon: protecting the private, shared parking lot from non-authorized-parkers, something which basically involved me counting minutes while staring into space. Occasionally, I had to clean the grease trap, or cook 50lbs of bacon at a time, and inhaling bacon grease vapor is not something I would recommend to anyone.

Honestly, it wasn’t a bad job. It was one of those jobs that’s just exactly what you’d expect.   The paychecks cashed and the people were nice.  I made friends with the  lead cook and we’d sometimes hang out at her under-furnished North Park apartment and drink beer.  Eventually I saved up enough to get out of my brother’s house.  I think I quit because I found a better job somewhere else, and no one really cared one way or the other.  Carona’s closed a few years later.

15 years later,  I find myself picking up a pizza pie from my favorite local place, and who’s standing outside, greeting customers and answering the phone?   None other than Steve Carona.  I shake his hand and tell him that I worked for him a dozen years ago.  His interest piqued, but clearly having no idea who I was, he responds like he was running the place:  “Oh yeah?  Well, I’m over here now”.   That was pretty much about what I’d expected.

4 Comments

  1. Yarn Bozworth says:

    One thing about San Diego: crappy sandwiches.

  2. Joe Crawford says:

    “Steve” sounds charming. I never worked food service, but cleaning grease traps sounds terrifying.

  3. Rex says:

    I’ve cleaned a grease trap once when I worked at McDonald’s in high school.

    I ended up spilling the grease everywhere, and the assistant manager slipped and broke her hand, and ended up on worker’s comp for a few weeks.

    Which is probably why I’ve only cleaned a grease trap once.

  4. Evelyn says:

    Actually, I think I represented Steve “Carona.” I think “up his nose” is probably the more accurate description.

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