Master of the Restaurant Riff

Tim Alevizos is a man who lives his art.

Show up at his posh Uptown condo on a Saturday morning around 10. He will open the front door and take your coat. Then, if you’re someone he likes (and believe me, if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here) he’ll usher you into the “owner’s suite” of his 8-foot Italian couch and bring you a cup of coffee so strong it’ll make your nasal hairs sing.

There are surgical photos lining the walls, all viscera and blue-veined hearts. A statue of a naked Roman, one hand cupping his genitals, in the corner. Raise your mug and you’ll see that it’s printed with an advertisement: a beautiful blonde gazing into middle distance, looking healthy and satisfied. And underneath the words, “For her, it’s Maximum Strength Pubicort.” Alevizos will chuckle and stroke his chin and show you his own cup, the one that features a photo of him, five years younger and beardless, with his arm around the same woman, and the words “Clitrosyn Vagitabs.”

These were Alevizos’ Christmas gifts one year: he posed for the photo with his friend, Jennifer Roberts; dreamed up the names of the drugs; and had the cups screen printed for $35 each at a Kodak photo lab in New Hope.

“The best part,” he’ll tell you, flopping back against the far end of the couch, “was when I went to pick them up and there was this big guy at the register, yelling into the back ‘Hey, George, do we got any more of the Clitrosyn mugs back there?’ And I was just delighted. I made the big man say my made-up dirty words!”

After a cup of the tannic coffee, you’ll ask for a glass of water (sparkling, of course), and then you’ll need to urinate. Lucky you.

“Use the toilet in back,” Alevizos will advise, his eyes sparkling behind thick glasses. “That’s the best one.”

So you’ll go all the way back, through the man’s personal lair with its unmade bed and books strewn all over. Enter the bathroom, a cavernous cube of tile, and face the Toto Neorest, a porcelain fixture like a throne that will yawn open as you approach. Sit on the heated seat, settle in, do your business. Then pick up the remote that hangs to the left of you on the wall.

Hit the button that says “Front,” and feel the warm spray, which you can adjust — farther forward, if you happen to be a small sort of person who perches toward the front of the rim; or back, if you are, unlike this reporter, a person who covers the entire area of the lid — then the one that says “Back,” even though there is no compelling hygiene reason for doing so. (Notice, ladies, that there is a ‘pulse’ feature, as well; you decide what to do with this particular bit of information.) Finally, press the button labeled “Dry,” and let the air move gently across your bottom while you imagine the horn-shaped blowers of a drive-through car wash, only smaller and down below.

“I was in Japan in 2002 when I first encountered these toilets,” Alevizos will say when you return, a full 20 minutes after excusing yourself. “I was lusting after one. Then I got this really sweet freelance job that turned out to be really easy and incredibly lucrative. Out of nowhere, there was just enough money to order a Neorest, and I’m really glad I did. That purchase has been nothing but pleasure for me. The remote, the technology, and the pride of ownership. People are always begging me to let them come over and poop in my toilet.”

 

So what does all this have to do with food? Only that Tim Alevizos is the author of roughly 90 percent of the edgiest, most scatological, profane, and impolitic restaurant advertisements in town.

His billboards for Chino Latino were among the most famous, sparking, among other things protests from the parents at a local elementary school when “Aw, Phuket, Let’s get takeout” was posted directly across the street from their playground; and outrage from All in the Family fans from coast to coast when he penned the wickedly cruel “Third World Prices, Sally Struthers Portions.”

All in all, the Chino campaign hit national news some half a dozen times. Not bad for a guy who started his career as an intern for the U.S. Senate.

“My first restaurant writing job was back in 1988,” says Alevizos. “I’d just graduated from Northwestern and moved to Washington. I always thought I wanted to work on Capitol Hill, but when I got there, I discovered the only things I liked about it were the crazy letters from constituents and these fabulous corporate gift packs that would open up like a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. When it came to having laws passed, I really didn’t care.”

That’s when he got a call from Phil Roberts, co-founder (with Peter Mihajlov) of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, and the father of his childhood friends, Steve and Jennifer.

Roberts had just opened Blue Point, a rustic little seafood restaurant in Wayzata, and he wanted to produce a faux-tabloid ad. Alevizos responded with about a dozen headlines, including: “After having 3 bouncing baby boys, Wayzata woman gives birth to 18-inch prawn; Dad loves the little shrimp.”

Still in Washington, now working as an information officer for PBS, Alevizos continued writing restaurant jingles and ads on a freelance basis. When Parasole launched Buca di Beppo in 1993, he traded on the over-the-top kitschiness of the décor, scripting radio spots that promised an atmosphere perfect for anniversaries, birthdays, and bowling banquets, as well as “recorded music in every room, thermostatic heating and cooling, and sanitary bathrooms.”

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