5@5 - Marisa May
November 2nd, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

So class, what did we learn yesterday? Repeat after your trusty editors: “Don't be a martyr, be a host.”

The impending holiday season means brining, basting, boozing and baking our way into the hearts of family and friends until they’re stuffed to the gills crying “Uncle!” - all the while making them believe, "mi casa es tu casa." Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? Uh, yeah, we'll get back to you about that.

Lucky you, we've enlisted professionals to help you through the process. Meet Marisa May: she's one-half of the father-daughter team behind SD26 restaurant in New York City.

Of the hospitality of Marisa and her father Tony May, New York Times dining critic Sam Sifton writes: “They greet customers with handshakes, hugs, smiles. They pull out chairs in this vast theatrical space across the street from Madison Square Park and say: Of course the giant raviolo with soft-cooked egg and truffled butter is on the menu.”

Time to put that storied hospitality to work.

Five Ways to Make Every Guest Feel Welcome: Marisa May

1. Greet everyone with a smile
"If it’s someone I don’t know, I’ll start with a handshake and if it's an old friend or long-time customer, it's always a kiss on each cheek. I believe a smile is the way to set the positive energy in a room and is the simplest way to leave a great first impression. It’s the true expression of the warm Italian hospitality I have been raised to know. I could be entertaining in my apartment or in the restaurant (which is more likely), but either way, I welcome guests as if they are coming into my home, my dining room and my kitchen to dine with me."

2. Offer a feeling of familiarity
"Whether it’s acknowledging a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary, sending over a glass of Prosecco or remembering a guest’s favorite dish or bottle of wine, you want everyone to feel special and as if they are returning - even if it’s their first time in the restaurant.

The same would go for if you are hosting at home, making sure each guest feels comfortable. If you know your friend loves lime in their water or the smell of lavender, set a bowl of limes or a bushel of lavender at their seat to let them know you thought of them."

3. Make a genuine connection with each guest
"Each night, my dad and I make it a point to ensure every table receives a personal welcome from the both of us. That individual connection is our way of saying 'thank you for coming into our home.' Beyond simply saying hello, we make a point to spend time at each table to get to know the customer - who they are, where they came from, what brought them here and share our father-daughter story with them, just as if we were sitting down at the table with them to join them for a meal (which we’ve been known to do!)."

4. Finish your meal with something sweet
"That’s always been my personal philosophy - end on a high note! If you’re entertaining at home, finish the evening with a glass of Muscato, homemade piccola pasticceria, desserts like panna cotta, or even my absolute favorite, Peanut M&M's. That sweet touch leaves a lasting memory and no matter what happened earlier in the night, everyone is always left smiling!"

5. Say goodnight and make plans to see them again
"If I could walk every guest to the door at night I would, but even when we are packed in the dining room, I still try to at least say goodnight to each of my guests. I will offer an invitation to see them again soon, whether we have a special event coming up, a holiday menu, or extending the offer to host their next family meal.

When hosting friends, I make the effort to finalize plans while we are all together to keep us in touch as we lead our crazy, hectic, constantly busy lives. It could be coffee, Sunday brunch or even having them for drinks at the restaurant, but a friend or customer alike, I want each person I interact with to feel loved and welcome in my life."

Got more tips to add on being the host with the most? Leave them in the comments.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Entertaining • Think

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Gustavo

    I always distrust those who equate attending to their restaurant customers (a commercial transaction) with how they would treat guest at their home. I'ts totally phony!
    I expect courtesy and good manners at a restaurant from the staff and owners, but scoff at the notion of they sitting with me and gushing over me. I would find it fake, and in bad taste.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  2. Mrs. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    I'd hit it.

    November 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  3. Pantyhose

    I always wear a too short dress and black ultra sheer pantyhose when I entertain. The men come year after year.

    November 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  4. COLady

    This sounds like an absolutely fabulous place to dine!! I think some restaurants forget the "personal touch" factor in their daily operations. I like to feel that I'm more than just a customer.

    November 3, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • Bella Swan

      I agree

      November 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  5. Panties

    Everyone should dine at Hill's Cafe in south Austin, Texas. Their chicken fried steaks are to die for. They, also, make good martinis.

    November 3, 2010 at 1:01 am |
    • jrod

      Thanks for the recommendation uh Panties...I'll give it a try. I do love a good CFS...

      November 3, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  6. broke is a joke

    I wish I could afford to eat at a fancy restaurant. Sounds good. Count your blessings.

    November 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
    • fancy smancy

      not worth it, fancy does nothing to earn the extra cost, better to make and eat at home

      November 3, 2010 at 6:38 am |
      • Bella Swan

        If they have great hospitality and food. Then you should definatly make a point to head over to that restaurant from time to time. Even if you only go on aniverseries and birthdays.

        November 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
      • asdfghjkl

        You must be a real hit with the ladies... I hope you're not in marketing or sales...

        November 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  7. Evil Grin

    See, now this is really good advice for how to foster a good relationship with your guests at home AND your customers. My favorite restaurants – the ones I frequent – do these things. At one in particular the owner/hostess remembers me each time I go in, asks me about my day and shares something of hers, and makes me feel completely at rest eating there. Add to that soothing music that is not overly loud and excellent food, and I leave every time planning when I can go back next.

    I try for that sort of effect when I'm entertaining at home as well.

    November 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  8. Truth, working @the polls

    Just reading 1-5 felt like...well, you know.

    Hannibal Lechter said it best "I think it would be quite something to know you in private life"...

    November 2, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
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