Incognito Bistro


by Karena Wu

Incognito Bistro. I had never heard of it. With the number of NYC restaurants, it would not be uncommon to not have heard of it unless you were in the know…. And it’s ’incognito’ after all…

On one of the coldest nights in NYC this winter, I decided to meet a friend there to check it out. I saw that the cuisine was Scottish Italian?  Scottish Italian??

Incognito’s husband and wife team, Adriana and Paolo Moretti have an interesting story and more details can be found on their website,

Their cuisine is more northern Italian, light and healthy authentic dishes and recipes. The other authentic recipes hail from Scotland, which I had never personally seen. Adriana’s favorite word to describe things that were not so great, ‘stodgy!’, charming, with her Scottish accent.

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I was able to meet Adriana Moretti.  Her and her husband are both Italian and Scottish but just like the rest of us, can be stricken with aches and pains when working in such a tough industry.

When asked where the Chef was, she informed me that he was onsite, but had been laid up for the last two weeks because of a lower back problem. She states that it came on without any trauma or warning and she believes that it might be from the heavy manual labor in the kitchen and….stress. Most likely, poor body mechanics during kitchen labor brought about low back pain but with the responsibilities and hours of an owner and chef, the added stress is definitely a contributing factor. Adriana told me that he has been seeing a chiropractor twice a week which seems to have helped but his prescription right now, rest!

She also reported that their main bartender who happens to be fairly tall (6’0”+) is always bending forward. I asked if her staff willingly informs her of when they are hurt and she said they didn’t need to. She stood up to demonstrate a lateral shift and a horribly stiff walk and said, “I can see that they can’t move!’ In a family restaurant like this, I could tell that the staff felt open to informing her of any issues and she seemed to be realistic and caring about their health.

Low back pain afflicts 80% of the population at some point in their lives. It is the most common cause of disability and missed days in the work place. It affects men and women equally and can vary from a dull ache to sharp, shooting pain. It can occur secondary to trauma or from prolonged poor posture. It can last for a short period of time or be so incapacitating you will be flat on your back for days and even weeks with a trip to the emergency room. In an industry that requires long hours on your feet and manual labor, it can be detrimental to your profession.

The low back pain the Chef and the bartender have sounds like it could have been more of a disc injury. There are spinal bones (your vertebrae), interverterbral discs (something like a jelly doughnut sitting between the bones), nerves, ligaments and muscles. The discs can sometimes push out from where they are supposed to sit and can cause significant pain in the low back and into the legs.  This is called a disc herniation.

Disc herniations come on without warning but are usually due to prolonged microtrauma and poor posturing. To put it simply, the doughy part of the doughnut can tear or fissure. The jelly can leak out into that area causing pain. If the jelly doughnut was perfectly circular and enough jelly leaked out into the doughy part, the doughnut can bulge out on one side or the other. The doughnut ends up touching the nerves that surround it (and they do not like to be touched) and cause the pain that radiates out into the buttock, legs and all the way down into the toes.

Typically, people have a lateral shift (bent to the side), are very stiff, have pain in the low back and/or legs, cannot bend forward and cannot tolerate being in a weight-bearing position. Physical Therapy can help the sooner you can come in for treatment. There is a protocol for treating lumbar disc herniations using the McKenzie method. It involves self-management of your back by correcting the lateral shift first, and then doing repeated extension exercises to help reduce the disc herniation. Your therapist can help you learn the exercises and will also administer other therapies to reduce the pain and inflammation. They can help significantly during the acute phase (the most painful phase) by teaching you what to do and what not to do and educate you on proper body mechanics.

It’s always helpful when your boss truly cares about your health and I could tell that Adriana cares about her staff. I was sorry not to be able to meet the Chef but when you are injured badly, you have to stay out of work to get better. Whatever your treatment is, it is good to get it quickly and listen to your healthcare provider.  They will get you back on your feet as quickly and safely as possible with techniques about self-management for the future.