If you happen to stop by Vito's restaurant sometime, there are just a few things you should know.
1. Bring your appetite. 2. Bring cash. 3. Check your jaded cynicism at the door.
That's because owner Vito Leone serves great food, doesn't take credit cards, and probably puts more trust in you than all but your closest of friends.
Leone's restaurant, at 108 S. Main in Bountiful, operates on the honor system. You give him your order, and while he's busy preparing your food, you simply put the money in a jar on the counter. He never touches it, never counts it, never even looks at it.
Go ahead, reach in there to make change. Leone trusts you'll be honest. He's been doing it that way for the last seven months at his restaurant -- and before that, for six years operating out of a food cart on a nearby street.
Leone, who was born and raised in Bountiful, says he got the idea to use the honor system from a street vendor in New York City.
"I thought, 'If he can do it there, I can do it here,' " 43-year-old Leone said. "Especially in Bountiful."
Good point. Bountiful isn't exactly one of the rougher neighborhoods in what isn't exactly one of the rougher states around. Still, in today's world, such faith in humanity is rather refreshing.
Leone insists he's never had any trouble with having customers act as their own cashier. And that includes his lunchtime crowd, which often features students from Bountiful, Viewmont and Woods Cross high schools. One might think some of these teens would be tempted to scam the system. Not so, says Leone.
The restaurateur tells the story of an elderly couple who came in and didn't understand Leone's payment method. Some high school students waiting in line patiently explained the system to the couple, and then added, only half-jokingly: "And don't stiff Vito."
This isn't to say Leone hasn't been stiffed. But he says you have to expect a certain amount of loss in any business.
Leone knows. He's been in the restaurant business for 27 years, and opened his first pizza place at age 20. Not only does he believe in the honor system, he just doesn't have the time to stop and take money in between orders.
"I'm so busy, I'm usually working on five to 10 orders at a time," he said. "I like doing it by myself; I like being a one-man band."
And Leone says he's never once had to confront anyone about paying for their food. Most people are surprisingly honest.
"I've had a few people who will come in and say, 'I forgot to pay last time,' or 'I accidentally took too much change last time,' and they'll make it good," he explains.
Leone says he did hear of a street vendor who was operating on the honor system, but all it took was one bad experience to change all that.
"This guy tried it in Salt Lake, but somebody stole his money jar, so he's not doing it that way anymore," Leone said.
And what about Vito's? What if someone ran off with his money jar? Would that tempt Leone to hire a cashier?
Don't count on it.
"I've done it this way for six years, and it's worked," he said. "I'll probably never change."
Rather, he takes a more philosophical approach to his unorthodox payment plan.
Says Leone: "If somebody took the money, they need it more than I do."
Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @Saalman.