Table for one

by Rebecca Bricker on March 13, 2012

“My name is Giacomo,” he said. He handed me the wine list, his eyes twinkling.

It was the beginning of a lovely slow-dance-of-a-meal at a charming trattoria on a quiet side street in Rome. I had asked the front-desk manager at my hotel to a make a dinner reservation for me. And this was the place he chose.

Giacomo, who had lived in Ireland and England for a while, spoke beautiful English. “I forgot a lot,” he said apologetically. “All I talk about now is spaghetti.” That made me laugh.

When I arrived, Giacomo didn’t seat me at a table in the corner behind a potted plant or in front of a constantly swinging kitchen door or worse, by a smelly bathroom. I was his first guest of the evening and he was expecting me. The best table was mine.

Later on, when a group of Canadian women sat down nearby, Giacomo introduced me to them. “My friend Rebecca,” he said. They thought I was a regular and asked what wine I’d recommend. I smiled at Giacomo. “You should ask the best waiter in Rome.”

At my request, Giacomo had taken charge of the preparation of my pasta-to-be-determined carbonara. The pasta choices were dizzying, so I said to him, “You choose. I trust you — totally.” Giacomo smiled and refilled my wine glass.

Moments later, he returned with a plate of delicately fried zucchini blossoms. “With my compliments,” he said.

He waited as I took a bite. “This is the best flower I’ve ever eaten,” I said.

“That’s because it’s from me.” He smiled. “Very romantic.”

Dinner served by Giacomo began with flourish and flirtation and ended with his assurance, “You will be back. This is not good-bye.”

In my solo travels, I have dined alone many nights. Or at least I start out dining alone. If the tables are close together, sometimes I end up chatting with the people next to me, though I’m careful not to intrude. One evening in a crowded village restaurant in Provence, a local couple at the next table offered me a glass of wine. By the end of the evening, we were like old friends. A few nights later, I was dining at their house.

I always have my journal with me and enjoy jotting at the table. One night at a Paris bistro, I decided to write on the paper tablecloth. The waiters were concerned about covering up my work, so to their amusement, I drew circles where the plates and glasses should go. I was experiencing such a rush of inspiration that at one point shortly after the appetizer was served, I heard the head waiter shout to the chef, “Arrêtez! Madame écrit!” (Stop! Madame is writing!) The main course arrived just as I laid down my pen.

I returned to that bistro every night of my visit. I had the same table by the front window, with a view of a gallery across the street where a Chagall was on display. On my last night, when I said good-bye, the waiters were genuinely sad to see me leave.

I had a similar experience in Nice, where I found a wonderful Mexican restaurant a block from my hotel. By now you know how much I love margaritas, which didn’t escape the attention of the owner. On my second visit, before I had a chance to order, he served me a margarita, lightly salted. “The way you like it,” he said with a smile. I became a regular. On my last night, instead of giving me the usual complimentary after-dinner shot of tequila, he put the whole bottle in front of me. I have fond memories of that cantina on the Riviera and the stories my waiter told me of his father, a famous Mexican poet.

Sometimes you have the most fun at a table for one.

 

 

Photo credit (top left): Kurt Hutton, “Café Solo”

 

 

 

{ 11 comments }

Teresa March 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm

You, my dear, are adorable. Even more so than Giacomo. And clearly you charm the garlic breath out of every man you meet. kiss.~Teresa

Rebecca Bricker March 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm

LOL! 😉

Thom Parrott-Sheffer March 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm

{{{SMILE}}} You always make me smile. I will look at a table for one a little differently now.

Becky March 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Love your tales…..sounds like you’re having fun :-)

Candy March 14, 2012 at 2:16 am

A table for one can be the most beautiful experience! I have some fond memories of such an occasion. Loved your story!

Pat March 14, 2012 at 10:05 am

I can just picture you in the trattoria & the charming Giacomo. It still tickles me to dine out in Europe and be treated like a special guest in the chef’s parlor. The image of you scribbling away on the paper tablecloth reminded me hours I spent filling notebook pages in the cafes in Paris.

Caroline March 14, 2012 at 11:01 am

Great writing and descriptions — feel like I’m there. As you know, I do some travel writing myself and one of my biggest recommendations is to choose a “watering hole” that you go back to each day so you become a regular. My favorite place in Paris is Verlet, a centuries-old coffee house on Rue St. Honoré near Palais Royal, a street with great shopping for miles.

Peg March 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I travel constantly, but often either eat in my room or have a book at the table as my security blanket. You inspire me to open up to whatever experiences are waiting for me–thanks!

Naomi March 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I am so very much looking forward to meeting you at Distant Lands next Monday evening, Rebecca! I am presently enjoying your book (and will politely ask for your autograph!), and I am taking inspiration and encouragement from your stories. I am a novice (translation: totally green!) traveler for whom you are lighting the way!

Rebecca Bricker March 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Naomi, thank you so much! I look forward to meeting you, too. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book and feeling inspired. We need to get you launched on your first travel adventure!! See you next Monday at Distant Lands! :)

Jackie Lamothe May 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Oh my my…the stories we could tell one another! I feel as though I have a new friend. Am so enjoying your Tales From Tavanti. Grazie mille. I hope our paths cross for real one day.

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