Friday, July 18, 2008

An intimate evening

The other evening, [The Man I Love] called me at work and suggested we meet for a 6:00 p.m. reservation at our favorite little restaurant on our route home.

It's the only really fine restaurant in the neighborhood, and we've been going there since it opened. We always sit in our favorite waiter's section.

On this occasion, I came to the intersection where I turn for the restaurant's strip mall, and the traffic lights weren't working. I parked and walked into....a completely dark restaurant!

The waiters and cooks were clustered about the hostess's desk. The manager was on a cell phone, looking urgent. [The Man I Love] hailed me from our favorite table. "The electricity's out! I'm having a glass of wine!"

"Buona sera, signora!" It was Fabrizio, with the bottle of wine. A server poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar into my bread plate, and placed a bread basket on the table.

"The lights went out about ten minutes ago. They're trying to find out what's going on. We'll just sit, drink our wine and see what happens."

Behind us another table was occupied by two ladies, conversing in hushed tones. I got a flashlight out of my purse to go to the ladies' room. The door at the end of the back hallway was open to the evening, and the kitchen staff was outside, laughing and talking.

Neighborhood customers came in to dine. Some turned away, but others entered and sat down. There were perhaps four tables occupied. Lit candles glimmered on every table. The pony-tailed chef, in his crocs and chef's smock, leaned on the bar and talked with a customer. People speculated how far the power outage stretched. "I hear parts of Malibu are out," said someone. The atmosphere was excited and merry, as if all of us - diners, waiters, cooks and bussers, were sharing an adventure together.

Suddenly there was a "Pop!" of a cork. The waiters and bussers moved through the room, setting champagne flutes before the diners. "A glass of prosecco," said Fabrizio. "Compliments of the house!"

After the prosecco, platters of the restaurant's signature carpaccio appeared at each table. Of course - this delicious appetizer of raw, thin-sliced beef must be served or perish, without working refrigeration. We mopped up the tender meat with the olive oil and spicy greens, the thin shards of delicious parmesan.

Another platter - the equally delicate tuna tartare, sweet and touched with balsamic vinegar. More prosecco, signora?

Seven o'clock. The evening light was fading. The manager's face looked resigned. They would have to close. No - they could not process credit cards, don't worry, signor, it's all on the house. We left a pair of twenties on the table.

We were strangely satisfied, happy. Nourished by the camaraderie, the generosity, our shared experience. Good night! Grazie!

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