Thursday, 13 October 2011
Si, sono sola
Shh, don't tell anyone, but I might just have cracked eating solo. At any rate, it's been much easier - so far - this holiday than it was in Spain. I seem to have mastered the ability to go into a restaurant of an evening and have a meal, by myself, without props or a safety net - or at least, without a book to bury myself in as defence against the awfulness that eating on your own can be.
Tonight, for example, as I sat at my table in the trattoria, under the stars, I felt perfectly comfortable. I didn't feel in the slightest bit out of sorts - well, perhaps only a little bit - but when I compared myself with the poor young mum at the next table dealing with in-laws, an Italian husband and a demanding toddler, I think I definitely came off better.
I think the trick is to be incredibly nosey - or at least that's what seems to work for me. I take an unhealthy interest in other tables' conversations. I know what they've ordered. I can tell what nationality they are. I use it as an opportunity to practise my foreign language comprehension skills. And if all else fails, I compose blog posts and restaurant reviews in my head. Most of all, I enjoy the food and the location and the experience.
It seems like a fantastic step forward from last year's trials and tribulations in Spain, and a million years from my ordeal in Bristol, when one evening it was all I could do not to burst into tears in the middle of the dining room. I'm not sure if it's that in Italy they look after their solo diners more carefully, or I'm just getting better at it. I don't remember this confidence last year, but then in Spain I did take advantage of the tapas style, which meant I didn't really have to brave the full on dining experience.
Here in Italy, or at least in Rome and in Sicily, they don't seem as embarrassed about their single guests as UK restaurants do. They don't try to hide you away for fear that you might put a bit of a downer on their other patrons.
In fact, here rather than me feeling uncomfortable it feels more like the waiters are on edge - taking extra trouble to make sure that the signora has a good evening, a little bit more attention perhaps. A small extra touch to make her smile.
Perhaps it's because, as with most places, the singleton's tables are not in the best location - well, not the best if you're after an intimate dining experience or a romantic ambience. Solo tables are often near the kitchen, at the edge of the room but not hidden away here - quite the reverse, being near the serving stations means that you are more in the line of activity. Last night I was right by the dessert fridge. The night before I had a line of sight to the kitchen - and even got a cheery wave from the chef when I left.
No, I confess, I quite like it here. Although it could also have to do with those 'little extras' a number of the waiters have felt obliged/compelled to put my way - a refill on my wine here, a free aperitivo there, and even on my first night in Rome, a whole packed breakfast to take away and the offer a date the next night.
Needless to say, I didn't take up the offer of the date - but I did take the breakfast. Am I bad?