I had a brief business trip to Providence, RI recently. I was traveling solo, and therefore, was dining alone (Sto mangiando da solo, according to the Internet, which we all know is NEVER wrong!) as well. Being that it was 6:30PM on a Sunday evening, I decided to take the recommendation of the hotel clerk and walk a short distance over to the local Italian Table, DiParma’s. It really was only a 5 minute walk or so – not a big deal as I walked over there, but on the way home, in the dark, I was questioning my own decision. Especially as I passed three squad cars – lights flashing – as they surrounded the gas station situated between me and the hotel in which I was staying. I decided to look at it as though I had at least six cops in striking distance should something happen (glass half full!). Luckily, nothing did happen, and I arrived back safely to my hotel in time to gather my thoughts for the following day. I didn’t, however, stop to take a picture, for fear that I might catch the actual moment that guns came out a blazing! (Dad, you didn’t read that part!)
Now, back to the dinner… I don’t mind eating by myself, but sometimes other patrons or the wait staff appear to be a bit uncomfortable when there is just one person at a nearby table. I caught a stare or two from a couple sitting near me, but the server who attended to me was quite pleasant and gave me just enough attention without appearing to rush me, and without ignoring me.
When he initially approached me, he asked what I’d like to drink. I simply smiled at him and handed him my trusty little card, while letting him know that I would like him to choose my meal and a glass of wine to compliment it – along with a glass of water. He quickly returned with a glass of red wine (no explanation) and a glass of water. He also never introduced himself, but I overheard him speaking with other tables, so I knew his name was Nick (and ultimately, my receipt confirmed that).
Nick then delivered some fresh bread, which was tasty enough, and said he’d be back with my salad shortly. The salad, my friends, was delicious! The Italian dressing had great consistency and flavor, and really made the salad for me. It was a huge bowl, and I didn’t come close to finishing it, but I did have a couple of servings! When Nick had confirmed that I was done with the salad (I usually use the sign I was taught while serving tables to indicate that I’m finished, but I’m not certain it’s really a US standard practice.), he indicated to me that he would bring my entrée out momentarily. And, when he did place the plate in front of me, he started to walk away without letting me know what I had been served – until I stopped him to ask what I would be eating. He clearly felt bad about his oversight, and then quickly gathered his composure. He told me that he had ordered me the marinated Steak Tips, prepared medium well. Medium well? What is it about my blog card that makes people read “MW” instead of “MR”? Somewhat skeptically, I asked Nick if the Steak Tips are normally prepared medium-well, and he said that they were. I’m not sure I believed him, because the Steak Tips, which tasted as though they were marinated in the Italian dressing, were really delicious! And…they were prepared more MR-M than MW. They were tender, flavorful, and a great portion size (though I didn’t finish everything). The smashed potatoes were fine, but the green beans were fresh, crispy – prepared just the way I like them. I left quite a bit of the potatoes on my plate (too much!).
Although I was expecting a more “Italian” dish, I was pleasantly surprised by Nick’s choice. And, he did not turn toward the most expensive items on the menu – this one being $15.99 for the entrée. I think I threw him off a bit with my unorthodox order, but even without properly introducing himself and forgetting to tell me that he had served me a “5 River” Pinot Noir and the Steak Tips, Nick did a nice job of providing me a delicious dinner and enough attention to make me feel welcome, but not overwhelmed.
I’m excited (and hopeful that I’ll have opportunities) to visit downtown Providence again (it’s been several years since I’ve spent time there) to check out the really terrific culinary adventures the city has to offer.
So, friends, I wonder… do you ever dine alone? Is it fun for you? Do you find it to be ntimidating? Please leave your comments!