It is not easy for me to meet new people and it is especially difficult to go into situations where I am the “outsider” and everyone else already knows one another. However, last night I really pushed myself to accept an invitation to have dinner at a local restaurant with five other people: Nancy put this together and is the only person I really have made friends with in this community; her two friends, Landy and Elaine, I met briefly only once; and Ken and Eileen, Nancy’s neighbors, rounded out the group. (Poor Ken, I thought, being the only man among four widows!) When I arrived at the appointed time, 6:00 PM (we eat early here in the mountains and it’s a good thing since they were sweeping up in the restaurant by 8:30!), no one else was there. It’s a bring your own wine place so I opened my wine and poured a glass while I waited. I was surprised that it was not more crowded being a Saturday night, but there is little marketing of anything in this area, so probably most of their business was pizza take-out.
While I waited I thought that it’s one thing to complain about not making friends and then it’s another thing if I don’t go anywhere or accept invitations. As I pondered sitting in this almost empty restaurant by myself I thought about the possibility that I would be eating dinner on my own. It wasn’t an unpleasant thought and I wasn’t about to leave just because I was alone. After a while, everyone else arrived and it soon became quite raucous due in no small part to the bottles of wine (7) that appeared on the table. While we all offered to share, each person seemed to have his or her favorite (mine was a lovely bottle of Chianti that I enjoyed very much)!
The group was congenial and there was no lack of conversation. It was nice to meet new people and, while it’s difficult to talk in any meaningful way at a table for six, we managed. Ken was a good sport I thought and wondered how uncomfortable he really was. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed getting out of the house and having a reasonably well-prepared meal out. We had an antipasto “platter” for the table to share as we settled in but it was really a big salad in a bowl that I found a bit strange and unlike any antipasto platter I’d experienced. They brought out “bread” and olive oil to dip it in, but it was really a piece of pizza cut in a square that apparently was to share. When I said that we wanted bread, our waitress was a bit puzzled. “Oh, you mean Italian bread?” Hmmmm. In an Italian restaurant, that’s exactly what I expected.
I think that the chef did a good job since it seems they mostly serve pizza or pasta and we all ordered the fish special. They DO have a bit of a problem getting all the dinners on the table at the same time and the fish likely would have been cooked a bit more had the chef not been doing six identical dishes. But, there are things to be said in Carini’s favor besides the good company and good food last night: first, it’s bring your own wine or beer so that keeps the price at a very reasonable level and second, it’s only about 3 miles from home so no matter what the weather, it’s accessible. The downside for me is that it closes so early. When we asked for coffee at the end of the meal (no dessert was offered), the waitresses were already standing around waiting, I guess, to go home. They had to brew a fresh pot (which was very good) and were able to accommodate decaf espressos for others at the table. I think we might have sat longer if they had not been so obvious about wanting to close. I am just not used to eating that early, but if that’s the only negative of the evening, it’s just fine. I’m so glad I joined this very interesting group for dinner. Even though the photo I’ve included is a bit blurry, you can tell that everyone was having fun and I suppose the blurriness reflects the amount of wine that was consumed! I’m having leftovers for dinner tonight!