Eating alone in a restaurant is almost an art form. Sometimes I can even prefer eating alone, because it gives me the chance to focus fully on the food and wine, and nobody gets offended if I ignore them to get into long discussions with the sommelier (hint to sissy). Other times it is torture.
They key for the restaurant is to make me as a single eater feel both part of the dining room, and at the same time sheltered. The no-nos are to place the single diner smack in the middle or at the door where I just feel like I am not part of the warm cozy restaurant feel. For me, perfect placement is with my back to a wall, somewhere decently central. I can watch the room, but don’t feel like I’m on a stage being observed.
Then there is the amusement. If I have a book, I never feel alone in a restaurant.
As for the wine, I love a nice by-the-glass wine list. Don’t want to polish of a bottle by my lonesome – not only would it look bad, I’d be drunk. Even better is a sommelier who will open almost any bottle on their list for me, like they did at the hotel restaurant at the Albergo dell’ Agenzia Slow Food yesterday. I had three different wines, of which one was a gorgeous 2004 Barolo from A&GN Frantino (see tasting note), and payed very very decent glass prices. That is service!
Lastly, the most important is that little touch of extra attention. If something is neglected, like the bread, or taking away my plate, I end up feeling somewhat forgotten, even I would never feel that way if I was dining in company. If instead I get an extra smile, and maybe a short chat with the waiter or sommelier, it makes me feel like a welcomed diner, and I leave happy. Of course, if instead, I end up with long conversations with the staff, who get animate about what I need to drink or taste, sharing suggested bottles with neighboring tables, that is a place I will always remember with joy. Those days (yes, they do happen to me now and then), I am reminded what a lubricant food and wine are for human interaction, and I am energized for days.