It isn’t necessary to travel halfway around the world to find magic. It helps though. Placing the familiar in the middle of foreign creates the soft lighting old cell phones capture. Somehow we managed that trick. Of course it would be easy to credit the Negroni served in a fish bowl with one ice cube for the mood…that wasn’t it.
The restaurant we were headed to was closed. Mondays and Tuesdays are days off for a lot of Valencia’s restaurant workers. That means if a restaurant is open it’s fully booked. Reservations would have been a good idea. We passed a well-rated place a couple of blocks from our apartment, and then circled back. It was either going to be Restaurante Shiraz, or takeaway pizza from the Italian restaurant below our place.
After consulting with Restaurante Shiraz’s staff we were shown an outside table with one chair. Another chair was found and brought over. This was followed by an apology for what was going to be slow service. The party of nine seated next to us had booked a tasting menu with elaborate wine pairings. Our second thoughts were interrupted by the waiter asking what we wanted to drink.
Slow service isn’t typically promised right up front. It’s usually something you discover after a long wait. When it is promised and a waiter actually shows up at your table, it makes sense to be decisive. I ordered two Negronis.
A Negroni is a good drink to mull over a menu with. I’ve had them served in Cocktail glasses, a teacup, jelly jars, and Old Fashioned glasses. The fish bowl sized glass was unexpected. The single ice cube looked lonely. We asked for more ice. It arrived in minutes. This was slow service I could get used to.
When the staff member running the front of the house came around to take our dinner order she brought a bowl of hummus and pita bread. We ordered the Pear and Gorgonzola salad, Bottarga Spaghetti, and a swordfish pasta dish and settled in for the wait.
It was a great wait. The waiter gave elaborate dissertations on the wines he was serving. It was all Spanish, but I got enough to know he was talking about each wine’s country and region of origin, the barreling process, and the type of cork used. Down at the end of the street buskers were performing Spanish versions of Chuck Berry songs. A group of young women was clapping along flamenco style and dancing. The salad arrived. We had barely touched our Negronis.
As our main courses arrived the party of nine broke into song. It seemed they were celebrating a special Saint’s Day. The streets in Spain tell you there are a lot of saints. The waiter said something that sounded like St. Ricci. I looked it up. It wasn’t her day.
Donna was fascinated by the wine presentations. When a heavily praised wine was served, tasted, and applauded Donna asked the waiter if she could get the name of the wine. He brought it to our table so we could take its picture. The gentleman at the head of the table insisted we taste it. Glasses were brought. The wine was poured. It was delicious.
We thanked the gentleman, and the celebrants. Then the waiter brought the bottle back as a gift from the table. It was a 2013 Malbec from Argentina. It paired nicely with the homemade brownie and ice cream Donna ordered for dessert.
At the end of the meal we thanked everyone again. They responded with a warm and genuine welcome to Spain. It was a celebration of good health and St. Catherine de Ricci. St. Catherine is the Patron Saint of fighting against illness, and of the sick. With Spain cautiously opening up after the pandemic it was a fitting celebration. In a very Spanish way good fortune was being acknowledged and shared.
On the way home I took photos of graffiti. One piece exhorted women to never apologize for being powerful. Others represented a communal process. As we turned down the street to our apartment several women were taking turns showing off their skateboard skills. Somehow all the evening’s random events felt inevitable. We kissed on the doorstep. Call it romantic!