"A ny seating preference?” the maître d’ asked us. Rafi gave me an insider’s look.

“Quiet corner, please,” I said. Which was stupid really, because space is premium in the city and rare is the restaurant with room to breathe. I looked around. The room was narrow and long, so no one was surrounded by people, not too bad.

“Where’d you pick this place up?”

“This guy Shaulie, from work. He’s new in the company, that’s why you haven’t heard of him. His wife’s a foodie, so he recommended it based on her say-so.”

“Sounds good.”

Rafi seemed distracted, his eyes were on the back of the restaurant where there was a glass wall, and behind it rows of wine.

A waiter came by with menus. I looked at the seafoam menus with Noi Due Carne written across the front. Rafi gave him his full attention and his charming smile.

“Can we sit back there?” Rafi pointed to the back.

“The wine cellar?” The waiter raised an eyebrow. Rafi nodded.

The waiter paused, then said, “No.” But there was that pause, and I knew that Rafi saw that as an opportunity.

“Let me talk to Golan,” Rafi asked. I looked at Rafi — who was Golan? The waiter nodded, smiled a bit, and left.

“Owner,” Rafi answered my questioning face. “Shaulie told me his name. I knew to look for this wine cellar. It’s not really open, but they might give it to us, and I thought you’d really like the privacy.”

I gave Rafi my most grateful smile. He is too good to me. I saw the waiter coming back, no Golan, guess this wasn’t going to work, but Rafi still got points for trying.

The waiter was smiling: Were they going to let us sit there or was it a spiteful smile?

“Golan can’t come right now, but he said that if you know you can maybe sit there, and you know his name, you probably know the right person, and he’ll end up saying yes.” The waiter gestured to us. “Follow me to your new seats.”

Rafi pointed to the scarf draped on my bag; he’d told me to bring it along. “You’re gonna need that there — it’s climate controlled.”

So he really had thought about this seating, so sweet.

Once we were seated, the waiter rattled off too many specials for any of them to actually register. Rafi of course nodded attentively, asked questions, deliberated, and ordered one of the specials. I searched the menu for something safe.

“You know where specials come from?” I asked him, with my finger pointing to two dishes I was deliberating between.

“We go through this every time. It’s either old repurposed food. Or the chef was feeling inspired.”

“More likely the former.”

“Eh, I’m optimistic.”

“Because you’re paying that much?”

“Exactly.”

“What did you order?” Rafi always orders the weirdest thing on the menu, it’s like a FOMO thing, he explained to me once.

“Tongue carpaccio and scallion gremolata garnished with crispy enoki mushrooms for primi and truffle arancini in short rib ragu for you because I couldn’t decide, and then sous-vide short ribs with hand-rolled herb pappardelle for secondi.”

“Secondi? Are we in kindergarten and the appetizer is called firsties?”

“It’s Italian — go with it!” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 568)