Back in NYC I don't ever eat out alone. Except maybe a slice at Joe's now and again as I make my way home. Not that I am so popular, but if I am alone, I stay home since I like to cook for myself and it's cheaper. I save my going out money for socializing.
In Rome, I was solo for most of my meals and I tried not to make them hurried little affairs. I tried to relish them. But I discovered that--in Rome at least--one gets mixed responses. I present case 1, at Da Lucia in Trastevere.
"Buona sera. Uno, per favore."
"Please wait outside." After 10 inexplicable minutes, the fellow came out and said "solo? ma, perche?"
"Perche no?" I asked, full aware of my larger metaphorical question.
"Lavoro? Vacazione?" He is still searching for some plausible reason. He seats me in a half empty restaurant and proceeds to rush me through my meal. Not only am I alone but I am not having 4 courses and I have ordered my water rubinetto (the word they don't want you to know: tap water. It's free! And tasty enough). He keeps coming over pityingly, trying to figure me out. Eventually I am given a bill with several incorrect overages (including aqua minerale). I leave not yet feeling the magic of eating alone.
Another meal is disastrous on many fronts. I headed to a pizzeria recommended by Amy (Pizzeria San Calisto). It was terrible. This made no sense since Amy is entirely trustworthy when it comes to food recs. It took me about 24 hours to sort it out; I went to the wrong place.
At this wrong place, I was pursued relentlessly by the waiter, who asked me out on a date and eventually was removed from my table by the manager. I had a magazine out. A glass of wine for crying out loud. His constant interruptions with questions asked in fast Italian I could not understand, were killing my mojo. I don't remember this scene in "Eat, Pray, Love."
I found the perfect solo meal at lunchtime one day--at another rec from Amy. It was a beautiful day but this place had no outdoor seating. I popped inside and it was quiet and cool. The other diners were all Italian--mostly businessmen, and one priest. The staff took good care of me but basically left me entirely alone to slurp down spaghetti alla vongole, verdure mista, fantastic focaccia and a nice little bottle of red (I asked for a bicchiero, I am sure of it, but....). I was not a pitiable mystery; I was not a woman looking for a man. I was a person, looking for good nourishment and some quality alone time.