Table 46 is pretentious. He's handsome and at first I thought he might be fabulous and gay, from the neighborhood. He's not. He's European.
He keeps saying things to me in Italian like "Bravissimo!" and "Perfetto!" and rolling the r's in the words as he orders ostentatiously. As Toro is a Spanish restaurant, I therefore assume that he must have some native connection to Italy. Why else would he insist on speaking to me in the wrong language?
"Oh, are you Italian?" I ask enthusiastically, since I love Italy.
"No," he says flatly, turning back to his guest. Ah, I see. He is a citizen of the world.
The European than makes a big show out of how he needs to spend some time with the wine list before he can choose. "I had a fabulous wine last time I was here, I just don't remember what it is. I need to take some time to find it." When he waves me over to the table a few minutes later, his finger slides down the list to land beside a $31 bottle of Tempranillo from Rioja, the most well-known Spanish region and therefore, in my mind, an obvious and pedestrian place from which to order. I'm all for drinking affordable wine, especially at Toro, where $30 goes a long way. But I am a bit disappointed by his pomp.
I approach the table with the bottle and pretend to be staring off in space while I listen to the European talk at his guest as he picks at his boquerones:
"They are supposed to be made with more vinegar, and they are supposed to be served hot."
I pour a taste of wine, and he nods. To his guest he says:
"It's not the one I had last time, but it's okay, it will do."
As I pour for his friend, he goes on, about his pimientos del padron: "These are supposed to be hot, and should have more salt."
"Oh really?" I interrupt. "Where are your boquerones SUPPOSED to be like that? Where are your pimientos SUPPOSED to be like that? In Pretentious Asshole Land, where you come from?"
No, no, no, I didn't actually say that. But I laugh out loud to myself imagining it as I scrape cheese and corn cobs off a dirty plate into the kitchen trash. The dishwasher gives me a funny look.
I ignore the European for the rest of the night, and delight in the fact that this guest will never be completely pleased here or I imagine anywhere else. It means I can cut my loses and stop trying.
In the end, the European tips me well and leaves happy. "Ah, mediocrity," I imagine him saying to his friend. "When one is surrounded by it all the time, one must make their peace with it."