Week One: Dining Outdoors

@lanonnabrooklyn

Open restaurant and phase two of COVID-19 reopening have been in effect for a full week.  It would be my first meal(s) back in a restaurant setting post-shutdown.  I don’t know what waiting a week did for me.  However, I have since concluded it was a comfortability thing.  Dining out in any capacity carries risks whether I wanted to give it a thought or not; therefore, caution was paramount.  After high, contemplation I was, however, ready to take that risk.

Of course, I had a curated list of restaurants I wanted to visit.  All of which I have had the pleasure of experiencing before.  I decided a reservation was best for me.  However, it was difficult to come by on a Wednesday evening(July 1st) at 8 PM.  I am not an outdoor dining kind of gal, therefore, a later reservation was important to me.

La Nonna

Gamberi al Limoncello at La Nonna’s in Williamsburg

I decided on three restaurants for the week.  My first was La Nonna on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg.  Although I have visited La Nonna too many times to count, I have never experienced their Al Fresco dining, which has always been available during the Summer months.

I arrived at 7:55 PM, not knowing what to expect and, was pleased to see social distancing practiced by those waiting to be seated.  The host wore a mask and took great care not to get too close.  On the way to my table, I passed several full tables appropriately spaced occupied by couples and individuals alike carelessly dining and having a fabulous time.

When I sat down I experienced a wave of emotions—familiarity, anxiety, happiness, excitement.  And I was muddled and a bit fearful.  My table sat away from the crowd and close to the sidewalk, which was ideal for me.

Servers and bussers wore masks but no gloves. I wondered when would be an appropriate time to remove my mask and decided I would when my first course arrived. I haven’t been drinking much at home.  The first sip of Rosè and the gentle breeze that grazed my face and ruffled my curles gave me a sense of comfort I had hoped for.

I thought to myself, “oh how I’ve missed this.” Being in a restaurant setting surrounded by strangers sharing a moment.  My love for experiencing food took over and I was irrationality comforted—the tastes the smells all familiar yet alien but quite enjoyable.

Before long I was savoring the flavorful Gamberi al Limoncello.  The seared shrimp, topped with a generous amount of blue crab, with crisp, buttery avocado dripping with limoncello liquor, bought familiarity to my tastebuds.  And Pappardelle Alla Salernitana was a mouthful of delight.  The white wine, garlic, and oil-soaked Pappardelle balanced by the sweet and tangy flavors of the semi-dried tomatoes: perfection.  As I relaxed into my meal, I felt grateful that the Chef didn’t miss a beat—he bought his A-game, and I was pleased.

Pappardelle alla Salernitana at La Nanna’s in Williamgsburg

When I got home my brain was filled with ideas–I missed being out there.  I had to get back to my regular schedule of trying new places.  I felt a great need to venture out into a world that has become a part of time well spent. A World I’ve come to love, and enjoy.  Instead of three restaurants maximum, I decided why not fill the other days as well.  Have Lunch, how about Breakfast, why not Brunch and Dinner.  But caution still lurked and I proceeded as planned.

Heights Cafe

Lobster Roll + Fries + Seafood Pasta at Height’s Cafe in Brooklyn Heights

As I get older, I realized that familiarity comforts me–I understand that it won’t last forever.  But I believe having that immediate sense of comfort set a  tone that makes me feel good inside.

My second choice was Heights Cafe on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.  I have been craving Calamari and that was the perfect place.  My decision: I wasn’t going to make a reservation.  I wanted to see how difficult it would be to get a table and how many people would be out considering rain was in the forecast.  I ventured to Brooklyn Height on Friday (July 3rd) for and 8 PM dinner.

We arrived at 7:30 PMish and was greeted by George’s familiar eyes.  I have visited Height Cafe at least once a week for over four years and again never dined outdoors during the Summer months.  I was pleased that there were several tables available, and where we were seated towards the side of the restaurant gave us a nice exclusive space.  A sense of intimacy I didn’t think I would experience during these times.

I wasn’t as overwhelmed with as many emotions as I was during my first meal out.  This time there was calm, anxiety, comfort, and excitement. But I remained surprisingly cautious.

Servers and bussers wore masks and gloves. I removed my mask when I got back to the table after I visited the restroom to wash my hands.  I felt a Vodka Martini was a wonderful way to start this evening.  As the wonderfully cold and crisp, perfectly loathsome Martini touched my lips I sighed in great pleasure.  “I missed this.”

We both savored the perfectly crisped Calamari in quiet enjoyment before moving on to the impressively meaty lobster roll and finished with the Seafood Pasta. The freshly prepared lemon linguine in a lemongrass shrimp sauce with sautéed squid, mussels & lobster was comforting as it was freeing,

We place our masks on, bid George farewell and left with filled bellies and a sense of satisfaction.

I didn’t make it to a third restaurant last week but I wanted to share my experience with you.  I’m no braver than you are, I have the same concerns and my dad has underlying health issues.  However, being able to dine out gave me a sense of normalcy that I’m craving these days, that I think we’re all craving.

Both experiences were immensely gratifying for both myself and my tastebuds.  I did feel a bit more comfortable at Heights Cafe however that was because it was my second outing and there weren’t as many diners.  That will change as more people continue to venture out as the weeks’ pass.

I was responsible as I waited to be seated, I wore my mask for every restroom visit and I washed my hand before I started eating, during my meals if I felt the need to and before I left the restaurant.

I’d like to see restaurant servers and staff making an effort to let diners know that masks are mandatory to enter restaurants, primarily when they are being guided to their table through the restaurant.  And of course when they visit the restroom.

Although outdoor dining was very satisfying I have a strong dislike for the Summer months and I don’t do well with bugs.  I was cautiously looking forward to the possibility of indoor dining this week.  However, Mayor Bill de Blasio has delayed indoor dining due to the growing numbers of  Coronavirus outbreaks in other parts of the country.  As for outdoor dining, the Mayor says it’s a hit, and I agree entirely.

As for now, I will continue to embrace outdoor dining as I waver between being cautious and getting back to normalcy.  I can’t wait to share this week’s outdoor dining experience with you next week. And I’m very excited to hear about yours.  Tag us on Instagram, email us or send us a message we’d love to hear your suggestions, your concerns, and what you have enjoyed about getting back out there.

Check out our list of over 300 restaurants to try today all with fabulous outdoor spaces.

As Always Sending Love.  Stay Safe.

Cheers to Fabulous food and Wonderful dining experiences.

XXOO

Nat

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