Picking the right restaurant is serious business. Trastevere is buzzing. Packed streets on a chilly Sunday afternoon in January, so many restaurants, one after the other, patios filled, conversations bouncing off the walls, cigarette smoke pluming up towards the blue sky. In the before times, a busy restaurant meant it was likely worth the wait. Now when I pass the bustling patios, tables crammed together, espresso cups clinking on saucers, maskless diners laughing and telling stories, my mind conjures images of droplets hovering in the air, thick with the pathogen that wants to infect me. But an empty patio is not appealing. Why are they empty when all of the surrounding patios are overflowing? There must be something wrong with the food… keep moving. I see a cute spot ahead, but no heaters… keep moving. Another spot with tables spread a bit further, but the chairs look flimsy… keep moving. The next restaurant has a line around the corner and a twenty-minute wait… write that down and come back during off-hours… keep moving.
I choose a restaurant with a few empty seats near the corner away from the rest of the packed tables that wrap around the corner of the building and across the alley. And so it begins, the Roman wait. Waiting is an art in Rome reserved only for non-Romans. We wait while they enjoy and savor. I wait for the server; first five minutes, then ten. I stutter my order in broken Italian - who knows if he’ll be back - and the wait begins again. My Bellini finally arrives, the sweet peach nectar settled in the bottom of the flute, prosecco gently bubbling to the top, smelling like spring. The artichokes are tender and light, steaming and dripping with oil. The carbonara in a giant pan, creamy and salty as it twirls from my fork to my mouth. I sit full, sipping my café macchiato watching them sweep the leaves from the alley as the patio slowly empties and the sun fades. Two and a half hours later, my Roman wait finished, I start to meander home, thankful for every second.