"Just call him and tell him where we are."
Where we were was on the San Francisco waterfront outside of Coqueta, Michael Chiarello's Spanish restaurant near the Ferry Building.
Moments before, a hostess had told us the dining room was completely booked, however we could eat in the separate bar area. But, that bar was packed like a midnight Muni train heading to Castro Street. Then, I spotted an empty table outside on the Embarcadero sidewalk. Could we eat out there? A server gave me a "Dude, you really must be hungry " look, but said "Yes, but it's cold outside."
So we sat outside and ordered wine and three appetizers. The wind chilled us and reminded me of all the home runs its grandfather had cost Willie Mays at Candlestick Park.
That's when I started in urging Nancy to call MIchael Chiarello. But, she wouldn't. And I admire her for that. I doubt there's a revered chef in the country who would not call a friend to get them a table in this situation. But, Nancy's concern was for the customers. Thing was, these people weren't even her customers.
"It's busy. And I'm not going to bump anyone who has been waiting to get a table. I'm not going to take cuts."
The wine arrived. The wind blew harder. I reached for my phone to text Lindsey Tusk that we'd be heading to her restaurant Cotogna soon.
Then, a man hurriedly exited the sidewalk. heading for the Embarcadero sidewalk. It was Michael Chiarello. He saw us, came to an abrupt stop, stared for two seconds and, in borderline disbelief, and said "Really?"
I have never heard a better "Really?" in my life. And then he said it he said it twice more. "Really? Really", each time the incredulous level rising..
"I was just urging Nancy to call you," I said..
"Nancy, you wouldn't stand for me sitting outside your restaurant. Come on inside." He commandeered a server and told her to set us up in the restaurant. We followed Michael inside. There's a difference between taking cuts and getting them.
In 60 seconds, we were ensconced in, Coqueta. I had a view of Nancy with a small window behind her framing the lighted San Francisco Bay. Yeah, I had a view.
The food started coming: Sunny side-up egg with shrimp, crispy potato and chorizo dressing; crusty bread with tomato and jamon serrano; bite size skewers called pintxos; pork and duck meatballs. sliced rib eye. It was all very good.
Yet, as good as it was, it was secondary to my view. I'll never forget that view. Really.