We celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary recently in Manhattan, attending a matinee of the "War Horse," followed by dinner at Tony's Di Napoli, a bustling family restaurant just below Times Square.
It was just 5:30 when we arrived at the restaurant, and the place was already jumping, so we planned for a bit of a wait, even though we had a reservation. But within 15 minutes, we were seated at a wonderful table in a back corner. Since everything was served family style, we did some fast calculating and decided we would order just one entree and a salad.
The real fun began when our very gregarious waiter arrived, and our dinner became not only a feast but an experience that left us saying all evening, "Only in New York!"
Our waiter approached the couple right next to us first and asked where they were from.
"Connecticut," the woman replied.
Being the eavesdropper I am, I piped up and said we were from Connecticut, too.
The woman asked where in Connecticut, and my wife and I said "Fairfield" in unison.
They were from Guilford. We'd had many wonderful times in Guilford, especially at its annual July art fair, so we had a connection. We chatted away about great sights along the coastline, and about kids, jobs and how we love Manhattan.
As the wine flowed and the food came out on huge trays, we just kept yakking. Our new restaurant friends, Amy and Jim, had just seen "Phantom of the Opera.
Amid our conversatioon and laughter, the hostess seated another couple right next to the Guilford folks, and that couple overheard us all talking about Connecticut.
The wife, who we later learned was Carolyn, overheard Amy from Guilford telling us about waterfront restaurants and suddenly jumped into the conversation. She said they were from East Haven and introduced her husband, Jeff.
Jeff jumped right into the conversation, too, and our conversation livened up even more. It turned out that Jeff, knew a lot of the waiters, including ours, and the manager, Ciro. So he called Ciro over, and the next thing we knew, we were all one big happy family.
We had one of the most incredible meals we've ever eaten. The Guilford folks ordered a sumptuous seafood platter; we had an amazing beef tenderloin with a mozzarella and tomato salad.
Jeff and Carolyn had ordered the seafood platter on a previous visit, and when they saw our meal they told the waiter they wanted what we were having. We offered a sample, but they opted to wait.
Over the next two hours of eating and drinking and desserts to die for, we were like a bunch of long-lost friends -- laughing and talking about families and the best food places. We thought that everyone in the restaurant was looking our way. But it was such a noisy spot and we were having such a good time that we didn't care.
When my wife tapped me on the shoulder and whispered that she was tired and we had to get to the train station, I suggested we all had to do dinner again right here. "As long as we have time to recover financially, we're game" I said.
The others agreed. Jeff said he'd have Ciro get us a nice round table so we can spread out and try a few dishes, and he asked us to throw out a date.
As long as it's after the Jewish holidays, I said.
Jeff said his mother had been Jewish, and Any chimed in that she was part Jewish, and that generated another half hour of family stories and laughter.
When my wife and I finally started walking over to Grand Central, we just couldn't stop laughing. "Only in New York, right?" I said.
We couldn't have planned the evening any better. We celebrated a wonderful anniversary, ate great food and drank great wine like there was no tomorrow and met a whole new set of Connecticut friends. Who could have asked for more?
We can't wait until our next get together on Saturday, Sept. 29, because we expect it's going to be even more fun.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: email@example.com.