When you have an Italian guest coming in from NOVA on a Monday, it's important to choose a restaurant that's not going to pale in comparison to what he's used to at home.
And when it's someone you haven't seen much in a very long time, you also seek out an atmosphere conducive to private conversation with unobtrusive service.
And preferably no large groups or babies.
So it was that we ended up at La Grotta in the Slip, a place I don't frequent often and yet, I've always had excellent food and service there.
Maybe it's the challenges of parking in the area, but on a Monday night, it was easy enough in the less-than-crowded streets.
So uncrowded, in fact, that a couple of kitchen guys were throwing a football back and forth in the middle of 13th Street, not something you see every day in the Slip.
Our table was away from the fray, although within earshot of a large group with a baby, drat the luck.
Luckily, they were much further along in the meal process than we were, so we only had to put up with them for a while.
And while we weren't purposely eavesdropping, some comments just catch your ear, for instance, a boast about taking the 7-year old to the shooting range.
We wondered how long before the little one in the car seat gets his turn with the trigger.
But they left soon enough and we had plenty of privacy to talk.
I had the Insalate Tricolore (homemade mozzarella, tomato and organic baby greens in a white balsamic) and he had a special that was similar with the mozzarella, roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers in the balsamic.
We agreed that the mozzarella was just lovely. I followed with the Cape Sante (baked scallops on the half shell with jumbo lump crab and roasted red peppers), decadent with butter and crab meat oozing, and he with a special of rock fish, perfectly cooked and seasoned.
As good as the food was, we had a lot of talking to do, so our server made countless unnecessary trips over to our table thinking perhaps we'd finally finished, but alas for him, it was a long, lingering meal.
We were the last ones out and I feel certain those were looks of relief on the staff's faces when we finally stood to leave.
Even the football guys had moved on.
Mondays can be tough nights to make a dining choice because the variety of open restaurants is more limited than the rest of the week.
Of course, depending on how good the company is, the food's importance is a relative thing.
La Grotta delivered an excellent meal, but we probably would have enjoyed Perly's just as much.
It was all about the conversation.