Welcome to Collettiva, a new farm-to-fork concept that opened in your neighborhood last year. We’re so pleased to have you for dinner tonight. Our restaurant is upscale yet comfortable, elegant yet unpretentious. To prove it, we are about to dim the lights.
All the best restaurants do this. We are no exception. How could we charge eighteen dollars for carpaccio, or offer all of our steaks a la carte, if we didn’t turn down the lights shortly after six? We might even do it earlier. It doesn’t matter that the sun is still hanging on to the edge of the horizon. Darkness provides ambiance. Your food will look mysterious. Changing burned-out lightbulbs is a chore we just don’t want to do.
Our restaurant is beautiful, with intricate, hand-laid tile and herringbone floors. The centerpiece is a metal birch tree sculpted by a local artisan. Our wall art is for sale—note the unobtrusive placards beside each canvas. Never mind the trivial details like, what is this or I can’t see anything in here, let alone I can’t tell what this is supposed to be and I’m afraid to ask because then someone might think I don’t belong here. It goes without saying, our photos on Yelp are impeccably lit and professionally staged.
Sit in one of our plush, navy banquettes and order a composed salad. Maybe some risotto. Study the menu while you can—with size ten lettering in a font best described as imaginative, once our lights go down, you won’t know what you’re ordering. We have no reason to do this. We aren’t impressing anyone.
We know Hakkasan offers reading glasses to its diners, if needed. We are not Hakkasan. There are five people here now, but we are preparing for a truly portentous evening rush. Once again, we are about to turn down the lights.
Our tables, which are small and circular to minimize surface area, do hold a tiny oil lamp made of faceted glass with an even tinier flame. It will immediately become blocked by the multiple water glasses you aren’t using and the bread dish you definitely are.
Our tables are also way too close to each other, and despite the breadth of our dining room we seat every party at adjoining tables. This is the result of our seating and staffing software, which we control, but sadly can do nothing about. It is impossible not to eavesdrop on private conversations, gossip, a date. One man keeps over-explaining the menu to his companion as if he lives here. We’ve never seen him before.
If you want to order a bottle of wine, one of our waiters will retrieve it from our wine cellar, which is climate-controlled, bulletproof, and also doubles as a panic room. They will return with your selection, perhaps a nice sangiovese or riesling. Many of our bottles are imported, and we will make you struggle over the pronunciation of a Hungarian aszú from Tokaj-Hegyalja, or a German Trockenbeerenauslese. To buck tradition, our extensive wine list is organized chronologically.
You may not notice when your dinner arrives. The restaurant is now nearly pitch dark. The noise of silverware scraping against plates compete with patrons shouting at each other in the darkness, as if only by sound, not by sight, can they be reassured of each other’s continued existence. Is anyone still here? Perhaps everyone is here. Everyone you’ve ever met. Every person you will ever know. Maybe they’re all here, eating. What could be more human than joining together for a meal? That’s what we’re all about at Collettiva. The infinite possibility of a darkened restaurant.
Would you like to see a dessert menu? Yes, we are aware you can’t actually see the menu. Because we’ve dimmed the lights.