The Veteran and the Rookie

Home Brooklyn Life The Veteran and the Rookie

By Evan MacDonald

There are only two people who walk into Vela Tapas in Bay Ridge.

The first is the veteran. The veteran knows that tapas are traditional Spanish appetizers that can be served as entire meals. The veteran also knows that tapas are often shared, and orders more than one dish as a means to that end.

The second is the rookie. The rookie is befuddled by tapas. “Why are the dishes so small?” the rookie asks. “Don’t you have anything in a normal size?”

The veteran, a woman in her 30s, was brisk and knew what to order. The waiter, a tall, slender man in his 20s with a beard, didn’t even have to explain the menu before she ordered sangria and plates that featured ham, cheeses, mussels, peppers, and leafy greens. She was confident and direct, and the ordering took about 20 seconds.

Two tables away, the rookie, an older woman, was hesitant and inquisitive.

“What’s chorizo?” she asked the waiter, who explained that it was a type of pork sausage, made with peppers. The rookie decided to start with salads for her and her guest, but struggled to decide what should accompany the greens. She and her friend studied the menu as if they were solving a riddle.

Eventually, the rookie decided to try another strategy.

“What’s your favorite dish?” she asked.

The waiter replied with his suggestions of fried goat cheese and caramelized onions, or dates wrapped in cheese and bacon.

“We’ll try those,” she replied.

Mark Libertini, the owner, has seen his share of rookies since the restaurant opened last June, and has come up with a solution for indecisiveness or fear.

“Some people just can’t get over the fact that they’re small,” he says. “So that’s why we have paella, too. It’s a traditional size, and much larger. If they don’t like the tapas, we’ve always got the paella.”

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