We were every waiter’s worst nightmare—four gabby friends who hadn’t seen each other in ages and wouldn’t easily let a word in edgewise. We had come to Bainbridge Island’s Four Swallows restaurant to see if it really offered romantic atmo, lush Italian food, and a crackling vibe.

Check, check, double-check. And Rich Gibson too.

Smooth as satin yet authentic to the tips of his fingers, Gibson possessed a tableside presence that never had to resort to that stilted "Sorry to interrupt, but…" When he drifted close, we knew it. Never did he linger long enough to make his presence distracting. Always he knew just when to interject, as when we were about to order the wrong bottle of wine, or when genuinely applauding our choice of the stunning Penn Cove mussels with smoked paprika and Spanish sherry.

We didn’t just like him because after chatting for awhile he invited us out on his boat. I promise. (Although that folksy gesture is exactly what mainlanders love about Bainbridge Island.)

We liked him because he was an elegant server, a true professional, and a fine human. The Tablehopper’s a sucker for waiters like that.

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