Dinner with Carlo Ancelotti in London this week. He makes a reservation at Quattro Passi in Mayfair. He orders in Italian in conversation with a chef he describes as 'the finest in Italy'.
And he suggests, with that deep, endearing laugh, that we cover the more pressing issues 'before we drink too much wine'.
So we get started before the starters, or rather the antipasti, discussing first if he spoke to Liverpool and then if he would consider a return to Chelsea should Jose Mourinho's second tenure at Stamford Bridge come to an end.
'I would have no problem with Chelsea,' he says when asked if he could even contemplate a second stint given the nature of his own dismissal — in a corridor at Everton — in 2011. 'But Jose won't be sacked. They already choose to keep him, and I think they made a good choice.'
He appears confident about this. Perhaps because he spent the previous evening at a screening of the new Cristiano Ronaldo film in the company of Mourinho and his agent, Jorge Mendes.
'I didn't get a chance to speak with Jose but we get on well,' he says. 'When we won the Decima (Real's 10th European Cup/Champions League) at Madrid, he sent me a message of congratulations. And he knows better than anyone what is going on at Chelsea.
'Sometimes you can't explain why things happen... what is going wrong. It is a mystery. How did we lose (with AC Milan) in Istanbul when we were three goals up against Liverpool at half-time? You expect the opponent manager to put on a striker but he puts on a midfielder!
'I look from a distance at Chelsea and I think they won the title easily last year and I don't think they are so motivated this year.
'It's true that the manager has to be able to motivate players but the manager cannot motivate a player if the player is not self-motivated. It's impossible. They have lost something and it's difficult to change like a switch. You have to work slowly to change.
'But Mourinho is one of the best managers in the world, no doubt. I look at his body language and he's OK. He is not so worried. He has confidence. During the Dynamo Kiev game the supporters were singing his name. He'll sort it out.'
The Liverpool job was available after the departure of Brendan Rodgers from Anfield in October, and the one manager to match Bob Paisley in winning three European Cups was widely regarded as a possible alternative to Jurgen Klopp.
'I would like to come back to work in England,' he says. 'I love the football here, I still have a house in London, and I would like to be with a team that is competitive in England and in Europe.
'I think Liverpool are a good team. They have some really good young players — Coutinho, Firmino, Benteke. If they can find an experienced player like Gerrard or Carragher — an example to the squad — I think they can be really competitive. But I did not speak with them. If I spoke with them I can say "yes", but no, I did not.'
Did his advisers, perhaps? 'No,' he says. 'They made the right appointment in Klopp. He is a good manager. With the best managers you see their identity in their team. Klopp's Dortmund team had a very strong identity.'
Ancelotti had a strong identity with his players at Real Madrid, and it is still with some sadness and disappointment that he reflects on his departure from the Santiago Bernabeu back in May.
'To be sacked is part of your job,' he says, 'but if you ask me about being sacked by Real Madrid I tell you that it was not right.
'I was really, really unhappy because I had a fantastic relationship with the players. I really enjoyed training this team. They were really serious, really professional. More than Chelsea I was disappointed.'
Ancelotti has coached some of the finest players in the world but Ronaldo, he says, set new standards of professionalism.
KING CARLO'S LIST OF HONOURS
Intertoto Cup 1999
AC Milan (2001-2009)
Champions League 2002-03, 2006-07
UEFA Super Cup 2003, 2007
Coppa Italia 2002-03
Serie A 2003-04
Supercoppa Italiana 2004
Club World Cup 2007
Community Shield 2009
Premier League 2009-10
FA Cup 2009-10
Paris Saint-Germain (2011-2013)
Ligue 1 2012-13
Real Madrid (2013-2015)
Copa del Rey 2013-14
Champions League 2013-14
UEFA Super Cup 2014
Club World Cup 2014
'Truly, the most,' he says. 'I watched the film and it was good but it did not show how professional he is. We would sometimes return from a European game. It could be three in the morning but Ronaldo would be the player who did not go straight home. Instead he would go to the training ground for the ice bath, to help with his recovery from the game.
'As a group they were very professional, though. Casillas, Modric, Bale also. It was a little more difficult with Bale because I was used to speaking to the players in Spanish, but he is a nice guy.'
Ancelotti was dismissed by Chelsea a year after winning a Premier League and FA Cup Double; by Madrid after clinching the Decima.
'Listen, you are judged on the results,' he says, 'but you cannot win every single year. Certainly not in Spain where you have the best team in the world in Barcelona. You have a third team, in Atletico, that is also very competitive.
'Madrid was the hardest job. More pressure even than Milan. Was losing to Liverpool in 2005 my worst experience? Try losing 4-0 in the Madrid derby. That season we had a run of 22 wins in succession but it was all forgotten on February 7 when we lost 4-0 to Atletico.
‘If the manager doesn’t win at Madrid he is sacked. Had I not won the Decima I would have been sacked a year earlier but I knew this when I took the job. I could have decided not to sign but Real Madrid is the most important club in the world.’
He was sacked at the training ground in Valdebebas. ‘The president and the general director came to see me but I knew it was coming,’ he says. ‘They had not been talking to me about the future. I could sense it was coming.’
As upset as Ancelotti was, he remained calm. ‘I don’t ask why, but then that is how I am,’ he says. ‘I like to be calm.’
It is how he has always been as a manager. ‘I never use the whip,’ he says. ‘I have had problems with players. I had players who told Paul Clement, my former assistant, to **** off but my response is to tell them they no longer play for me; that they need to ask the club to leave.
‘I am a coach. A teacher. And working with the players is the best part of the job but I was a player, too, and I remember.
‘I am still the manager and they are players. And I have power. If I say we have training at 6am they have to be in but if people think that means I have to be up here and they have to be down there, I don’t agree.