You know, many people make the mistake of thinking that "interacting with the staff" means getting personal with the staff, asking them personal questions about themselves. In my experience, restaurant staff members HATE this. As well they should: they're at work. Their personal lives are off the table.
OTOH, if you talk about the food with knowledge and interest, staff seems to find that gratifying. And that WILL establish the kind of "relationships" (I mean, these aren't REAL relationships) that make you a valued regular.
Interestingly, this seems to be a generational thing -- and the divide seems to be about five or so years older than me. (Yeah, there ARE people that old.) People I go out with who are than younger than me wouldn't dream of getting personal with the staff (and resent it when the staff occasionally seems to be trying to get personal), but people older than me seem to think it's endearing (I'm reminded of a famous scandal at Ssam Bar a decade or so ago).
I have (fortunately) never experienced a diner asking personal questions of waitstaff. But why would one and to what end?
But confirm that appreciation of the food or wine is a ticket to acceptance. We marvel at the number of diners who treat a meal out as a strictly social occasion, and never seem to notice the food put before them except for a cursory thanks.
I also have not observed the personal questions thing, but I think taking an interest goes a long way, as does showing up a few times even if you're not so talkative the first couple times. I tend to actually ask for the somm to discuss wines simply as a way of indicating interest and opening up a conversation even if I more or less know what I want to drink.
A few recent restaurants:
Le Grand Bain- Food that seems simple and casual but is deceptively a bit more than it seems (in the best possible way). I guess you would call it small plates but items were categorized in a manner that I was pretty unable to discern, possibly size and the vegetables or sides? It didn't really seem to matter what category they were from but we were quite happy. As per the Paris norm, a very nice bottle list and not much by the glass to speak of. We had a really nice bottle of Domaine Chauvette Jaspe that I would very much like to drink again. I think in NY this would be considered a wine bar but there were more tables than bar seats so I am not sure.
Botanique - A bit of a mixed bag for me, very forward on some aggressively herbacious combos (as per the name) but I thought some dishes worked better than others. Really nice tete de veau with sauce ravigote - the kind of thing restaurants here really excel at. We had two 4-course tasting menus (I think the kitchen calls it chef's choice or something similar). I very much appreciate the shorter prixe fixe approach as I can't stand long multicourse michelin type meals anymore, but I didn't always love the choices and there were things on the menu I would have preferred. I'd go again but I'd probably choose my own dishes. A very French moment: our waiter yelled at us for finishing one course in CINQ MINUTES. A much less French moment: Some wine confusion that resulted in drinking a 210 euro bottle for 70 euro (to their credit they credited us despite having shown the bottle that was from the same appellation but different producer and year).
Amarante - Really fantastic classical meal with an especially delicious snail in a pesto-ey parsley butter and lamb with haricot vertes. I think this is the sort of spot that folks on this forum mean by a bistro but its hard to tell with this crew. I wish this spot had become a staple for me sooner and its a good alternative to Paul Bert, etc. Old school waitering and not a lot in the way of natural wine, but really just solid classics.