By Kevin McCloskey
For those looking to celebrate Valentine's Day with a quiet and romantic dinner for two, we've assembled a short list of local restaurants that can create a memorable night for you and your sweetheart. Choose to spoil your loved one with an Italian, steak or seafood fare as well as many different decadent desserts from these classy restaurants.
Since this is such a busy evening for most restaurants, be sure to call a couple of days in advance for reservations or any special arrangements.
A visit to Cafe Med for Valentine's Day is almost a no-brainer. With their elegant menu, excellent and extensive wine list, and live entertainment, you are sure to leave well-fed, well-served and very satisfied. Visitors on Feb. 14 will be presented with a paired down menu of Cafe Med favorites, along with two specials: filet mignon and prawns ($54.95) or filet mignon and lobster ($79.95).
To satisfy your chocolate cravings, be sure to try the hot lava cake, or their most popular decadent crÃ¨me delight, a flourless chocolate cake topped with crÃ¨me brulee and covered in chocolate. Chocolate-dipped strawberries are also available, but be sure to order them when making your reservation.
"If you are going to splurge on a big dinner, Valentine's is the day to do it," manager Stacey Howard said.
And if you are struggling to find a babysitter or want to have a truly intimate dinner at home, Cafe Med is offering its specials with all of the side dishes to go.
-- 4809 Stockdale Highway; 834-4433; cafemedrestaurant.com
Mama Tosca's Ristorante Italiano
No one will take care of you like the family and staff at Mama Tosca's. They understand and appreciate the sacrifice you make when you choose to go out for a nice meal, and nowhere is that appreciation more evident than in the service you receive, and the care they put in each and every meal. Doubly so on a night like Valentine's.
With a select menu for the evening, you will be sure to find one of your favorites such as the lobster cognac, osso bucco, or the salmon with artichoke hearts, pan-sauteed in olive oil and garlic, with fresh tomato, artichoke hearts, white wine and capers, finished off in the oven. Other recommendations include the rack of lamb, scampi Mama Tosca and a February favorite, chateaubriand for two.
Mama Tosca's selection of fine desserts is always tempting, and as the saying should go, "There's always room for zabaglione," which is owner Luigi Reinzo's fabulous version of the traditional Italian custard.
"Valentine's Day is a very special day for couples, and to spend with your loved ones," Reinzo said. "And focusing on customer service and quality food is always our top priority."
-- 9000 Ming Ave., Suites K2-K3; 831-1242;mamatoscas.com
Sorella Italian Ristorante
Regulars at Sorella's are well-acquainted with their homemade pasta dishes, such as the manicotti or lobster ravioli with a quattro formaggio sauce, and its hand-cut steaks, -- two features that are becoming increasingly rare in restaurants today. Make your reservations for Valentine's Day, and you may be tempted to stray from your favorites for one of its steak and seafood specials.
Choose between an 18-ounce rib-eye steak, porterhouse or New York steak with a side of shrimp scampi on fettuccini or sauteed scallops over angel hair pasta, with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic.
Other specials include walnut-stuffed salmon and an Italian baked lamb shank (with potatoes, carrots, bell pepper and onions). Pair the salmon with the Placido pinot grigio ($20), while the lamb deserves a velvety Chianti like the Ruffino Chianti Classico ($25). In-house desserts like the tiramisu and the chocolate cannoli may entice you to suspend any resolutions from the New Year for just one night.
Sorella's own singing waiter, Mark Downing, will be performing Frank Sinatra hits to elevate the romantic mood, and as owner Annunziata Cristallo succinctly puts it: "There is nothing more romantic than Italian food for Valentine's Day, and that's amore!"
-- 7800 McNair Lane; 396-8603;sorellarestaurant.com
T.L. Maxwell's Restaurant and Bar
In addition to its fantastic regular menu, T.L. Maxwell's will have four "red" specials for Valentine's Day, including, a one-pound lobster tail and red Russian scampi, sauteed shrimp, flambeed with vodka and served with a spicy, house marinara over a bed of linguini. This scampi dish pairs very well with its Napa Valley Duckhorn sauvignon blanc, or the Carpe Diem pinot noir.
Known for its homemade desserts, be sure to try the Malva pudding (also known as Terry's South African sponge cake) and Paula's turtle. Based on the popular turtle candies, owner Terry Maxwell starts with roasted pecans, caramel and graham crackers for the crust. Next comes a layer of pure vanilla butter cream, followed by a layer of roasted pecans and caramel. It's topped with a dark chocolate grenache. This delight will satisfy any sweet tooth.
"We do not overbook for Valentine's Day," Maxwell said. "And we leave two tables open for transitioning patrons. We take reservations seriously, and our customer's experience is much more important than squeezing in an extra seating or two."
-- 1421 17th Place; 323-6889
Belvedere Room at The Padre Hotel
Fine dining with impeccable service is an important component to your Valentine evening, and the Belvedere Room at The Padre Hotel has it covered. The traditional menu will be offered for the evening, which is just fine, as it has everything needed for your special night out. Seared scallops, poached Maine lobster, and the pacific wild salmon will satisfy your seafood desires, while their custom "off the grill" selections will allow you to pull together your perfect steak dinner. Choose your cut (tenderloin, rib-eye, New York, chicken or lobster), select a rub (like truffle butter or tri-peppercorn), add a sauce (bourbon demi, cider jus), and pick your two favorite side dishes.
Guests for the evening will each be presented with a glass of champagne, along with a rose for every lady at the table. Top your meal off with their delicious chocolate spice cake or the sorbet taster if your entree got the better of you.
-- 1702 18th St.; 427-4900; thepadrehotel.com