Love: It's in the air right now. It's almost Valentine's Day, after all.
So you might be thinking about where to bring your special someone for a romantic evening. Or perhaps you'd like to escape the crowds and chaos of the downtown scene and escape to a quiet, dim-lit place to enjoy a more peaceful night.
Maybe you have your sites set on a waterside panorama, and few compare to the oceanfront views at 50 Ocean in Delray Beach. And some of you might be thinking about a bottle of wine, and decadent dessert to make it a meal worth remembering, the type of thing you'll find year-round at Valentino in Fort Lauderdale.
Whether you're ready for it or not, Valentine's Day is this Saturday, February 14. And you're probably thinning about where to take your sweetie. Sure, you can buy a card, pick up some supermarket roses, or snag a box of chocolates and call it a day, but V-Day is supposed to be special, a day to let your inner romantic come out to play.
From cozy and casual, to the superluxe, here are our picks for the ten most romantic restaurants in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
10. 50 Ocean
What's more romantic than a dinner by candlelight with floor to ceiling windows displaying panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, with the soft sound of waves hitting the shore? Unless you're planning a picnic on the beach, 50 Ocean will have to do. Enjoy a crafted cocktail at the restaurant's chic, backlit blue quartz bar, or select a wine from 50 Ocean's award-winning wine list with more than 100 carefully curated selections. The menu offers an inspired take on local seafood entrees, with the freshest vegetables from nearby farms served by a well-trained and knowledgeable staff. 50 Ocean is located at 50 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach. Call 561-278-3364, or visit 50ocean.com.
9. Cafe Seville
Nearly a quarter-century old and showing no signs of retiring or resting on its leches, Café Seville is as full of surprises as ever, from a soothing potato-stuffed tortilla Española to a lineup of seafood preparations (trout, merluza, swordfish, salmon, snapper, dolphin, seafood paella, a maritime casserole) and rustic, Spanish-style legs of pork, rib of lamb, and even delicious rabbit cooked in spicy tomato sauce. The food is consistently wonderful and the prices reasonable, with enough variety to keep you busy trying new dishes for years. But it's the friendly, romantic atmosphere that will make this charming café your go-to spot whenever you most need sustenance and succor. A huge list of reasonably priced Spanish, American, and European wines, plus live classical guitar music on weekends, turns the place into a full-on party. Cafe Seville is located at 2768 E. Oakland Park Blvd. Wilton Manors, FL. Call 954-565-1148, or visit cafeseville.com.
8. Vienna Cafe
With laced-covered tables, draped flower garlands, commemorative plates of the royal family, and a life-sized flaming-red English telephone booth, Vienna Cafe & Bistro feels like a throwback to another era. One could envision sitting in front of the mock fireplace with an English grandmama and a hot cup of tea listening to stories about the war. Certainly not your typical South Florida eatery. The comfortable bistro serves an array of fare from all across the globe: traditional British roast beef with homemade Yorkshire pudding, French croque monsieur, Italian prosciutto caprese, and Maryland crab cakes. The highlight of the Cooper City eatery, however, is the high tea service. It's class and romanticism, all in one shot. Cafe Vienna is located at 9100 State Road 84 Davie. Call 954-423-1961, or visit viennacafeandwinebar.com.
See also: Vienna Cafe & Bistro (Photos)
Love is in the air at all times when you visit this Delray Beach establishment. While some people want glitz and glamour to stimulate amorousness, others prefer charm and quaintness. And if that's what you like, that's what you'll get at Dada. Set in a historic 1920s home, the restaurant is filled with artistic flavor, complete with dim lighting to set the mood. From the gravel-lined front yard with twinkle lights and tiki torches to the Daliesque artwork hanging on old plaster walls, the atmosphere is simply beguiling. The food follows the eclectic setting with creative dishes such as lamb ribs, pork belly waffle dogs, and habanero-maple-glazed salmon. Order a bottle of wine to pair with any dish -- the servers will help you choose what is best -- or sample any one of the bar's famous (and stellar) mojitos. You might be sharing more than a few drinks and nibbles off each others' plates before the night is over. Dada is located at 52 N. Swinton Avenue, Delray Beach. Call 561-330-3232, or visit dadadelray.com.
6. Pistache French Bistro
With its Parisian, romance-inspiring ambiance, this West Palm Beach restaurant is one of Palm Beach County's ultimate date night spots. You're guaranteed the best seat in the house no matter where you turn. You can choose an intimate indoor dining experience at an oversized leather banquet, a cozy white-linen table for two, or outdoor seating on the sprawling patio overlooking the downtown waterfront pavilion and Intra Coastal Waterway. The food is what will steal your heart, however: a menu of rich, sensual foods. Think mussels, burgundy escargot, oysters, house made charcuterie, and crème brûlée, to name a few. An extensive wine list makes every evening a special occasion, especially if you order a glass of champagne, or a handcrafted cocktail or two. Pistache is located at 101 N Clematis Street, West Palm Beach. Call 561-833-5090, or visit pistachewpb.com.
5. Cafe Vico
The most romantic spot in Fort Lauderdale if you happen to be craving homemade pasta -- Vico's does it best. As sleek and gorgeous as a movie diva, this café features candlelit walls, ceilings that open into a trompe l'oeil evening sky, and impeccable service overseen by Marco Vico himself, who makes a terrific first impression by kissing the ladies' hands as they arrive. Standout dishes include the agnolotti rosa -- soft homemade pillows tossed in a creamy tomato sauce; the rich and dangerous lasagna; a handful of terrific raviolis (a chicken-stuffed version with cherry sauce is particularly memorable); and their famous osso buco, beloved by regulars. As good as the service is, it's still trumped by Vico's hand-made pastas and seafood soups. A list of more than 250 wines, many hard-to-find Italian vintages, guarantees you'll never go away thirsty. Cafe Vico is located at 1125 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-565-9681, or visit cafevicorestaurant.com.
4. Candela Restaurant
In South Florida, where the recent small-plate obsession has tainted our palates (and pockets) with pricey, upmarket concept foods, we have no understanding of the Spanish art of celebrating food and drink. But at Candela Restaurant in Wilton Manors, you can get an idea of what it's all about. Just one block south of Oakland Park Boulevard and over a canal that hems the northern edge of the Island City, you'll find one of the area's best-kept secrets. You may be familiar with a restaurant where the chef knows your name and delivers your dish as if you were family. This is the type of experience you'll get from chef-owner Armando Vega and his wife, Yudaris, a Cuban-born couple who dish out authentic Latin and Mediterranean cuisine. What makes Candela so endearing is Vega's knowledge of his painstakingly sourced ingredients. A medium-grain rice from Murcia, Spain; Mahón, a soft cow's-milk cheese from the island of Minorca; smoky pimentón, a type of Spanish paprika; and olive oil from Jaén, a city in the south of Spain. The rustic, red-walled hideaway is accented with handmade wooden wine racks; Vega's family china and art made with the corks of emptied wine bottles are evidence of the gastronomic merriment that's taken place over the years. Candela is located at 2909 Northeast Sixth Ave., Oakland Park. Call 954-563-8088, or visit candelarestaurant.com.
3. Casa D'Angelo
This upscale Italian ristorante, with dual locations in both Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton has been described as "the closest to dining in Florence anyone will get in Florida." Now that certainly sounds romantic. Of course, wine and romance also go together -- and what could be more enchanting than taking your special someone to a place with one of the most extensive wine lists in town? With more than 40 pages of Italian and American wines, this Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant is sure to get the ardent juices flowing. Although wine is the aphrodisiac, the food here is like sex in your mouth. Simply prepared dishes such as bistecca all a fiorentina (oak-grilled, dry-aged New York strip steak marinated in olive oil, rosemary, and garlic with sweet Vidalia onions and wild mushrooms) and tuna carpaccio with arugula, lemon, and olive oil are sure to titillate. Chef-owner Angelo Elia offers up an experience unlike any other, with courteous service and a well-curated wine list, making it a favorite spot for South Floridians to celebrate special occasions. Casa D'Angelo is located at Call 954-564-1234, or visit casa-d-angelo.com.
Fort Lauderdale's Valentino's most striking attribute, aside from chef-owner Giovanni Rocchio's impressive menu of homemade pastas and high-end victuals, is its kitchen. Open to the full view of the dining room like a stage to a rapt audience, the entire evening unfolds like a silent movie. The performance begins well before dinner, however, with the routine of daily prep: the click and flare of a gas burner, and just like that the scent of melting chocolate and sautéed mushrooms (ingredients for two of the evening's specials) fills the air. Here, refined palates can take refuge. The restaurant specializes in true culinary ambition. Rocchio isn't just some self-important chef with an impressive résumé; he's a culinary savant with a passion that runs so hot, it's helped to propel his Fort Lauderdale eatery into a class of its own. Valentino is located at 620 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-523-5767, or visit valentinocucinaitaliana.com.
1. Serafina Waterfront Trattoria
The saying goes, "Don't judge a good book by its cover," and the same is true for romantic restaurants. Set in a nondescript storefront on an uninspiring road, this waterfront Italian eatery offers extraordinary ambiance and remarkable food. A narrow path takes you to a small candlelit room with a few cozy seats. Though the interior is enough to induce feelings of enchantment, the patio is where the real magic happens.
White-clothed tables topped by flickering candles overlook sailboats gently bobbing on the docks of the Middle River, with a Greco-Roman waterfall softly burbling in the background. If that's not enough to get you feeling the love, the Italian-speaking staff will guide you through the menu of authentic Italian pastas, fish, and meats, such as imported Italian burrata for two, tagliatelle al porcini, and an aromatic grilled rack of lamb encrusted with rosemary and garlic and drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. It's like an Italian coastal escape. 926 NE 20th Ave, Fort Lauderdale; 954-463-2566; visit serabythewater.com.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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