Looking for the perfect table for two? Then let On the Menu treat you to these delicious Valentine’s Day hotspots that are picture perfect for any relationship. From a first date, puppy love, “it’s complicated” or a committed engagement, these eateries’ romantic ambiances will take your breath away.
House of Love
37 East Victoria St.
Looking to make a sweet impression with some hearty Italian cuisine with the feel of an authentic dining experience away from the bustle of State Street? Then drive on down to Ca’Dario, located on the corner of Anacapa and Victoria Streets in downtown Santa Barbara. With a charismatic chef who often mingles with his clientele, Ca’Dario is a unique dining experience. It is a favorite of the locals and has remained so for 10 years, General Manager Giovanni Corvino said. Although the kitchen may be small, he said, the chefs still manage to fill the stomachs of over 200 guests with authentic Italian meals every Friday night.
“I’m picky about the food I eat,” Corvino said. “If I get Italian, I come to Ca’Dario.”
Ca’Dario will feature their regular menu for Valentine’s Day instead of a specialty menu, but Corvino said he recommends trying the Bolognese, because it’s the best in town. Other items available on Valentine’s Day include the $22 Salmone Al Rosmarino, a freshly grilled wild salmon with rosemary, the $25.95 Branzino Alla Griglia, a grilled whole Mediterranean striped bass with garlic, white wine sauce and the $15 Pappardelle Alla Boscaiola, which includes flat ribbon pasta with porcini mushrooms, pancetta and a light tomato cream sauce.
With the white clothed tables and mahogany chairs in close approximation to one another, Corvino said guests often find themselves chatting with the people at the next table. Nestled among pictures of old movie stars, old world Italy and familiar faces, Corvino said the eatery provides its patrons with a feel of a rustic and traditional Italian restaurant.
Beyond its ambiance, Corvino said one of the best attributes included at Ca’Dario is its namesake chef, whose unique personal history in the food business and all-around warm demeanor makes him a favorite among the guests.
“If you’ve never met him, he’s just a great guy,” Corvino said.
On a typical night, Corvino said customers can expect to be greeted by Dario himself or even enjoy a glass of wine with him. He also said on a few occasions, guests have gone back into the kitchen to talk with Dario, which is an unexpected change of pace for their small kitchen, but they embrace the diversion.
“It’s a very fun, lively atmosphere,” Corvino said.
The restaurant is completely booked on Valentine’s Day, Corvino said. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the restaurant with the locals, on a usual night a wait is expected, even though it’s typical to have a reservation at the restaurant. However, Corvino said that should not discourage patrons – Ca’Dario will try to accommodate all walk-ins. He said they will sit people at the three available tables outside, weather permitting, and they do allow people to sit at the bar.
“We don’t discourage people,” he said.
According to Corvino, the restaurant just recently received their liquor license and will operate a full bar within the next week or two, but on Valentine’s Day both beer and wine are available, and the wine selection features both domestic and Italian choices. As for entertainment, Corvino said the restaurant plays an eclectic set of music, including the classic tunes of Frank Sinatra. He also said the restaurant is an essential part of local culture.
“If you don’t come in and try us at least one time, you are going to miss out on a key part of Santa Barbara,” Corvino said. “Get a good meal for a good price.”
Lunch is served at this lovebird destination Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner is available seven days a week from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m.
1031 State St.
Aldo’s history as a 21-year-old, family-owned restaurant makes it a delicious bet for you and your special someone this Thursday. With the same chef for the past 15 years, manager John Molnar says his creations offer an eclectic and reliably tasty variety for every palate. Located on State Street near the Lobero, Arlington, Granada and Center Stage theaters, Aldo’s offers a wide range of Italian dishes and fine wines.
Aldo’s will not have a fixed menu for Valentine’s Day but will offer its usual delicious food for a meal that’s sure to compliment any sweethearts’ excursion.
“We don’t do a crazy, expensive menu,” he said. “You come in, it’s the same as it always is – really good and really comfortable.”
For Valentine’s Day, Molnar recommends starting with the Bruschetta Uno, which is made with fresh mozzarella, juicy ripe tomatoes, basil and olive oil, and served on crostini for $6.95. He also suggests the House Specialty, the Pork Chop Agro Dolce. This hearty dish is an 8 oz. rib-chop topped with a zesty sauce made with rosemary, sweet and sour dried cherry sauce, pine nuts, garlic and balsamic vinegar sauce, and served with fettuccine alfredo and steamed vegetables. Another tasty treat is the Sea Scallops Limone – tender scallops in a zingy lemon tarragon sauce on a bed of spinach with tomatoes. Both meals come with a choice of soup or salad for only $18.95, and Molnar says the portions are great. He also said the restaurant serves beer and wine, and he recommends the Dancing Coyote Albarino Chersburg or the Camontini Pinot Grigio.
“I think our price point is pretty fair,” he said. “There’s something affordable for everyone.”
Molnar said Aldo’s appeal not only comes from its food, but its warm, comfortable atmosphere, which includes a Tuscan-inspired dining room with stars on the ceiling and columns around the room, which makes for an inviting and picturesque environment.
Additionally, Molnar said that all dishes are homemade, and the meals are always good.
“We do everything from scratch,” Molnar said. “We are very consistent. Continuity works.”
Molnar said the restaurant is completely booked from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for inside dining, and if Santa Barbara continues to see summer love weather, Aldo’s will open up its patio seating. The establishment offers live music on Fridays and Sundays. The restaurant is open to serve any Romeo and Juliet for lunch and dinner Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Whale of a Tale
Moby Dick Restaurant
220 Stearns Wharf
Located on the picturesque Santa Barbara pier, Moby Dick offers a quiet, romantic atmosphere, with a breathtaking view from every table. Manager Jose Torres said the family-owned business has operated locally for 27 years and offers a nice ambience both inside the restaurant and outside on the patio.
For an eclectic menu sure to appease a variety of different appetites, Moby Dick offers a surf and turf menu ranging from salads, sandwiches and burgers to pasta, seafood and steak. In addition to a full bar and happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. every night, Torres said the restaurant offers a wide range of wines from the Central Coast.
The restaurant will feature a duet special for the romantic occasion: a New York steak and salmon deal for $55.95, which includes bread and butter, and a choice of soup or salad.
If that price seems a little daunting, Torres said they feature simpler items, such as the Classic Crab Louie salad, which is comprised of crisp greens, avocado, beets, hard-boiled egg and tomatoes for $16.50. The menu also offers a Shaved Roast Turkey Sandwich served with a choice of coleslaw, french fries, fresh fruit or cottage cheese for $9.75.
Moby Dick also features many dishes from the sea, including Grilled Swordfish Steak for $20.50, served with bread, and an option of either New England clam chowder or a mixed green salad. The meal includes a side of a potato – baked, mashed or in french fry form – rice pilaf and sautéed vegetables. For a heartier choice, Torres said he recommends Jose’s Famous Platter for Two, a spectacular array of the restaurant’s breaded and deep fried scallops, clams, shrimps, fish and calamari for $24.95, or the English Sole Fish and Chips for $12.95. Both catches from the sea come with bread, cocktail and tartar sauce, and are served with crispy french fries and coleslaw. Torres said that nothing bad is listed on the menu and that all are good options.
“Everything we make we can recommend,” Torres said. “We have nice food and service.”
The eatery will offer unique breakfast items on Valentine’s Day, including smoked salmon “lox” on a toasted bagel, which comes with sliced tomato, shaved onion, cucumber, capers and cream cheese for $15.50. Wake up with someone sweet with Moby’s Crab Benedict, which is open-faced on toasted English muffin, and topped with cheese and hollandaise sauce. Served with a choice of potato or rice pilaf, this remarkable breakfast is available for $16.50. Torres said Moby Dick still has a few tables open for Valentine’s Dayand is taking reservations for the night.
Open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Moby Dick Restaurant is here to add that extra spark to any relationship.
They may not be make-out pointers, but these local restaurants will fan the flames of both carnal desires.