Hold the tuxedoed waiters and can the strolling violinists. Wouldn't you rather a Valentine's Day dinner this Sunday that's classy, lively, intimate or sexy? And how about reasonable? Love, indeed, has its price these days.
Here are a dozen places that fill the bill:
Ceilings are draped in dreamy gauze, a guitarist plays haunting melodies, and a three-course dinner (with a glass of wine) goes for $35. Dine on empanadas, classic ropa vieja and, for dessert, tres leches cake. Cha-cha.
In a scarlet room with pillow-strewn banquettes and candlelight, a Casbah-like mood prevails. Appropriately, there will be a belly dancer in the house. The Mediterranean (and veg-friendly) menu will be augmented with such opulent specials as lobster mac and cheese.
A serpentine sushi bar snakes along one wall of this dramatically illuminated Asian fusion / Japanese restaurant. In addition to the regular menu, there's romance in a special Valentine's roll: spicy crab meat salad on the inside and red tuna on the outside. Heart-shaped, of course.
A lounge outfitted with couches adds to the vibe of this New American hipster whose a la carte menu is augmented by a four-course $85 "romance package" for two. You get a "share" appetizer (such as spinach and dip), two soups or salads, two entrees (such as seared salmon or rack of lamb), two chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of red or white wine.
If you're partial to a bar scene and a buzz, then Jackson's is your place. It also offers a $24.95 three-course prix-fixe (with choices such as kung pao calamari, sweet potato-crusted sea bass and Belgian chocolate mousse cake) plus a nice selection of affordable wines by the glass.
At this seriously hopping Latin-Continental spot, $69.95 covers the tab for two; you get an appetizer (such as eggplant rollatini or squash soup), main course (such as skirt steak topped with shrimp or veal chop) and dessert (such as caramel flan) along with a bottle of wine or pitcher of sangria. Live music, too.
A tasteful tablecloth restaurant for Euro-style fare graciously served. The $45 prix-fixe includes a choice of lobster bisque, house or Caesar salad or appetizer (such as sauteed shrimp with fruit chutney), an entree selection (such as stuffed hanger steak or Chilean sea bass over risotto) and dessert (such as crème brûlée or profiteroles). BYOB
The setting is suave and sophisticated, the fusion-accented Indian cuisine skillfully executed (irresistible breads, tandoori chicken wings and masala snow crab cake). On this special night, you'll find live acoustic music and, in addition to the regular menu, a three-course dinner at an amazing $45 a couple.
A waterfall trickles gently down one wall at this elegant Asian-fusion spot, where the objets d'art look costly, but food prices are comfortably down-to-earth. While the regular menu is featured (standouts include duck pot stickers and shrimp chow fun), look for Valentine's sushi specials. And "handmade" silk roses for every woman.
In a Tudor cottage, you and your date can snuggle into a cranny and savor chef David Santoro's four-course menu, at $45 a person. It includes a bottle of wine per couple, an appetizer, a soup or salad, an entree (such as cassoulet or winter squash lasagna) and dessert.
In surroundings that are cozy (get a private booth) without being stuffy, chef-owner Scott Bradley gives you a choice of a two-course dinner at $25.95 (lobster BLT slider followed by sesame seared tuna), a three-course dinner at $34.95, and a sybaritic eight-course tasting menu at $50 a person.
Bellissimo Ristorante, 786 Grand Blvd., Deer Park, 631-274-3378
At this small romantic spot with warm Tuscan decor and candlelight (red candles in honor of the day) you'll find Italian granny Josephine Foresto's a la carte roster of home-style specialties. Standouts: rolled baked lasagna and an ethereal cheesecake.