What would your perfect Fort Lauderdale romantic restaurant date look like? Of course, it would start with delightful drinks and fabulous food, but there is so much more. Would you want to dine on upscale Italian or try a taste of tapas? Are you searching for white linen tablecloths or a vibrant scene where they clear the tables, and you dance the night away?
Chef and owner Giovanni Rocchio created both ideals in his side by side restaurant concept of Valentino Cucina Italiana and One Door East. No matter which one you choose, or even if choose both, you will have a romantic night to savor. If you are looking for an Anniversary dinner, a Valentine’s Day surprise, date night, or just a delicious evening out teasing your taste buds with your special someone consider Valentino’s and/or One Door East.
Romantic Opening Cocktail at the Valentino’s Bar
We started our night at the Valentino’s bar. Our eyes immediately gravitated to their specialty cocktails. We flirted with getting a Born Sinner with Ron Zacapa 23, coconut milk, banana liqueur, vanilla bean syrup, lime juice and chocolate bitter. Our tastes run a bit sweet so we asked Blake, the bartender, what he would recommend.
Blake said he created the drink menu looking for balanced flavors that are enjoyed from the tip of your tongue to the back of your throat. He offered to rebalance any drink a bit for our sweeter taste. We accepted his hospitality and ordered a Remedy for a Broken Heart and a Purple Rain, as we imagined saving the Born Sinner for dessert. The Remedy starts with a base of Glenlivet Founders Reserve, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, lemon juice, agave, and ginger syrup. The Purple Rain consists of Bombay Sapphire, crème de violette, orange liqueur, and lime juice. We watched Blake create his magic and settled into conversation.
How did they taste? Fabulous! Blake succeeded in balancing the flavors with a delightful first taste and a smooth finish. The cocktails ran about $16, which seemed reasonable considering the generous amount of top-shelf liquor that went into each creation. The alcohol taste did not overpower us, but we were certainly feeling good by the time we ordered our appetizers. What’s a romantic restaurant date after all without the warm fuzzy feeling of a good cocktail?
Front Row Dining at Valentino’s for Appetizers
Valentino’s does an excellent job of bringing the back of the house to the forefront. The kitchen sits in the middle of the dining space so you can watch the culinary magic happen. White linen-topped tables dotted the dining space, but we selected a front row seat at the counter surrounding the open kitchen.
Chef Giovanni Rocchio and his team were working to prepare for the night’s dinner rush. Sheets of fresh, homemade pasta sat waiting to be crafted into some delicacy. Giovanni was whipping together a decedent looking sauce as we placed our appetizer order. We selected grouper cheeks in an artichoke cream sauce and slow cooked pork belly.
We sat perched on that mystical boundary between the dining area and the kitchen. It took me back to when I was a kid, and I watched the family come together to cook the Thanksgiving meal. Activity and creativity surrounded me in the family kitchen. If I was lucky, I would get an occasional taste of the stuffing. We did not need luck at Valentino’s. Our waiter brought out samples of Caprese salad made with heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and homemade pesto. We certainly felt very special and a little lucky too.
We chatted with Giovanni about how he started cooking in New York City and his first restaurant in Ft Lauderdale that is now a gourmet pizza shop down the street. We also witnessed Chef Albert Diaz create our culinary masterpiece with a delicacy and attention to detail that wowed us. We really felt like we were part of the creative process and our meal was more than food, it was art.
The grouper, topped with strings of purple potatoes and interlaced with tiny flowers was almost too pretty to eat – almost. It tasted as good as it looked and paired perfectly with the pork belly. We explored the dinner menu at Valentino’s and immediately gravitated to the Butternut Tortellini and Ricotta Cavatelli. The hardest part of restaurant hopping was leaving Valentino’s. Our curiosity won out, so we moved over to One Door East to continue our romantic restaurant experience.
The One Door East Experience
Valentino’s describes itself as innovative cuisine with a modern twist set in an atmosphere of elegance. One Door East aims to be a global tapas restaurant where you can taste the flavors of the world. It exudes an upbeat almost hipster vibe with a very different energy than Valentino’s.
Here, you can be comfortable in jeans and laugh with friends. The white linens are replaced with black walls, dark wood, and colorful murals. The energy continues with local bands like VINYL BLVD and Weedline playing live music on Thursday nights or DJ Fabian Giannattasio mixing dance beats for a Saturday night dance party. It is an upscale casual place for friends to gather and lovers to meet – a romantic restaurant with a different twist on romance.
Dinner and Drinks at One Door East
Our romantic culinary world tour started with two handcrafted cocktails – Sage Guru and Monkey in Paradise. The Sage Guru had Mediterranean flavors of sage, citrus, and Moscato. The Monkey in Paradise was a scotch blend of coconut, cherry liquor, and Angostura bitters. We did say our tastes run on the sweet side, but there were plenty of drier options available.
We have heard so many rave reviews about the burnt ends that we had to try them. Burnt ends are a traditional part of Kansas City barbecue made from flavorful pieces of meat cut from the “point” half of a smoked brisket. At One Door East, they slow cook them for 18 hours to form a rich, salty, smoky masterpiece. The presentation comes with pickled red onions, aged cheddar cheese, and dill pickles. The proper way to eat this dish is to combine a little of all the flavors into every delicious bite.
For completeness sake, we also sampled their skirt steak with truffle ponzu and shimeji mushrooms. The steak was cooked to perfection and practically melted in our mouths. Every Friday and Saturday night, they feature sushi and sashimi. We had to try these too since Chef Albert Diaz brought Asian inspiration with him from his time with the Zuma Team. Everything was amazing, and it was all we could do to save enough room for dessert, but for professionalism sake (not to mention our insatiable sweet tooth), it was on to dessert.
Desserts at One Door East
We tried both the banana bread pudding and the chocolate mousse. The banana bread pudding started with delicious banana bread baked into a warm bread pudding and topped with peanut butter ice cream. It was sweet and delicious with a well-balanced texture from top to bottom. The chocolate mousse was decadent to the nth degree, and ornately presented with a delectable blend of salty and sweet. Each bite exposed a new taste and texture to enjoy.
We certainly didn’t need the deserts, but we delightfully savored each and every bite. All the best romantic restaurant dates end with a touch of sweetness.
Wrapping Up a Perfect Romantic Restaurant Date
Although we were guests of Valentino Cucina Italiana and One Door East, we can honestly say the experience would make an excellent cornerstone for a romantic date night of a variety of flavors. We are eager to come back to try the dishes we were not able to find the room for in our stomachs, not to mention the Born Sinner. The artfully created and tantalizing fare coupled with a unique ambiance of two delightfully distinctive venues mix into a truly enjoyable experience.
Additionally, there is a large private dining room for parties of six or more at One Door East. Rumor has it they will be hosting some Dining in the Dark events in the near future. You can bet we will be on the lookout to return for this fun and distinctive culinary adventure.
The Valentino’s website says it perfectly – “In addition to serving only the most delicious dishes, Chef Giovanni Rocchio believes in providing guests with exceptional service and respectful hospitality, all vital elements of a luxurious restaurant operation.” It is more than a fantastic meal; it is a fantastic experience.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Valentinos/ One Door East for hosting us! As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, regardless of who is picking up the tab.