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.
Update – As of March 2020 Valentino’s/ One Door East has closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have a link on their website for a Go Fund Me account to help their staff during this challenging time. We hope they will be able to re-open in the future!
Romantic Opening Cocktail at the Valentino’s BarWe 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 AppetizersValentino’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.
The One Door East ExperienceValentino’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.
Dinner and Drinks at One Door EastOur 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.
Desserts at One Door EastWe 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.
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. This is the type of dining experience than can anchor a romantic getaway to Fort Lauderdale and enhance your entire Florida vacation.
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.
- Location: 620 S Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
- Hours: Mon-Sat open at 5. Closed Sundays
- Parking: Limited on street parking. Valet available.
- Price: $$$-$$$$
- Phone: (954) 523-5767
- Websites: Valentino Cucina Italiana – One Door East