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5 & Dine: Romance Is in the Air

Discover these five restaurants for Valentine's Day in South Florida.

Val+Tino

Address: 620 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale

The Buzz: With its extensive wine list and a five-course tasting menu that changes regularly, chef Giovanni Rocchio knows a thing or two about Italian cooking. He shares his love for flavors with dishes that are meant to evoke adventure. The multi-course tasting allows guests to try the culinary offerings of the Bistronomy-infused dining experience. There is also a filled-to-the brim à la carte menu, which includes specialty starters to share, along with a hefty appetizer menu including a must: foie gras with huckleberry, pistachio, and violet. For entrees, take your pick from creative pasta dishes, plus a hearty selection of fish and meat. Save room for dessert–the Chartreuse puff pastry with mascarpone and milk chocolate gelato.

Contact: 954.451.1200; valandtino.com

Théos Estiatório

Address: 1826 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

The Buzz: The story of how Théos Estiatório got its start is a tale of romance. Theo Xidis grew up eating homemade Greek food. When he came to South Florida, he couldn’t find a restaurant that gave him the same comfort. Yearning for the dishes he so loved, he and his wife, Grace, would travel to Corinth, Greece, where his parents were born, just to satisfy their longing. So rather than travel almost 6,000 miles four times a year, the couple decided to bring the flavors and the food here, The menu selection is abundant – everything from Greek paella to Chilean sea bass, and there’s no shortage of lamb dishes. Even the olive oil is imported from Theo’s family village. Above all, the couple says the dishes are created from the heart.

Contact: 954.404.3040; theosestiatorio.com

Vitolo

Address: 551 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

The Buzz: Here’s the A-list who loves Anthony Vitolo – Denzel Washington, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Barack Obama, JLO, and the woman of the hour, Taylor Swift, who recently had a gal pal get-together at Vitolo’s SoHo New York eatery that lasted until past 1 a.m. Name-drop the A-list to impress your date as you dine on the same authentic Italian cuisine the stars eat amid the sophisticated ambiance at Vitolo’s namesake restaurant in the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel. Vitolo learned his craft while working in the kitchen of his family’s restaurant, Emilio’s Ballato, in Manhattan. One thing that the original restaurant doesn’t have is the outdoor terrazza, a dream setting for romantic al fresco dinners à la a Roman trattoria. Vitolo’s signature dish is a homemade tagliatelle with a 72-hour Bolognese made with beef, veal, and pork ragu–a celebrity favorite.

Contact: 954.414.5127; vitolitaliano.com

Serafina

Address: 926 NE 20th Ave., Fort Lauderdale

The Buzz: The Victoria Park trattoria plays a never-ending soundtrack of Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bublé and Il Divo and dinner is served by candlelight overlooking the Middle River. This is cena con amore, dinner with love amid flavors inspired by northern Italy. Perfect for two, the Burrata Per Due, imported Italian cheese, prosciutto, and sliced tomatoes, there’s plenty of pasta, of course, from traditional lasagna to the chef’s curated Sacchetoni Pesto, pasta stuffed with pear and ricotta. The dish that’s as memorable as the setting is the Osso Buco D’Angello — slow braised lamb shank in a demi-glace bola sauce over a bed of wild mushroom sauce. Mangia!

Contact: 954.463.2556; serabythewater.com

Truluck’s

Address: 701 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

The Buzz: With unobstructed views of Fort Lauderdale Beach in the dining room and then some at an outdoor table for two, Truluck’s has the location and food for a romantic night out. The venerable dining establishment made a name for itself as an upscale restaurant at The Galleria Mall but closed just at the start of the pandemic. Now it’s back and taking advantage of the chain’s first-ever beachfront restaurant. For February, Truluck’s celebrates the sentimental month with a special menu, if you so choose, of romantic pairings. There’s the Tru Love Cocktail made with vodka, almond syrup, strawberries and other delectable flavorings, a filet mignon paired with lobster tail, or a delicious duo of prime ribeye and prime king crab. Take note: Cupid’s arrow only strikes between Oct. 15 through May 1 for Truluck’s fresh Florida stone crab claw season, of which we’re in the midst. Don’t let it pass you by.

Contact:  954.908.2255; trulucks.com

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