With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there are a couple of things that are guaranteed. Your girl will be expecting flowers, a sappy card and, at the very least, a good meal. So, on the one day when you are expected to pony up and take her some place nice, at least make sure you have a meal that is worth your dollar.

Rochester has plenty of fine dining all over the city and around the outskirts. There are the surefire spots like Restaurant 2 Vine in the city’s East End or Tastings in Pittsford, which will not disappoint. Those are all well and good, but if you are thinking of going against the grain this Valentine’s Day, consider one of these three restaurants for your romantic night out.

Tapas 177: With an amalgamation of different cultural influences all over the menu, Tapas is sure to offer the both of you a taste that you haven’t experienced yet in Rochester or possibly anywhere else. Located right on St. Paul Street, you walk in the door to a dimly lit lounge and a bar with a martini menu longer than your arm. But that isn’t on the agenda for the night; rather, it’s the great seating downstairs and modish atmosphere that attracted you there.

When I went there a month ago, there were so many appetizing items on the menu that my date and I didn’t know where to begin. We decided to share prosciutto-wrapped artichoke hearts to start, which ended up being a great choice. For the main course, the seared sea scallops went over very well, but the absolute hit of the night was the pan-seared ostrich. I ordered it more on a dare than anything else, but it ended up being a more flavorful, tender version of beef with great sides to complete a perfectly put together meal.

If you decide on Tapas, take my word that the ostrich is a must. It sounds weird at first, but after I tasted it I was a believer. When all was said and done, everything we had ordered was a success, and we topped it off with some delicious banana spring rolls for dessert. I thought the whole experience was impressive and was a great venue for a romantic meal.

Bacco’s Ristorante: This small Italian restaurant on Park Ave. is an ideal spot for a private Valentine’s Day date. Romance is virtually written on the walls, and welcoming vibes and good conversation seem to come with the territory. It reminded me of that Billy Joel song, and, yes, I know how corny I am.

Don’t be turned off by the fact that the restaurant is a converted house because, when it comes down to it, Bacco’s knows how to do authentic Italian very, very well. They have a great wine list, and they serve you bruschetta with the bread as soon as you sit down. They have all of the classic staples on the menu. We ordered mussels in a spicy marinara as well as pasta bolognaise, both of which were outstanding.

In addition to being a very intimate experience, I consider Bacco’s Ristorante the best Italian food I’ve had so far here in Rochester.

One Restaurant: If Alexander and East Ave. is where you are going to end up the night of Valentine’s, then One is a perfect place to stop first. This trendy restaurant opened in September and provides a convenient start to a full night out on A Street.

Although it is not as amorous as the other two, One makes up for its lack of intimacy with a great overall atmosphere and equally great menu options.

The chef keeps things simple but offers a dish for any appetite, ranging from sea bass and Crab Louis to One Sliders (three Angus bacon and cheddar mini-burgers). When I went a couple weeks ago, I ordered one of that night’s specials: an eight-ounce beef tenderloin, which was precision grilled to my specifications. The most memorable part of the meal for me, however, was the chocolate coconut snowballs we ordered for dessert – wow!

To top things off, the restaurant converts into an upscale club around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday so you can have easy transition from dinner to after hours.

With my final words, I would just like to advise that even if you don’t take my suggestions for this Valentine’s Day, do yourself a favor and try to have something else thoughtfully planned. After all, you don’t want to spend the whole next month in the dog house because you didn’t make the effort to deliver something special.

Park is a member of the class of 2009.

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