The thought of romantic dining often conjures corny scenes involving flower bouquets and awkward serenades, but it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, there are countless romantic restaurants in New York City to suit all kinds of love: local legends slinging French fare, cheese-obsessed wine bars tucked into cabins and pasta professionals twirling cacio e pepe. At New York City’s most romantic restaurants, you’ll spend a glamorous evening sipping glasses of wine, sawing into rib-eyes, and perhaps even finding a bit of true love.
Treat your date to dinner in a private room at Nonna Beppa
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
Nonna Beppa's intimate back room can be reserved for a private dining experience | Courtesy of Nonna Beppa
Hidden down a flight of stairs, past Nonna Beppa’s main dining room, is a teeny private room fit for two people. A small table and two chairs are placed in this wine cellar, its walls plastered with bottles of Italian wine. In this room, you’ll let the chef design an Italian feast for two, based on your culinary preferences. There might be creamy carrot soup crowned with a shaving of black truffles, or hand-rolled tortellini bobbing in chicken broth. The meal itself is $150, with an additional charge for a wine pairing.
The hardest part about dining at Zenkichi is finding the unmarked door. But once you do, you’ll be led through the sleek restaurant and deposited at your own personal booth hidden by bamboo curtains. To order, simply press the button on your table to request dishes like house-made tofu, grilled black cod, and bowls of hot udon soup. The private tables and secretive, quiet setting are about as amorous as you can get.
Tuck into farm-to-table fare at Blue Hill after a stroll around Washington Square Park
Restaurant, American, $$$
Take a cue from the Obamas – who’ve often frequented Greenwich Village’s Blue Hill on trips to New York – and snag a seat at this farm-to-table restaurant. The elegant, slightly hidden restaurant is tucked into a landmark speakeasy, just off Washington Square Park. You’ll have the option to choose between a tasting menu and the constantly rotating a la carte menu, with which you’ll experience chef Dan Barber’s ode to the farm: mushroom tartare crowned with egg yolk, Blue Hill Farm pig with leeks, and smoked apple and diver sea scallops with koginut squash. The lights are dim, the food is dazzling without being fussy, and there’s a thick wine list prepped for the requisite celebratory clinking glasses.
Satisfy your appetite (for love or anything else) at this oyster bar and cocktail bar all rolled up into one seafood restaurant. Equipped with one of the city’s best raw bars, Maison Premiere features nearly 30 oyster varieties, excellent cocktails (the bar stores New York’s largest collection of premium absinthes), and Paris-inspired décor. Come for the aphrodisiacs, stay for the intimate setting and absinthe panna cotta.
Il Buco is filled with all sorts of knick-knacks | Courtesy of Il Buco
Little can distract from the charming tchotchkes plastered along the walls and the fluttering candles at Il Buco – except for the mountainous bowls of pasta that are shuttled out of the kitchen. Thick ribbons of tagliatelle may emerge tossed with pancetta and fig, or creamy risotto could be dotted with black trumpet mushrooms and pecorino. Il Buco has remained a downtown mainstay for over 20 years, serving its NoHo neighborhood intimate dinners and heavy pours of wine.
Vinegar Hill House, Brooklyn | Courtesy of Vinegar Hill House, credit: Ingalls Photography
For a meal that feels more like a romantic getaway, try Vinegar Hill House. The rustic restaurant, housed in Vinegar Hill (a teeny neighborhood next to DUMBO), specializes in comfort food: farmstead cheese with fruit jam, cast-iron chicken swimming in sherry vinegar, and chocolate Guinness cake swiped with cream cheese frosting. After dinner, take a stroll through the charming neighborhood of cobblestone streets and cute houses.
It’s hard to beat the views seen from The River Café. Nestled along the East River, the restaurant’s soaring windows showcase the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. The views alone are enough to make anyone fall in love, but the New American food is equally spectacular and romantic: oysters, caviar service, and poached lobster. Polish it all off with the chocolate Brooklyn Bridge dessert – the kitchen’s signature sweet – a milk chocolate marquise shaped like the bridge, flush with coconut sorbet, coffee Chantilly, and espresso caramel.
Indulge in flavorful Italian dishes within I Sodi's cozy interior
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
With just a scattering of tables, I Sodi certainly requires a reservation. This white tablecloth establishment in the West Village is operated by Rita Sodi, a self-taught chef who flaunts Tuscan fare: lasagna layered with delicate meat sauce, branzino squeezed with lemon, and cords of pasta hidden under a showering of shaved white truffles. The refined restaurant offers a dizzying bar program, replete with eight riffs on the negroni, plus an extensive wine list. Cozy up at the bar or snuggle up at one of the few tables; either way, you’ll end up crushing on the plate of cacio e pepe in front of you.
Gotham Bar and Grill uses the freshest seasonal produce, acquired from a nearby market | Courtesy of Gotham Bar and Grill
Gotham Bar & Grill is run by Alfred Portale, who takes his cooks to the nearby Union Square Greenmarket every morning, fetching fresh and seasonal produce. The cavernous space is outfitted with white tablecloths and smartly suited servers, who set down plates with Portale’s signature vertical cuisine: tuna tartare soaring to the sky, Maine lobster delicately pointing to the ceiling, and racks of lamb placed so that the bones lean upward. Polish everything off with a slice of soft, decadent chocolate cake.
Stationed in Aaron Burr’s 18th-century carriage house, One if by Land, Two if by Sea has been cooking up fine dining in the West Village since 1973. The high ceilings are outfitted with gold chandeliers and candelabra, and on cold evenings fires crackle in brick fireplaces. The three-course prix fixe, rife with Hudson Valley foie gras, braised lamb, and a rack of veal, will run you $109, but the live music and romantic setting will help distract from the sizable bill.
Few things are more romantic than cozying up in a velour booth with a goblet of wine and noshing on comforting Parisian bistro specialities made with New York flair. White plates brimming with coq au vin, steak frites, and garlicky escargot land on white tablecloths at this West Village staple, which is operated by chef Harold Moore and his fiancée.
Black Mountain Wine House, New York | Courtesy of Black Mountain Wine House
Nothing screams love like intimate cabins, steamy fireplaces, and cheese fondues. That’s exactly what’s on the menu at Black Mountain Wine House, a snug little wine bar tucked into a bona fide cabin in Gowanus. Here, you’ll taste wines sourced from Austria to the Finger Lakes as you keep warm by the fire. Small plates run the gamut from truffle oil mac ‘n’ cheese to platters of charcuterie and cheese.
LaRina specialises in pasta dishes | Courtesy of La Rina
This Italian hotspot on Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene boasts a tiny kitchen churning out freshly made pasta, like linguine swirled with sea urchin and ravioli jammed with delicata squash. The move here, though, is to split the $38 pasta tasting with your date, so you’ll share three different pastas. Although the restaurant itself is quite small, there’s a secret patio in the back crawling with leafy vines – the perfect hideaway to sip negronis and twirl spaghetti.
LaRina serves up pasta in all shapes and sizes Courtesy of La Rina
Watch chefs cook up a storm at Sushi of Gari
Restaurant, Sushi, Japanese, $$$
Shushi of Gari | Courtesy of Venue
This snug sushi gem on the Upper East Side has been delicately slicing fish since 1997. It’s tiny inside, scattered with only a few tables, but if you want to see the fury of the chefs working away, you’ll have to sit at the counter. Simply stick with rolls, or opt for the daily omakase, the chef-selected sushi, and sashimi tasting.
There’s no better time to take a trip to Harlem than on weeknights, when Marcus Samuelsson’s southern restaurant welcomes you with live brassy music. As you feast on jerk chicken and tender braised short rib, musicians take center stage spinning hip hop or crooning jazzy vocals. On weekends, step down to Ginny’s Supper Club – a speakeasy below the restaurant – for the gospel brunch featuring Marcus’s cornbread and gumbo stew.
The toughest thing about Lucali is getting in. The lines may curl out the door and pizza lovers often have to wait two hours just to snag one of the few seats. There are no reservations, but once you’ve made it into Mark Iacono’s Carroll Gardens’ pizzeria, you’ll understand the hype. The sliver of a space is decked out in flickering candles, and in the back – aka the kitchen – the pizzaiolos roll out pizza dough with wine bottles and shower it with hunks of mozzarella and basil before slipping it into the wood-fired oven. Lucali’s charm resides in the kitchen’s focus on churning out crisped-up, charred pizzas.
Enrique Olvera’s dimly lit love song to Mexican cuisine pairs a wealth of tequila with duck carnitas for two, built by diners on warm corn tortillas. You’ll want to share other plates as well, like a fluke tostada drizzled with blue corn aioli, sweet corn tlayudas, and dark mole negro. But the main attraction is the dessert menu, which offers crispy shards of husk meringue shattered down the center with airy corn mousse.