For Valentine’s Day dinner, love over money

According to the National Retail Foundation, the average couple will be spending $20 less on Valentine’s Day this year relative to 2008. But, as many New Haven couples admit, love has no price tag.

From upscale restaurants to local hangouts, owners at many New Haven businesses said they expect a busy Valentine’s Day consumer turnout — possibly even busier than last year’s. Many local restaurants, hotels and clubs are offering special menus and packages for the holiday, and several owners said they anticipate a robust Yale student crowd Saturday night, regardless of the economic recession.

Villarina’s Pasta and Gifts on chapel street celebrates the upcoming holiday with festive decorations.
Macrina Cooper-White
Villarina’s Pasta and Gifts on chapel street celebrates the upcoming holiday with festive decorations.

“No monetary cost should concern you when you’re out on Valentine’s Day,” said Pete Croughan ’12, who said he plans to take his girlfriend out to dinner Saturday.

Matrons at nearly all upscale downtown restaurants, including Union League Cafe, Ibiza, Scoozzi, Central Steakhouse, Bentara, Bespoke and Zinc, also confirmed Thursday that they are completely booked for Saturday night. Tables were available, as of Thursday night, at Pacifico, Miya’s, Hot Tomato’s and Thali — but only after 9:00 p.m.

“We have been completely booked for a week already, which is about the same time we were booked out last year,” Ibiza owner Juan Gonzalez said Wednesday.

Jim Quinlivan, owner and executive chef of The Stone House, a seafood restaurant on the waterfront in Guilford, mentioned that of the 200 seats available in the restaurant, nearly all of them have been reserved.

“We always get so much business on Valentine’s Day,” Quinlivan said. “The economic recession won’t really affect anything, especially since the holiday is on a Saturday this year.”

Andrea Coppola, manager of Café Goodfellas, said the restaurant has already stepped up the event by preparing, among their normal seating hours, a special 11 p.m. dinner lit only by candles, complete with complimentary roses to the ladies and champagne toasts to couples. Stuart London, chef for Nini’s Bistro, said Yale students and faculty usually make up at least half of the bistro’s Valentine’s Day dinners.

“So far this year’s business is about even with last year or perhaps even a little better,” London said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Other upscale restaurants are vamping up the menus with classier dishes. Ibiza will be offering a special Valentine’s Day menu including octopus salad, tres baby lamb traviolis, baby-back ribs, oysters, comme fite on toast bread, lobster with fideua and beef tenderloin with mushroom risotto. London planned Nini’s Bistro’s menu, which will include chocolate tarts and tiramisu, with “sexy foods” in mind.

Heirloom, located within The Study at Yale, will also be serving a special Valentine’s menu.

Some smaller venues are riding on Cupid’s arrow as well. Dolci, the chocolate bar on State Street that opened two months ago, plans on keeping it simple with chocolate-covered strawberries and garnished martinis. Dolci owner Anthony Urbano said he plans to “keep it classy” by sprinkling rose petals on the bar and on the tables. Of the small dining area, six of the 10 reservations as of Wednesday have been booked for a Saturday dinner.

“We expect a good amount of couples from Yale, especially grad students,” Urbano said.

Blue State Coffee, the newly opened coffee shop on Wall Street, is planning a two-for-one deal with coffee and cupcakes. Any purchase of both all day Saturday will earn a free cupcake or coffee, store manager Benjamin Wilkinson said.

But even for single Yalies, the economic recession will not subtract from the numerous events planned for this weekend. A majority of male students interviewed — nine of 10 — said they were excited about the prospect of a Valentine’s Day with no obligations.

“There are so many things that will be happening on campus on Saturday, with many single ladies at them,” Jake Cohen ’12 said.

Saturday night promises many venues for single Yalies, including a circulating Facebook event titled “(Actual) Valentine’s Day Party” at SAE. Its charismatic subtitle reads: “Who needs love? Lets get blackout and go to Toads.”

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