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Aug 28, 2007 08:33 PM

Romantic dining in Boston

Help! I'm new to Chow Hound and looking for a great restaurant for my anniversary a la the Grotto or a great hole in the wall in the North End. Any advice is welcome. Thanks,

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  1. My pick is actually the Monday Bar at Upstairs on the Square in Harvard Square. Atmosphere is upscale but lively and quirky (they managed to salvage some of the old Upstairs at the Pudding atmosphere vs. the deadly pink nightmare that's their new formal dining room) and we've always had good luck with the menu there (though I think you can order from the dining room menu as well).

    2 Replies
      1. re: Theo Noell

        If you're thinking about dining in Cambridge, you might check out Central Kitchen. We ate at the Monday Club Bar and CK two nights apart in August, and found that Central Kitchen was more "hole in the wall" romantic... dark, intimate, great food and bartending. Monday Club is a fun spot ("lively and quirky" just as CinB describes), and definitely worth a trip, but CK is IMHO more romantique.

        You can find my reviews of each at

    1. That's always a tricky question. I can remember finding romance in a TGI Friday's (granted, I was young and it was the swankiest place I could afford at the time) and another time in a pretty terrible beach shack. Also in a fabulous, fancy, dimly-lit place of the sort that you expect to be romantic, except my date accidentally knocked over her first glass of wine, and in my suaveness, I caught it before it landed on the table. Unfortunately, in so doing, I launched its entire contents in a seemingly laser-guided stream right down the front of her dress. And yet that evening, and the subsequent year or so, turned out pretty well.

      I do like Grotto for its dim lighting and rich food. It's romantic in a very casual, not-trying-too-hard kind of way. Carmen in the North End is another like this, a bit intimate, with close seating, pretty nice food and good wine; not a lot to distract from conversation. There are some small, high-quality restaurants I like for just the two of us: Salts, Ten Tables, Lala Rokh, Jasmine Bistro. But the food at these places might be too unusual, or the atmosphere not formal or elegant enough to be deemed occasion-worthy by some people.

      I myself am increasingly of the mind that anniversaries and other event dinners are just as enjoyably celebrated at less formal restaurants, if it's a place whose food you really love, and especially if you've shared a lot of good memories with your SO there. One of my favorite big-number birthdays was held at the old, dumpy Green Street Grille, with its big, messy plates of humble, fiery Caribbean food. My friends knew me well enough to know that, to my mind, that was the perfect place for a big-night celebration with a bunch of my friends and family, especially with the live Latin music later on. These days, I would probably be happier having a leisurely anniversary meal at Trattoria Toscana or Taberna de Haro or Neptune Oyster than at most places in town where dinner for two runs $300.

      But sometimes the lavish, occasion-place meal is what's called for. I think the seating around the edges of Pigalle, and its food, are pretty romantic. Great service helps. For a big anniversary, I might do the Front Room at L'Espalier (especially since its days are numbered), a corner booth at Rialto, the lower level of Icarus on a weeknight, maybe an extended stay at Uni's bar, if my beloved were daring about seafood. If you love Italian, that little two-person dining room at Mamma Maria or a few shared courses at Prezza might do the job. A craving for mod atmosphere and good service might suggest Mistral or Sorellina. If you like creative Japanese, consider Oishii Boston or O Ya. I don't tend to think of steak in the same breath as romance, but if you do, consider one of the new, non-chain, locally-owned luxury steakhouses: Boston Public, KO Prime, or Mooo....

      You can probably get better suggestions if you add more to your post with some of your current favorites and why you love them. In any event, welcome, congrats, and please report back on wherever you end up!

      1. How about Marco in the North End?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Girl Friday

          I would recommend Dali over in Sommerville/Cambridge or Tapeo on Newbury Street. Both are always ranked in City Search and what not for 'Most Romantic'

          1. re: Girl Friday

            I personally think Marco is sufficiently uneven, at least based on a recent RW outing, to be skittish about using it as a romance destination. <> for the gory details. I'd pick Grotto in a heartbeat -- as MC Slim JB says, tries much less hard, and to my mind succeeds more consistently (maybe not as spectacularly as Marco, but also does less ho-hum than Marco, and for a lot few lire).