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Help - Big First Date In Calgary

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Well, usually this wouldn't be a problem for me, but I have a date coming up in Calgary and I'm at a bit of a loss. The issue is that I'll just be there visiting family... I live in Switzerland, and so I'm not sure where to start looking for the right place.

The other complication is that the woman I'll be meeting is quite careful with money. Yes, I'll be paying for the dinner, but I took a look at Capo and while it looks fantastic, I'm concerned that even if the prices are not an issue for me, they are going to make her uncomfortable, no matter who is paying. And while I want to treat her well, I'm a lot more interested in being in a place that she'll fully enjoy, even if that means dropping the bar a notch.

So, I'm looking for a place (downtown, if possible), where we won't be out of place if we're dressed well, with good atmosphere, quiet enough that we can talk comfortably, but not so quiet that we can't talk, if you know what I mean.

Price-wise, maybe in the area of starters/mains/dessert with a couple glasses of wine (neither of us drink much) for around $100-$150.

Any suggestions?

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  1. I was at Bonterra last night and the food was great. You can get a main pasta for $20 or a meat for $38 max. It is a good first date place not too fancey but a good room and great service.

    Here is the web page.
    http://www.bonterra.ca/

    The other place I would recommend would be brava bistro on 17th ave.

    Hope that helps

    1. If you live in Switzerland and your date's in Calgary, she'd better get over her fear of spending lots and lots of money, and fast. Long distance relationships are expensive, to put it mildly (speaking as somebody who emigrated to Canada to end the LD part). But maybe there's something in this scenario I'm not understanding- for example, if your family is here, can they make recommendations?

      Anyway, there are many places in or near downtown that would meet your price and ambience requirements. You can certainly get out of Divino or Brava for less than $150. Bonterra is a good suggestion too. Jaro Blue is fun and good value with good tunes and it's great for conversation.

      1. Divino would fit the bill.

        1. I third Bonterra. It is very un-intimidating and very good food and ambiance. Also, Wildwood and River Cafe. Jaro Blue, I also concur. Capo would definitely not feel comfortable - too small and the 'who's who' of Calgary may be there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sarah galvin

            Yes, definitely not Capo for a first date -- tables are too close together. How about Il Gallo Nero? Great, friendly service and the room is elegant without being pretentious.

          2. Hey, thanks for the responses, everyone. Bonterra does certainly look like a good choice. Just a question... I'm used to Italian food being pasta as starter, meat as second course - is that the way they do it there, or are the pastas all main-sized?

            Oh, and my family's dining habits and mine are a little different. They tend to gravitate towards Mother Tucker's types of places, which I don't mind, but are not quite what I'm looking for. Hence the cry for help... as for the money thing... yeah, I know. But I'm moving there in December, in any case, so at least there is a relatively short window of long distance-ness to be dealt with!

            Divino is one that I had been considering, and does look good - glad to hear a little more support for that, too.

            Il Gallo Nero is really intriguing... I have looked for some reviews since you mentioned it and they are all good - no one seems to have anything bad to say, but I haven't been able to find a sample of the menu online, or a page for the restaurant at all. Has anybody seen more about it? An idea of prices? Is it traditional Italian, or fusion?

            6 Replies
            1. re: rhythm_machine

              I say Divino or Brava as second to Divino.

              And while I don't the food is the best ever (good enough but not authentic), I do think Mercato could be a good spot for you since there are many distractions. Yes distractions. It is always packed, so there are a lot of people to watch, and this will likely detract from any lulls in the conversation. Too much silence on a first date feels uncomfortable, no matter how good the food. You might want to sit "at the bar", which is really "at the kitchen" as you can watch the chefs at work. Then you wouldn't run out of things to talk about either. This does, however, mean that you can't really look each other in the eye as you'll be sitting side by side, and on very tall chairs which might start to be uncomfortable for you. I like Divino a lot, but Mercato might make things feel a little bit more rustic. You could also share the antipasto platter, and sharing food has to be a good start to a relationship, no?

              1. re: rhythm_machine

                Ah, that explains a bit, not that it was any of my business...

                Better Italian restos to indeed offer pasta as primi if you want it that way- what we do at Centini for example is to get an appie, split an order of pasta, then mains, and they're very amenable to that.

                Oh, and welcome home!

                1. re: rhythm_machine

                  Mains at Il Gallo Nero are in the mid 20's to 30's; it's fairly traditional as we spent last spring eating our way through Italy and I can say the quality and cooking style is very similar to what we had in good restaurants in Italy. We don't drink and our bill is well within the range that you mention.

                  Plus they do desert well; you know how you go to a great restaurant and then it's a let down at desert time. Not there. As John mentions, we often split a pasta for primi, and it's not a problem.

                  1. re: sweeterpea

                    I would give another vote to Divino, as it has a very warm ambiance befitting a first date. You also have the option of a booth or a table. The food and service are very good. Moreover, if the date is going well, you are in the heart of downtown and can easily stroll to many nearby places for a post-dinner drink.

                    I have found the service at Il Gallo Nero to be a bit hurried, Brava is great but it can get very loud.

                    1. re: shopwinedinefine

                      We've been to Il Gallo Nero 4-5 times and never found the service hurried. We usually spend around 2 hours there for dinner.

                  2. re: rhythm_machine

                    The pastas are usually the primi and not secondi at Bonterra. Il Gallo Nero is good but IMHO it isn't as good as Bonterra. Atmosphere at Bonterra is also nicer. I also love Divino.

                  3. Well, I decided to try Bonterra... but the others will certainly stay on my follow-up list. Thanks again for the help - I'm looking forward to trying it out!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rhythm_machine

                      Bonterra's a good choice. Ask for the patio if the weather's good, they have the nicest patio in the city.

                    2. Let us know how you like it!