Four settings, from ocean to Eden, for Valentine’s Day

French and Italian — the languages of romance — are also the languages of romantic food. All the restaurants are tweaking their menus on Feb.14 to include a few tricks from these cuisines, so expect French Champagne, oysters, pastas, fancy pastries and plenty of chocolates.

Locally, we picked four romantic dinners to choose from — all offering some woo-worthy feature.
First is a newcomer to the scene, the Culinary Café in Delray Beach. Chef/owner Dominick Laudia brings his talents, and a pastry chef, from his former job at the Boca Rio Country Club to the cozy boîte.

With only 12 tables and a small bar in a room with taupe walls and dark woods, the Café has an intimate feel despite the open room. Laudia will serve his full menu, which includes a spicy Asian tuna tartare, a jumbo shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon appetizers; charcoal-grilled fillet mignon, rack of lamb, braised short ribs, a crispy duck breast and twin jumbo crab cakes. Entrees range from $14 to $30; beer and wine are served.
A special Valentine’s five-course dinner also is offered at two seatings — 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. The special dinner includes an appetizer “tasting” plus Champagne, a soup, a salad and a choice from four entrees, plus a chocolate truffle “heart” cake for dessert. The special meal is $55 plus tax and tip and other beverages.

If it’s a sea view with open-air tables that delight, consider Caffe Luna Rosa. The Delray Beach oceanside Italian boasts a full bar, and open–to-seaview seating from the dining room and sidewalk.
The chef is planning a few specials, including the seafood-laden pasta, Caccuico di mare, but, as he puts it, “All our food is romantic!”
“Chef Ernesto’s family recipe” is used for one of the house specialties — veal and beef meatballs cooked with a San Marzano tomato sauce. Veal scallopini in marsala sauce, a pan-roasted fresh Atlantic salmon with brown butter sauce over a crispy polenta cake and served with broccoli di rabe, or the house-made creste di gallo alla vodka — the “rooster’s crest”-shaped pasta served with a pink vodka-tomato sauce with seared pancetta and fresh basil are typical of other choices. A special dessert may be on the list. No timed seatings here, but reservations are suggested.

In Lake Worth, La Bonne Bouche, a French charmer that has a burgeoning lunch crowd, will have a four-course candlelit dinner special perfect for a tête-à-tête.

The charm of a French cafe is that it appears effortless to achieve romance in one — tiny candles glowing on the starched linen-topped tables, a French chaunteuse warbling softly through speakers, a lushly landscaped patio with a fountain for soft water sounds — a best bet if stars are out and the weather’s nice. Start by nibbling on the teeny, imported Nicoise olives brought gratis to the tables. Chef/owner Eric Regnier, from Nice, insists these are the most flavorful. French onion soup follows, served with a brioche, a classic egg-dough bread — all baked goods are made on site. A choice of escargot or a salad is next, with a choice of fish or fillet for an entrée. The dessert is the classic opera cake — almond cake soaked in espresso, with a bittersweet chocolate ganache and espresso buttercream fillings. It’s unctuous and rich beyond belief — definitely romantic. Plenty of French Champagne will be on hand as well.

This is another small space — 14 tables indoors and 12 on the patio; reservations are a must.

If nature and lush gardens with twinkling lights remind you of a private tropical island, make reservations for the Sundy House — the top outdoor dining experience in our area. This sublime piece of paradise is one of the top dining attractions in Delray Beach.
The exotic landscaping, full of edible and flowering plants and trees, is softly lit at night, and with a meandering stream throughout (manmade, but it works), it’s a transporting setting for those with amour on their minds.
A four-course dinner is planned for Feb. 14 — with multiple choices throughout. Start with oysters three ways, or a pair of soups — tomato basil and porcini mushroom veloute. Move to a salad of jumbo shrimp on a citrus salad, or lolla rossa salad with candied walnuts and roasted garlic. For an entrée, choose from several dishes, including a tomato-goat cheese ravioli with asparagus coulis and caramelized cauliflower, or Chardonnay-poached halibut with creamed spinach, and a brioche crostini, or lobster ravioli with black truffle pasta, morel cream sauce and buttered lobster tail meat.
Best for last: desserts are chocolate-covered strawberry mousse with a vanilla crème fraiche; chocolate cake, or Bailey’s crème brûlée with caramelized bananas and dulce de leche cream with plantain chips.
Dinner seatings are from 6 to 10 p.m.

If you go:
Culinary Café 1832 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach (Southwest corner of Federal Highway and Linton) (561) 266-8976 Full menu Special five-course menu is $55, plus tax, tip and alcohol. Two Valentine’s Day dinner seatings: 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.
La Bonne Bouche 516 Lucerne Ave., Lake Worth (561) 533-0840 Special four-course meal is $45, plus tax, tip and alcohol. Serving from 6-8 pm. Reservations required.
Sundy House 106 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach (877) 439-9601 Special four-course menu is $75, plus tax, tip and alcohol. Serving from 6-10 p.m.; reservations required.
Caffe Luna Rosa 34 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach (561) 274-9404 Menu specials; full menu and bar available. Dinner served from 4:30-10 p.m.
Reservations required; call 561-274-8898, ext 12.

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