John Mariani, the author of one of my favorite food reference books, The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, offers some true guys’ do’s and don’ts for Valentine’s Day at JohnMariani.com:
By now, every single restaurant in North America is booked solid for Valentine’s Day, which is, of course, the worst day to take the woman you love out to dinner. It’s amateur hour out there. Restaurants serve set, overpriced menus. Dining rooms are packed with overly demonstrative folks who are eating at a fancy-schmancy restaurant for the first time. Here are some pointers on romantic dining in an age when there are so many more choices, so many ways to offend her at the table, and so much gouging of the bill.
– Assuming you’ve got a date, tell her the reservation is 15 minutes earlier than it actually is. This way you’ll be seated on time.
– Italian restaurants, by and large, are your best bet. The staff is affable, they know how to greet a beautiful girl, the food is going to be good even if it’s only okay, and the bill won’t raise your eyebrows over your hairline. Plus, as Neil Simon once said, “There are two laws in the universe: The Law of Gravity and Everybody Likes Italian Food.”
– Pay the bill. If she offers to go Dutch, resist her.
– Offer to switch plates if she hates her meal. If that doesn’t work, ask her what she hates and quietly consult the waiter off to the side.
– Never order soup. It will end up on your shirt.
– Don’t order coffee. Because if you order coffee, how on Earth is she going to invite you back to her place for a cup?
Warning signs your eatery choice is a bad one:
– The host proudly offers you a free glass of “kee-ann-tee” if you order an entree.
– There are women’s undergarments stapled above the bar.
– The menu has tassels and the wine list comes in a three-ring binder.
– Yes, you like oysters. Still, don’t ever suggest a food is an aphrodisiac. It makes you sound like you learned everything you know about romance from your dad’s collection of Penthouse in the garage.