A Slice to Remember: Meet Romantic Diners Michelle + Tom

Winners-2We’ve got Valentine’s Day on our brain! Here’s another Romantic Dining Stories Giveaway winner with her tale of how her beau stole her heart with a visit to a legendary pizzeria. 

Name: Michelle S.

Romantic dining partner: Husband Tom.

Married: August 1994.

Hometown: Huntington, New York.

Oh, what a slice: “After many years attending graduate school at NYU Stern School of Business part time, I was finally graduating. When I asked my boyfriend Tom (now my husband) how he would like to celebrate, he told me to leave it up to him. So, for weeks, I ruminated on which great NYC restaurant he would take me to. Would it be Bouley, One if By Land Two if By Sea, or La Grenouille — or maybe some new restaurant that we had never been to? As the day approached, I donned my best white dress and attended graduation ceremonies. He would still not tell me where we were headed, and as we began to walk,  he said that it wasn’t a long walk. All he would tell me was that it was a Greenwich Village institution, and since was I was part-time student (working the other half) and had not had the chance to really experience the area, he thought to make up for it. When we stopped in front of a pizza parlor named John’s, I was very taken aback and immediately disappointed. However, after he explained the significance of the restaurant, I began to calm down. And, after I had my first bite of the most wonderful pizza in the world, it will be a memory I will always treasure!”

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Marriage Proposals

marry meWith Valentine’s Day fast approaching, love is in the air. A 2013 survey by American Express revealed that 6 million people were planning or anticipating a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day, and we imagine that number will be similar for 2014. Since it is one of the most popular dining holidays, we’re betting there will be a lot of folks popping the question in restaurants this weekend. Find out how the hospitality professionals at restaurants throughout the OpenTable network have helped diners ask for their beloved’s hand in marriage in the last few weeks in these recent OpenTable restaurant reviews. And, if you’ve gotten engaged at a restaurant, share your story in our comments section, on Facebook, or Google+

Astor Court, Atlanta, Georgia: “The staff at Astor Court could not have been more helpful in assisting in my proposal. They were friendly and accommodating, even adding some of their own suggestions to make the surprise more romantic. I went during a weekday, so it was not too busy which was perfect for us. The food was excellent as well, capping off a good night!”

Due Amici, Columbus, Ohio: “The food and service were fantastic. I surprised my girlfriend with a proposal and ring, and the Due Amici staff helped to make it a big surprise. She couldn’t help but say yes.”

* Geneva Chophouse, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: “I’ve been there a half dozen times on my own. This last time, I took my girlfriend and proposed. I called ahead and left a message asking for a table with a view to propose. The whole staff knew and they were excited and accommodating. I was very nervous throughout dinner, and the manager came over and asked us how our meal was and she put her hand on my shoulder and calmed me down! It was beautiful — the view, the restaurant, and the proposal! I am forever grateful to all of the staff that evening.”

Gracie’s, Providence, Rhode Island: “Many thanks to the staff of Gracie’s, who always go above and beyond, but particularly this night when everyone (but my then-girlfriend) knew that it was a big night for us — proposal night. I had made arrangements with staff beforehand, and everything was set and ready for our arrival. Throughout the night, we were congratulated by staff and patrons alike, and the staff were quite cognizant of the fact that my fiancée was making calls to her family and friends and gave us our space. I don’t think we ordered until an hour after we sat down!”

Havana Central, Garden City, New York: “I called after I made my reservation and spoke to William, the manager. I told him that my then-boyfriend’s birthday was on January 20th, and I wanted to propose to him. William and my waiter, Zane, as well as the other staff were WONDERFUL!!! Everything was planned out the way I pictured it and my fiancé said YES!!!!! Everyone at Havana Central did a great job, and I can’t wait to set up my Valentines day function there with my friends!!!”

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Fondue or Fon-don’t: Does Melted Cheese Melt Hearts?

Fondue-or-FondontWe recently announced the winners of the OpenTable Diners’ Choice award for the Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants. Of the 50, a whopping 12 were Melting Pot restaurants, where fondue anchors the menus. Two other winners, La Fondue and Simply Fondue, are also, as you might have guessed by their names, fondue-friendly eateries. The Chicago Tribune‘s food blog, The Stew, picked up on our list’s fromage factor and ran with it, while the clever folks over at Eater didn’t want to give a shout out to these restaurants when they generously covered our list, saying, “[F]ondue hasn’t been considered romantic since Three’s Company went off the air.” The fact remains, however, that many diners find fondue to be the perfect mood food for a romantic evening.

What exactly is it that makes love bloom over melted cheese and other cook-it-yourself delights? We weren’t quite sure, so we reached out to our network of diners over Facebook and Twitter. Bulbul Gupta says, “Interactive food is always a great date dinner idea, interactive anything is very romantic — you learn to share early on and can easily feed each other with a one-foot distance without it getting overly mushy…perfect!” Diner Teresa Miller concurs, “The Melting Pot in Larkspur is VERY romantic. The location is in an old brick kiln with lots of low lighting. Cheese is comfort food, hence the reason why romance blooms when bellies are satisfied!” Jennifer Kaplan, also a fondue fan, says, “My husband and I do find it romantic. The lighting is low and the tables are reasonably secluded. We enjoy lingering over our dinner and find the food to be very good.” Ryan Mathus tweets, “I find fondue/Melting Pot cool just because it’s not your traditional meal and more hands on. It’s all about us.” Fellow tweep Jen Fairchild notes, rather poetically (or erotically?), “Fondue is steamy and hot and thick and creamy and good…just like love!”

Perhaps the best and not-at-all cheesy cheese story we heard comes from OpenTable diner Cara Couture of Charlotte, North Carolina. She writes, “My husband and I go to The Melting Pot any time we have reason to celebrate — graduation, anniversary, new job, a Friday night — but our favorite reason was to celebrate our engagement. In between the limo ride and the chartered plane trip around the city of Columbus, Ohio, my then-fiancé made dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant, The Melting Pot, where a bouquet of roses was at our regular table with a congratulations card signed by the restaurant staff. To this day, that remains the most romantic night of my life.” Sigh. My husband’s marriage proposal is looking more and more lame the more stories I hear like this one (a chartered plane?). But, I digress.

To find out if the people from The Melting Pot had any insights as to why their dining experience is so aphrodisiacal, we reached out to Chad Hornik, who owns several Melting Pot locations, including those in Richmond and Virginia Beach,  which were included on our Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants winners for 2010. Hornik says of his restaurants’ romantic appeal, “Dining with fondue creates an aura of romance. It’s a participation meal — you’re cooking, helping, talking. Even if the conversation gets awkward, diners can talk about the food.” Also, “The lighting is dim, and each table is designed to have its own intimate atmosphere. We even have curtains that block off some of our tables, and sometimes we have to knock before we enter!” The Melting Pot, though, is more than just cheese. Hornik adds, “The cheese is just the appetizer. It’s a relaxed four-course dining experience, and the desserts…well, dipping strawberries into chocolate is pretty romantic.”

Chad, you had me (and, most certainly, my chocoholic husband) at strawberries and chocolate. Perhaps a a trip to The Melting Pot will prompt a second proposal. And, yes, Curt, that means a second ring.