The iconic Valentine’s Day scene of couples sitting at restaurant tables for two, eating candlelit dinners, will look different this year, with tables spaced farther apart, and many couples enjoying their romantic dinners at home.
Now, local restaurateurs are figuring out ways to meet those disparate demands and ensure that their patrons have the Valentine’s Day dinners they’ve dreamed about, while also adhering to New York state’s pandemic regulations on indoor dining.
Under state law, indoor and outdoor tables must be six feet apart, or separated by barriers if physical distancing is not possible, and all State Liquor Authority-licensed establishments must close at 10 p.m.
Theodore Delis, owner of the Alpine Restaurant in Franklin Square, said that his restaurant would be able to accommodate only 70 people at a time, indoors and in a heated tent outside, and Maria Caliendo, owner of Prince Umberto’s in Franklin Square, said she would be able to accommodate only 12 at a time.
“It’s like a lost cause in our dining room,” Caliendo said, noting that Prince Umberto’s, at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike, used to offer outdoor dining in heated tents as well, but fewer people have taken advantage of it in colder weather, and she had to take down the tent anyway after last week’s nor’easter.
“No one wants to come out and dine outside in 20-degree weather,” Vito Cortesiano, co-owner of Salvatore’s of Elmont, said, “and no one wants to dine inside with Covid.”
Instead, both the Alpine and Salvatore’s are serving specials for couples to enjoy at home. Alpine is offering prix fixe menus for patrons to enjoy at home, comprising two appetizers, two dinners, two desserts and a basket of bread like those they would get at the restaurant, for $79.95. A bottle of wine is an extra $15.
“We’ll get more orders like that delivered,” Caliendo said, explaining that many of Prince Umberto’s patrons are elderly, and are afraid to dine out during the pandemic.
Salvatore’s, meanwhile, is offering heart-shaped pizza specials for $32.95, which include a heart-shaped cheese pizza, a house salad, pasta, garlic knots and zeppoles. The meals will be free for families who are still struggling as a result of the pandemic, Cortesiano said.
And anyone who does decide to dine in at Salvatore’s, on Meacham Avenue, will receive heart-shaped cookies made by Alyssa Giudice, owner of the online retailer A Pound & A Half: Cookies and Cupcakes Inc.
“We just are trying to make every occasion special,” Cortesiano said. “Whether it’s a birthday or Valentine’s Day, we have to celebrate in a different way.”
The restaurant is adhering to all Covid guidelines, with only two tables indoors and an outdoor dining space complete with a new brick floor, waterfall and landscaping. Salvatore’s celebrated its third anniversary in November in the heated tent, Cortesiano noted, with ice cream, cupcakes and champagne.
“We all just need to continue to be positive and move ahead,” he said — though he added that he couldn’t wait for the weather to improve this spring, when more people will be willing to dine outside.
“We do it the right way,” Caliendo said of the local restaurants, “because that’s all we really can do.”