Last week I got asked the question, how can I make my restaurant more romantic? when I was out for lunch at a cozy little pizza wine bar on Queen St East.
Samuel Spartan, the co- owner and the daytime manager of Basso Pizzeria in Toronto came out from his office to meet me and give us a tour of the whole place. Although his question took me by surprise, I am the right person to ask!
Sam Spartan listens as I describe all the little things that combine to make a restaurant more romantic.
On selecting a restaurant for romance…
The restaurant venue you reserve for your dinner date does play an important role in the success or failure of the occasion. Besides having great food and good service, there also needs to be the right ambiance.
Basso Pizzeria at 320 Queen St. East, is a pretty good choice for an east side restaurant as there are two separate atmospheres here; the first is a pub area with TVs over the bar and a dozen types of craft beer, while the back dining-room is for more serious epicureans.
The Sights – With several notable exceptions, romantic restaurants in Toronto generally don’t have breathtaking views. Our city is instead filled with hidden gems and secret ‘hole in the wall’ eateries that are romantic on the inside because of their character, culture and cuisine. Candles on the tables and appropriate lighting and soft music humming in the background can create a sexy vibe, helping the date flow and creating real comfort.
The first thing that stands out about Basso Pizzeria for me was the wood-fired pizza oven behind the bar and how the chef was there working in full view of the patrons, rolling and twirling the dough, making the delicious pizzas on the menu. Guests can smell the wood fired pizza oven, glowing at the back of the room behind the bar, the moment they walk in the door, and that element goes a long way toward setting the scene for romance.
The dining room area has an electric fireplace ‘display’, which made me giggle at first, but then I came to like how it works with the smell of the wood fire that drifts through the entire diner. The walls here are decorated with landscape paintings done by local artists and the lighting is very discreet. The while table clothes glow and the fireplace display reflects of the glassware. Its cozy.
The Staff – Two people meeting and dining together romantically, should be left alone as much as possible. I gave a few tips to the servers about fine dining etiquette because if the servers are overly attentive it can be too distracting and damage the conversation flow.
When there are two dater’s in the room, wait staff should stand well away from the table and discreetly observe if things are okay, and only approach if patrons have raised their heads to look about for service. When the waiter does a fly-by check-in it sends the message that their time is somehow more valuable than our time, and we’re lucky to have this moment to talk to them.
The Sounds – The three televisions above the bar were silent when I was there, one showing sports, and one a soap, and one set to CP24 news and information. TVs are not romantic, but at Basso Pizzeria they are so high on the wall the can easily be ignored. The music in the pub area was classic rock with no DJ that I could hear, while the dining room was playing something more operatic with soothing instrumental sections. In other words, it was perfect.
Pizza is good for dinner dates because the shape of the food makes you smile.
The Taste- Here is where Basso Pizzeria really shines and will have no trouble sustaining a following of passionate foodies, especially pizza lovers. Their thin crust pizzas are just plain terrific, and pizza is a good food to order for ‘first dinners’ and casual dates. .Why? It’s easy to look sexy when eating pizza because of the shape of this handheld food; taking those wide bites makes faces form smiles. Also pizza is made to share and sharing dishes on a first date creates intimacy that can help daters form a connection as they co-experience delicious pizza flavors.
The Wine List – Basso Pizzeria is a pizza and wine bar. There are wooden barrels and wine casks cut apart as decorations and the pub section has an entire wall of wine bottles, grapes and carboys of wine painted in grey chiaroscuro. So, we expected to see a pretty sophisticated wine list and were not disappointed. Their list was typed on paper inside the booklet, which signals that it changes frequently and this is the mark of an oenophile. The wines were from all over the world, including some hard to find Portuguese and Spanish wines. The select vintages appear alongside informative descriptions and reasonable prices. So here it would be easy for reasonably sophisticated diners to order a bottle of wine that compliments their meal.
The Ambience – The character and atmosphere of a Toronto restaurant is born in all the little elements mentioned thus far; the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and the wait staff and wine list combine to make the ambiance, and it can be wonderful or woefully lacking. Basso Pizzeria has a great vibe, and good value food and drink; I told Sam his venue was already set for romance.