Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Date Night: Iron Gate and St. Yves

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This past weekend, in what felt like the first time in forever, my other half and I got out for date night.

As most of you know, I love trying new restaurants/bars/clubs in D.C., as there are so many, it’s practically impossible to repeat!  So, we ventured out to a D.C. favorite, and a new spot that just opened a month ago: Iron Gate and St. Yves.

“We’re Coming Here Often”

Is what I told my other half when we were half way through our meal at Iron Gate.  It’s on par with our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik, Grill Markadurinn, in terms of impeccable service, beautiful atmosphere, and absolutely incredible food.  In the case of Iron Gate, it celebrated my Greek/Sicilian roots with beautifully plated Mediterranean food.

The above are three of the five dishes we ordered, not realizing the meat and potatoes platter could have fed us for the night!  Pro tip: If you get the platter, order one more dish, per person, to try, or save room for dessert (which we didn’t get to).

As for drinks, both the Greek orange wine and rose were amazing!

St. Yves

St. Yves is a tough one to review, because the owners are friends of mine.  We attended a birthday party in the “Cloud Room”, before heading into the main room.  It might have been the sheer amount of people there for the birthday party however, the spaces were hard to move around in, the other clientele there (not part of the party) were a bit undesirable, and the sound system was far too loud for the space.  If you want to get a drink at the main bar, it’s not navigable with the large ramp (complete with railing) that takes up a lot of available foot space.  On a positive note, the decor is beautiful!  Pro tip: It’s great if you can rent the whole space out for just your party.

SO – my recommendation is to definitely try Iron Gate and perhaps, skip St. Yves if you’re looking for a club with elbow space and good music.

Date Ideas, Events/Performances, Fun, Other Things I Like

Celebrating Love, Friends, and New Adventures!

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On top of the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.

I had a couple of messages this morning, asking me if I stopped meditating, since I’ve not posted in close to five days.  I’ve definitely had my morning practice however, I did not finish the 21-day Meditation Challenge.  So much of what I shared, over the last 2 1/2 weeks, was already shared.  I felt as though a bit of it was too repetitive and thus, I’m not comfortable writing a blog post if I can’t give unique, applicable content. So instead, I’m going to show you proof of what “hope” looks like…

This past weekend (includes Thursday) was filled with celebrations of love, new milestones, and great friendships.  It’s one of those rare weekends that I was constantly on the go, but so happy to share in the joy in so many other people’s lives.  Below is a peek into my weekend, and what I am most grateful for because of it:

Thursday: A New Year, and New Connections

My “weekend” kicked off with the birthday of my BFF, and a date auction.  (Yes, I’m taken but I also happened to throw a male friend up there, and wanted to be there for moral support.)

I am so grateful for my girlfriend (pictured below).  While I have so many amazing women in my life, she’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We often joke we’ll be living together at age 80, watching Star Wars movie marathons, while knitting.  Thus, a year hasn’t gone by where I’ve not celebrated a birthday with her.  In fact, it’s also the anniversary of when we met!

For her celebration, a bunch of us girls took her to Cafe Milano for dinner (complete with a firework slice of cake).  (If you have never been there, I HIGHLY suggest it!  It’s home of the power dinner, where the “who’s who” goes to dine.  It’s also home to some of the best gluten-free pasta and rosé in D.C.)

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While her own personal celebration had concluded, we weren’t done with the evening.  We all headed over to Capitale for our friend Sher Mathew’s date auction.  She is in the running to be LLS Woman of the Year, and she’s knocking it out of the park with about three events A WEEK!  It was there it felt like one, big friend reunion, complete with stage takeover to sing my friend Happy Birthday!

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Photos, courtesy of Vithaya Phongsavan

Friday: Celebrating My Most Favorite Person in the World

My other half is seriously THE BEST.  Between the move into our new home, my compulsive behaviors to get everything unpacked, put away, and decorated; AND putting up with my work schedule, he’s a complete rockstar.  Thus, I wanted to surprise him with a dinner outside (check out Cactus Cantina if you want some great Mexican food and drinks, on an outdoor patio with a view of the National Cathedral) and a quick stop at a private Tiffany’s event in Chevy Chase, to buy him something he’s always wanted” a Dog Tag.

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Saturday: Celebrating New Beginnings

Last year, my mom, sister, and myself held an annual Bags, Baubles, and Bubbles fundraiser at Westwood Country Club, to raise money for the Stroke Comeback Center.  I wrote about the Center last year when we were getting ready to hold the first annual event.  It’s a wonderful place for Stroke and Trauma victims to rehabilitate, and certainly, there have been some amazing comeback stories because of it!

This year was bigger and better, with a private fashion show, hosted by Bloomingdales; hundreds of auction items, a beautiful luncheon, and even more attendees!  I was so grateful to be a part of it again!

When it was over, I was down for a quick nap and then onto the last event of the evening: Saying goodbye to one of my close friends and her husband (plus pending baby), as they are moving to San Antonio!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect evening, atop the Watergate Hotel (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check this out), with the sun setting (everyone was grateful for being able to witness the most perfect sunset from the best view in DC), being surrounded by good, close friends.

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Sunday: Celebrating Love

To cap off the weekend, we were grateful to be able to celebrate two amazing people who are the absolute epitome of true love.  It was so special to be amongst our close friends, and both the bride and groom-to-be’s respective families, in one of the most beautiful historic homes in D.C.

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It’s weekends like these that make me thankful for the friends, family, support, and love I have in my life!  Stay tuned for Mother’s Day weekend, when I take you all down to Williamsburg, VA with me!

 

Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Washington Nationals Opening Day 2017

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Every year I’ve lived in D.C., and so long as D.C. has had the Washington Nationals in our backyard, I’ve wanted to go to Opening Day.  There’s something so special about taking the day off work with a few thousand other people, meeting up with friends, having a few drinks (and plenty of ball park food), and watching one of America’s oldest sports.

This past Monday, April 3rd, my other half and I were lucky enough to snag two suite tickets to watch the game (in style).  We were even luckier to wander the stadium and run into friends, making it one of the most memorable games (and Mondays) I’ve been to (had).

If you have never been to a game here, I highly recommend it.  It’s one of the best baseball stadiums in the country!  Not only is the park itself so beautiful, but the surrounding areas of Navy Yard/Waterfront – are being built up to include some really great bars and restaurants.  Walking distance from the stadium, you can visit The Bull Pen, Scarlet Oak, Cantina Marina (my favorite, and where we ended up after the game), as well as many others.

If you don’t have time to explore the neighborhood, note that there are so many food and drink options to choose from, within the ball park, that you truly don’t have to leave.  Note that for those who are gluten-free they have two gluten-free stands in the park, including one by Centerfield!

Happy baseball season!

Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Date Night: Compass Rose

Okay, while this wasn’t a date with my other half, it WAS a date with my girlfriend for her birthday!

Compass Rose has long been on my list of places to try in D.C. and it absolutely doesn’t disappoint!  It’s a place I definitely want to go to again and again – especially if I’ve got a hankering to travel to another country 🙂

Compass Rose’s menu is amazing – allowing you to sample small plates from all over the world, while being in an atmosphere that is reminiscent of any Western or Southern Asian countries.  Bonus points for them bottling and serving their own FABULOUS rosé!

My suggestions on what to order, especially if you have a soy and/or gluten allergy like we do:

  1. Pasteles (El Salvador) – ask for a side of rice, as opposed to the sides listed on the menu
  2. Broccoli Rabe (Italy)
  3. Bhel Puri Chaat (India)
  4. Asado (Argentina)

For dessert, we ordered an orange creme brûlée from Catalan.

On a gluten-free friendly scale, this place is a 10. I definitely recommend making reservations for this highly busy place!

Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Date Night: Convivial

One of the most talked about restaurants in D.C. is sitting smack in the middle of the newly-developed Shaw district, and is a not-to-be-missed!

Convivial is the brain child of Cedric Maupillier who paired his expertise in French cooking with the light and “cheery” ambience foodies crave in the D.C. area.  The dishes are smaller, which means they are perfect for sharing 2-3 or if you are a light eater, can feel satisfied with just 1-2!

What We Ordered: Since we didn’t want to be overstuffed, he ordered the Friend Chicken “Coq Au Vin” (which he highly recommends) and I ordered the Quinoa (which I also recommend).  We also split the Creme Brûlée.

On a gluten-free friendly scale, this place is a 9 (mainly due to the slimmed-down menu).  I definitely recommend making reservations for this highly busy place!

 

 

Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Date Night: RPM DC… for Valentine’s Day!

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Yeah, we’re the cheesy, in-love couple that made reservations for Valentine’s day… two months in advance!

Actually… that is the standard for RPM in D.C. – the new (ish), hip, upscale Italian restaurant that has taken the district by storm.  First established in Chicago by Bill and Giuliana Rancic, their upscale Italian concept made it’s way south to the already vibrant restaurant scene in the Nation’s Capital, and there are absolutely no signs of it slowing down.

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What to Order

Cocktails: Being the cocktail lovers we are, we each tried a different cocktail at the bar.  I chose the “Spritz and Giggles” (I don’t recommend it) and he chose the “Ten Cent Pistol” (we both HIGHLY recommend), prior to being seated at our table.

Wines: Once we were seated (in one of the best tables at the restaurant), I took a look through the wine list and was so deliriously happy to see Blackbird Vineyards, owned by the magnificent Michael Polenske, on the list of recommended wines.  Naturally, we splurged for the Paramour 2013 – one of the smoothest reds I’ve ever had.  It’s on the pricier side of the spectrum but well worth it (it’s also worth to check out their site and order in bulk).

Food: The biggest thing to note is that the food menu is designed to eat in courses.  All of the plates are small enough for two people, to enjoy more than one (usually 2-3), without feeling full.  We shared the prosciutto with peppers (this will “change your life” and is a must), the gluten-free pasta Pomodoro (big enough to share as a side dish), and the filet mignon (it’s cooked to perfection at medium and was absolutely amazing).  For dessert:

The green apple gelato with kiwi and the black cherry Panna Cotta are both highly recommended and just big enough to share!

This place is on the top of our list to go back to and on a gluten-free scale of 1-10, comes in at a 10!  We highly recommend you make reservations at least a month in advance for non-holidays.  Enjoy!

Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Date Night: Captain Gregory’s

Each weekend, my other half and I try to find a different place to eat and drink (I have a long list) in the D.C. area.  This past weekend, we headed to the following places in Alexandria, VA:

  • Haute Dogs and Fries (it’s gluten-free friendly with gluten-free buns) for incredible gourmet hot dogs – no picture, I was hungry
  • Sugar Shack (not gluten-free friendly but the boyfriend loved the variety of gourmet donuts) – no picture, my boyfriend was hungry
  • Captain Gregory’s (a speakeasy inside of Sugar Shack)

While I could easily write great things about all three, it was the last stop that left a lasting impression.

Why Speakeasies are the Places to Go

I love speakeasies because of the unparalleled, overall experience you get from the minute you’re at the door, until the minute you leave.  Usually established by craft cocktail masters, they understand the importance of immersing you in a different world, while ensuring what you are drinking is complete perfection.  The bonus: When the speakeasy has story.  (Read about why Captain Gregory‘s is in Sugar Shack.)

How to Get In

Once you’ve pulled the rum flag, right inside the front door of Sugar Shack, a wooden wall opens just enough for the hostess to make sure you have a reservation (yes, you need one to enter).

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The Experience

When you’re welcomed in, you notice that it definitely is an intimate place (it seats only 21 people at a time).  The decor is “old school nautical” with old, green velvet seating, tea lights, lighting the old wooden tables, and a rather large canoe, anchored to the ceiling.  Jimmy Buffet was softly playing out of the speakers, which at some point, I started to feel like I was on vacation (sign of a good weekend).

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When our waiter came over, he was thorough in going through the menu and their philosophy on their craft cocktails.  Their entire cocktail/food menu is redone everyday, which is a lot to plan for.  But what I loved more was that all of their syrups, juices, bitters, and other ingredients are made fresh each day.  Having once been “attached” to a bartender, I know how much work and care goes into doing this.  It’s what separates a drink at bar from a craft cocktail experience.

What We Ordered

Considering the menu changes everyday, there’s no way for me to recommend particular drinks or food. However, I will say that my drink (called D.A.R.L.I.N.G), which included lemonade, absinthe, lavender, as well as several other liquors and juices, was absolute perfection.  You’ll notice the lavender sprig and the elongated ice cube (about the length of a stick of butter) – even down to details, they got these drinks right (note the drinks are about $13 – $18 a piece).

As for food, considering I already had a gourmet hot dog, and my boyfriend had that plus an orange creamsicle donut, it was up to me to pick my dessert.  It’s been years since I’ve had Panna Cotta and they knocked this lemon-flavored one out of the park!

We were only able to be there for about an hour but definitely plan on coming back we highly suggest you venture out there as well.

Enjoy!

Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Date Night: MGM National Harbor

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Last Saturday evening, my other half and I had a much-needed date night at the MGM National Harbor.  For us, it’s a 20 minute drive from home, which makes it ideal when you don’t want just dinner, and don’t necessarily want to venture out into cold weather to wander to your next destination, either.

However, in our quest for a date night, we learned a lot about when to go, where to eat, where to get drinks, and how to navigate the enormous amount of people that are there in the evening.  Below are my tips on how to make the most of your evening there.

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  • Make restaurant reservations far in advance. Our dinner reservation at Voltaggio Brothers Steak House was for 10:45pm because there was literally nothing left for this date, and I booked two weeks ahead for that time! Suggestion: Book a month in advance for the upscale restaurants.
  • There are people everywhere. The casino is built in an oval structure with an outer ring and a center circle.  All restaurants and shops are on the outer ring with the casino, bars, and lounges being on the inner circle (you have to go through security and show your ID before you can get in).  Unfortunately, traffic flow gets a bit bottle-necked at the two entrances into the casino area, with most people stopping to gamble just a few feet from there.  Given that it was a weekend, I expected it to be busy but not off the charts! Suggestion: Weekends (Friday – Sunday) are horribly crowded.  I’d suggest going on a Wednesday or Thursday night if it’s possible.
  • Lounges have dress codes. It actually made me happy because it weeded a lot of the people in the casino, out, as places like Felt expect you to be dressed up.  Suggestion: Dresses and heels for women; jeans, nice shoes, button downs, and a  sport coat for men.
  • Felt is the place to go for a drink… or a table.  Since there isn’t a club inside of MGM, this is about as close as you’re going to get to it.  If you have a large party of people who are going out to celebrate something, this is the place to get dressed up and go to! Suggestion: Save the lounge for closer to the end of your evening – especially if you want to escape the large crowds
  • Voltaggio Brothers Steak House is everything and more.  While I’m not thrilled with how our server handled my gluten allergy, the atmosphere, the food (try the filets, broccolini, and mashed potatoes), and the drinks (try the one from 1670) were absolutely amazing.  The restaurant can best be described as “Colonial Chic” – every, single, little detail was impeccable.  I highly recommend! Suggestion: If you have an allergy, tell them during booking, and make sure to remind them when you come in.  
  • The main atrium is decorated for a different theme for every occasion!  The Chinese New Year display (see below) was absolutely incredible to walk through.  Suggestion: Make stop here to view whatever they put up next.      

 

  • Shopping is light but they’re still opening stores!  Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe store is currently opening (and like walking into my dream shoe closet), with many more to come. Suggestion: Come back in the next few months when more of their stores open!
  • Remember this isn’t Vegas. Restaurants and lounges close at 2am, per normal hours for the DMV.  The casino, however, is 24 hours. Suggestion: Maximize your time there.  If you can help doing dinner at 9m, followed by drinks, and gambling, it will ensure a full evening without feeling rushed!

 

Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

How to Spend Christmas Vacation in DC

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Me (the blonde) and some of my  family on Christmas Eve!

I am super lucky to have a the week between Christmas and New Year’s, off.  It was a much-needed break to spend time with family and SLEEP (and pack, and clean, and workout, and run errands, and other “adulting” activities).  But in between that time, I also got to see and do some great things in D.C.!

If you’re not from here, you might not necessarily know that you can find something to do every night of the week!  Between sporting events, theater productions, concerts, parties, bars, restaurants, and other fun things; you can be busy every hour of every day!

In the last week, I’ve been able to take full advantage of some of what D.C. has to offer. They are both great family activities AND date ideas!

Il Fornaio (Reston Location) 

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Although my family tends to switch up Christmas Eve dinner locations from time to time, Il Fornaio in Reston is always the favorite.  With a large enough party, you get to enjoy the private room, complete with fireplace.  The food is excellent and of course, I’m a fan of any place that serves gluten-free pasta!

NOTE: If you go there, there is garage parking on St. Francis Street! Facing the restaurant, St. Francis Street is to your left.  Once you pass the restaurant on your right, the first garage on the right is where you can park.  The elevator to Market Street level is in the back. When you exit the lobby, turn right, and the entrance is half a block on the right.

Hay-Adams Hotel Dinner

This year, my dad and his wife are remodeling their kitchen, which made for a great reason to try something different!  They made reservations for dinner at the Hay-Adams Hotel, which far exceeded expectations.  When we arrived, we were shown to a check-in lounge where we enjoyed sodas and champagne while we waited for our table to be ready.  When it was time, we were shown to the elevator to head to the rooftop for our seating.  We were lucky to be shown to our table as the sun was setting, allowing us to step outside, onto the terrace, to take some shots of the Whitehouse and the monument before it was too dark.

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Dinner was a buffet of different carving stations, vegetables, seafoods, pastas, breads, and an amazing assortment of desserts!  Champagne, sodas, coffee, water were all included.  But definitely ask for a glass of their port wine at the end – you won’t be disappointed!

As we were leaving, they handed out chocolate gingerbread men and also had hot chocolate and cider service downstairs in the lobby.

I highly recommend finding other dinners you can attend there – it’s well-worth it!

Dinner and a Movie in Courthouse (Arlington)

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Watching Sing in 3D with my family

The evening after Christmas, my mom, one of my sisters, and I grabbed pizza at Fireworks and took in a movie at one of the most comfortable AMC theaters I’ve ever been to – Courthouse!

If you’ve never been to Fireworks, it’s worth it to go.  The owner’s wife has Celiac, which prompted him to make sure his menu catered to this allergy (this was long before any fast food pizza place was selling gluten-free dough). They can make any pizza you want with that dough, and it’s amazing!

After we stuffed ourselves of that and their incredible deviled eggs (I highly recommend them), we walked through the Courthouse Plaza to AMC Courthouse.  This used to be a little worse for wear and a few years ago, they remodeled it to include full reclining, large leather chairs!  We saw “Sing” in 3D and it was super fun – I recommend it to those of you with children or have an inner child 🙂

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas – The Musical

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If there’s one thing I truly love, it’s going to the theater.  I love to see stories come to life in a magical fashion.  In this case, they took one of my favorite Christmas books/movies and turned it into a full-on magical display.  Performed at the National Theater, the entire performance was narrated by The Grinch’s dog Max.  It had everything you would expect – an over-the-top set design, colorful  costumes and makeup, and spot-on characterizations of each of the characters.  The added bonus to it was the encouraged crowd interaction throughout the performance, the snow that falls on the audience, and the confetti/streamers, during the Christmas Day scene.  NOTE: Make sure to sit in the first 10 rows to truly enjoy it, as the snow and the confetti don’t rain down on the entire audience.

This is playing until December 31st.  Tickets can be found here.

Capitals Game at Verizon Center

Baseball and hockey are two sports I don’t enjoy watching on TV and it’s because it’s missing that one element – the fan interaction.  Each year, I go to several baseball games and hockey matches for the food, the atmosphere, the nostalgia, and the energy.  It’s the only way I’ll watch it.

Caps games are especially fun as even if you don’t like hockey, you’ll soon realize that you actually do!  With a great team, a great mascot (Slapshot), and a great arena, you get hooked fast.

It was fun to take this in with my mom before I head off to Iceland today!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!

Date Ideas, Fun

Date Night – Pinstripes and Filomena

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Waiting for our lane to open!

My boyfriend and I have been dating a little over a year and it surprises both of us, the amount of new and exciting dates we are still able to go on, in D.C.!

A few weeks ago, we headed to Pinstripes in Georgetown to compete (against each other – we’re competitive) in bowling, and then across the street to Filomena for dinner.

Below is everything you need to know for both – we hope you enjoy this date as much as we did!

Pinstripes

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By the time I finished applying my filter, he had already beaten me.

Pinstripes has a full restaurant and bar, as well as bocce courts and bowling lanes (which also has a menu and servers).  It’s an intimate space with comfortable couches – something you’d expect from a boutique bowling alley in Georgetown.

We played for two hours (which is about four games for two people).  Naturally, I only won 1 out of the 4 (even though I did most of the trash talking).  From the appetizers, to drinks, to bowling – we had an amazing time and can’t wait to come back with our friends!

Things to Note

  • It books up super fast (there aren’t many lanes), so I was lucky to have booked it a few weeks in advance.
  • We went on a Sunday – I’d advise against that and go any other day/evening.  It’s mainly families on Sundays, and we waited an extra 30 minutes, past our reservation, to get escorted to our lane.
  • Bowling was $20 an hour and shoes rental was $5 a person = $50
  • We ran into friends on the way in and they suggested heading to Pinstripes for brunch ONLY, on Sundays – apparently the chocolate fountain is to-die-for.

Filomena

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The tiniest snapshot of how it was decorated for Christmas – I didn’t want to be that person taking pics of everything – at least this time.

Filomena is one of the oldest restaurants in Georgetown, still-in-existence, and it’s also one of my favorite authentic Italian places to eat, of all time.  If you have ever been to Italy, you will appreciate the old-world Italian feel, the waiters in tuxes, the extensive food and wine menus, and the digestif that comes post-meal (not to mention the Nona in the window, making fresh ravioli).

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Sambuca with 3 coffee beans (for health, wealth, and happiness) and an Amaretto, courtesy of Filomena (there might also be leftover wine in there too).

It had been some time, since I had been in there. I had also never been in there, during the holidays.  Thus, it felt like an entirely new experience, walking down the stairs and being greeted with the most amazing display of Christmas I have ever seen.  If you have never been, GO BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS ARE OVER. I don’t want to ruin the surprise but I’m still in awe over how many hours it had to have taken to decorate every square inch of that place!

Things to Note:

  • Since Filomena made a comeback in recent months, the reservations can be hard to find – book early!
  • There is gluten-free pasta available, for those of us who need/prefer it
  • Read the menu – it’s entertaining!  It tells tales of who has visited the restaurant and why they came back again and again
  • Drink the wine – they have some of the best Italian wines at all price points
  • Accept the digestif – they even leave the decanters on your table until you are finished
  • It’s very romantic – there were couples everywhere
  • You are treated like a VIP – it’s rare to find a restaurant that has such impeccable service

Have fun!