A few secluded streets, cobblestone corners and beautiful brownstones add to the romance of the West Village. When you’re looking for a place to impress a first date or celebrate an anniversary with the love of your life, head downtown to this romantic neighborhood for some of the city’s best restaurants and wine bars for a special date night. By Sarah Shaker.
Aria Wine Bar
More: NYC’s 9 Best Wine Bars
This cozy wine bar is tucked away on a quiet West Village block. Sit with your date at one of the long rustic wooden benches or snuggle up at the bar to enjoy a range of global wines and Italian fare, from sharable bites, including Datteri E Gorgonzola (Gorgonzola stuffed dates wrapped in speck) and Cozze Marinate (mussels in a white wine and garlic broth) to full meals like Papardelle Ossobuco. The candlelight ambiance in this tiny restaurant will keep your conversations close and intimate over endless pours of wine and small plates.
This nook of a French bistro offers authentic fare with the perk of being BYOB. Bring your favorite bottle(s) of wine, and put your name on the sometimes-long list. But don’t fret with your date in tow; it’s well worth the wait for the affordable and fresh meals like Steamed PEI Mussels and Frites or Bouchee A La Reine (puff pastry filled with chicken, quenelles, sage, crimini mushrooms and a side of mixed greens) for under $20 a plate. Finish your romantic trip to Paris in the West Village with one of their fresh baked goods for an extra sweet ending.
Sweet Revenge takes the “dessert bar” concept literally: this cupcakery pairs wine and beer with their adult cupcakes. Note that here “adult” doesn’t mean XXX, but rather grown-up flavors. (Savories and other baked goods are made on the premises as well.) Try the Dirty (a Valrhona chocolate cupcake finished with dark chocolate ganache) coupled with a glass of C’est La Vie Rose, the Spice Islands Carrot cupcake with a glass of pinot grigio, or the Very Strawberry with a long pull of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.
Locals tend to love this quaint Italian restaurant, and so do many celebs. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Nicholson and Yoko Ono have been known to dine here. If you’re up for a night of people watching beautiful people dine on Tuscan Plates, this is the place for you and your date. During the warmer months, enjoy your Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese al fresco at one of the outdoor tables that line the block to take advantage of the warm weather.
The charming outdoor space at Gottino is perfect for spring and summer rendezvous. Order wine with a variety of delicious crostini to enjoy in their adorable backyard. From savory bites like Pesto Di Parma (pearls of prosciutto, sage and Parmesan) to the dessert-friendly Whipped Mascarpone and Nutella, the crostini and small plates are shareable for any mood. And you can mix and match from their Formaggi and Salumeria lists to craft your ideal cheese plate to accompany your wine.
Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar
What gets you more in the mood than chocolate and bubbly? At Ayza, order fondue to dip and taste together or indulge in a savory main course surprisingly featuring chocolate as an ingredient, such as Steak Tartare (with bitter chocolate, jalapeño) and Braised Beef Short Rib (with dark chocolate, truffle cauliflower mash, hen-of-the-woods mushroom). It doesn’t get anymore date-night-perfect than sharing melted chocolate with the one you love.
Not all dates have to happen in the dark. Plan a delicious weekend brunch date at Cafe Cluny with your crush. The Short Rib Hash with poached eggs and béarnaise sauce is not to be missed, while the Cluny Burger holds its own among the city’s best. This popular breakfast and brunch spot also serves a delicious dinner, if you can’t stand the afternoon wait, with plates like Cavatelli with lobster, Lemon Sole and Asparagus Risotto.
Sarah Shaker is the founder of the blog Bright Lights, My City.