Long Island restaurants gear up for Valentine’s Day

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By Dan Sears

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This year Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday, perched between weekend date nights.  On Long Island, restaurants say they are ready, with some extending special menus beyond Cupit’s holiday.

“We love when Valentine’s Day lands midweek because it extends the holiday into a full week of celebration,” Michael Lessings Jr., the operations manager at Bayberry in Islip, told LIBN.

“A lot of couples tend to avoid celebrating on the actual date, so the Wednesday holiday allows us to better accommodate the increase in reservations over a more extended period of time,” he added.

For most restaurants, Valentine’s Day is considered one of the busiest days of the year, with as many as 70 million people sharing a meal out with someone they love. So it’s a good idea to reserve a table in advance.

The holiday gives restaurants a chance to bring in additional business in winter, when people might otherwise dine at home.

“Valentine’s Day midweek is exciting because it gives us an opportunity to have another weekend-like day, every little bit helps this time of year with keeping bills paid,” said Matthew Sanches, co-owner of The Last Word, which is offering a three-course prix fixe menu, at $58 a person, in Huntington. “Plus, it keeps things interesting and makes the week more fun in general. This is the slow season so it’s a great little boost.”

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At Mirabelle Restaurant at The Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, Valentine’s Day offers the “opportunity to start the week on a strong note and gather momentum into the weekend,” said Kyle Berlin, a team member there. “Valentine’s Day always brings the opportunity to gain new returning customers and give our regulars an outstanding holiday experience.”

With big expectations from dining enthusiasts, restaurants try their best not to disappoint.

“Valentine’s Day celebrates love and we know how important it is that everything is perfect,” said Elias Trahanas, co-founder of Trahanas Hospitality Group, whose restaurants includes The Union in Eisenhower Park. “We’re here to make sure your Valentine’s meal is everything you want it to be.”

Careful management of incoming reservations is required, Lessings said. “The team focuses on configuring floor plans to welcome the increase in two-tops and special seating requests,” he said. During service, our goal is solely in creating the most intimate atmosphere for our couples to relax and celebrate one another.”

Sanchez said that a “special menu for Valentine’s Day means there’s a bit of staff training involved for both front of house and kitchen staff on the offerings. Since it’s a special menu, it’s new product, prep, etc., that we bring in and prepare and we need the crew onboard.”

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Chefs and wait staff tend to go the extra mile to prepare and serve a special menu.

“The menu was curated to create a cohesive and well-balanced dining experience at Bayberry. Everyone wants the price fixe on Valentine’s Day, it simplifies the decision making process for our guests and earns them less time with menus and more time enjoying their significant other,” Lessings said.

“As far as planning the menu goes, we always want to have sexy dishes. So we brought in the shrimp to accompany the steak for the surf and turf,” Sanchez said. “Additionally, we like to give the option for a prefix menu. It’s a bit of a set it and forget it for our guests, this way they can focus on being present for their dates and making the night as romantic as possible.”

Mirabelle Chef Fernando Machado said that when he thinks about a Valentine’s Day dinner, “I think of romance and a special night out. We want our dishes to display that feeling of romance, using romantic ingredients like red wine and flowers. And we create dishes that stick out beyond the everyday menu so the guests feel special.”

The Union’s menu includes a mix of small plates, appetizers and a raw bar that also offers two different sized seafood towers. Among the main dishes is a “tomahawk for two.”

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Among the restaurants extending its holiday menu into the weekend is Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas in Westbury. The tasting menu is offered at $70 a person, while the tasting menu and wine paring is $100, and menu selections are available a la carte.

Bayberry is offering its Valentine’s Day menu from Feb. 14-18 as well, with a three-course surf-n-turf prix fixe dinner at $75 a person.  And like at many restaraunts on Long Island, the regular menu will also be available, offering diners options for their special night out.

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