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Aaah…Valentine’s Day.

Those words can conjure up mixed feelings. For those who are alone, this day can be a sad day. For those who have someone special to share this day with, it’s just another reason for endless PDA (public display of affection). And for the longest time, I’ve been in the former category. I didn’t have anyone significant to share this day with, but it wasn’t like I was extremely depressed because I didn’t have a boyfriend. It was merely a slight pang inside when you see people who are really happy (real or fake) with their partner, you can’t help but want it too.

Fortunately, I am no longer in that category and someone special is in my life: CP. Since this is a blog about food, I’m not going to get all mushy and what not about how much I love this man. But I’ll say this: my feelings have only grown a little more towards him with each passing day. (Ok, this is as mushy as I’m going to make it!)

So for Valentines Day, which was cold and stormy unfortunately, both of us still had to go through our classes for the day but CP insisted that he picked me up from home. So when I opened the door that morning, there he was…in a suit holding a gorgeous bouquet of red roses and a gift wrapped in a shiny pink paper. And he hid a box of Joseph Schmidt chocolates that had 2 wonderfully delicious truffles.

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All for me!!!……Actually, he was in a suit because he had an interview to go to that day too, but I like to think he purposely wore it for me since I go especially gah-gah over him when he’s in a suit. So to return the favor, when we went out to dinner, I wore a red dress that made him all gah-gah over me. He was helpless =).

CP kept where we were going a secret from me and when he got into La Jolla, I began to speculate more on where we would go! He did ask me what I would like a couple of weeks beforehand, and my reply was somewhere along the lines of, “I just want to go somewhere we haven’t gone to before.” And did he deliver!

Our Valentines Day dinner was at Sante Ristorante and it couldn’t have been a better choice! The interior ambiance was perfect for setting the mood with dim, soft lighting and the restaurant was like a rustic, Tuscan house that emitted romance. Oh those Italians….they sure do know how to make a girl’s heart swoon.

The restaurant has a regular menu, but that night, there was a special holiday, 3-course pri-fix menu. Most of the items you can order off the regular menu, but the pri-fix menu is a better deal than to order al carte.

But before any of the courses can start, what good Italian would start a meal without some good bread? And with good bread, good olive oil must come as well.

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We were served a garlicky focaccia and crusty olive bread. My favorite was the focaccia because I am a lover of garlic! (Maybe that’s why I can’t sense the dreaded “garlic breath”! Since garlic smells and tastes great to me regardless.) The focaccia was also loaded with tons of herbs that included basil and rosemary.

To accompany my garlicky fix was a smooth and flavorful sun-dried tomato olive oil. This is why I love Italian foods: garlic + herbs + sun-dried tomato = flavor heaven. Now the closest thing I can get to replicate this dinner’s pre-meal appetizer is Sun-dried Tomato Wheat-Thins. In addition to the oil, a sun-dried tomato tapenade. I’m not a fan of olives but I didn’t taste the olives in the paste, more of the sun-dried tomatoes, so it was much more enjoyable for me.

Now…on to the meal!

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For my appetizer, I chose the Fritto Misto (Fried Squid, Shrimp, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Red Pepper). Mmm….deliciously fried goodies. Anything fried is gooood, right? Heck, it’s the only way I would eat calamari/squid. I even got CP to try and eventually like squid too! Don’t underestimate the power of a deep fryer!

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CP’s antipasto was the Bresaola Come a Venezia (Imported Cured Dry Beef, Arugula, Parmesan Cheese and Olive Oil). I don’t eat beef, only on the rare occasion when I let myself enjoy the delightful offering of gyros, so I didn’t taste his dish. However, the beef looked delicious and the way I childishly described what I think it would be like to eat it: “fancy beef jerky.” Such ignorance! And I call myself a foodie…

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For our entrees, we both ordered the Ravioli d’Astice (Heart-Shaped Maine Lobster Ravioli with puréed Yellow Pepper Leek Sauce). I wanted this because of the “girly” factor with the ravioli shaped as a heart. Plus, in my world, pasta or noodles with lobster is always a winner! CP wanted this because when there’s ravioli on the menu, he can’t help but order it.

It was a definite winner for the both of us! The raviolis were cooked al dente, the lobster filling was generous (although I could always use more lobster), and the sauce was spectacular! I tasted the leek in the sauce more than the pepper but the yellow pepper added a touch of sweetness to the sauce to balance the earthy tones of the leek. And the sweetness played well with the lobster’s nature sweetness. The entree was a wonderful combination of simple flavors. DE-LISH!

Finally…*drum roll*…what meal would be complete without dessert?!

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Tiramisu (on the left), Semifreddo Pralinato (on the right)

This is how I view a multi-course meal: each course is supposed to get you excited for the next. The bread plate gets your palate going. The appetizer gives you a preview of what the chef can do (assuming you order wisely). The entree is the peak of the meal for most, but to me, it’s only a pre-cursor to the true finale…DESSERT!

Of the choices on the menu, I would have chosen all three! So what’s a girl to do? Especially when she thinks about how she’ll regret it the next morning if she did eat all three desserts! Well, I took a logical approach: I haven’t had Tiramisu for some time and given that this was a good Italian restaurant, I figured that they would do this traditional dessert justice. And justice was served….to me on a plate!

Not too sweet, good amount of coffee, and it was smooth as silk. This has to be one of the best Tiramisu I’ve had so far. It was definitely a far cry from the last Tiramisu I had by my *ahem*cousin’swife*ahem* during Thanksgiving. I just wished I had more stomach space for more of this luscious, decant indulgence! However, I could feel all the carbs I consumed before being weighed down by the mascarpone, cream, and egg yolk…but it was well worth it.

For CP, dessert was an easy decision. He chose the only dessert that did not have cheese in the ingredients, the house-made praline gelato. I had some of it and I found that it was MUCH too sweet! It’s coming from me sometimes because I have such a sweet tooth, but even I have my limits. I did like the texture contrast from the praline pieces, even though I found a huge chunk in the gelato that was teeth-shattering hard. If the sugar was cut back by half in the gelato base mixture, given that crushed caramelized sugar is incorporated in, I think the overall product would have worked really well. Or if this was paired up with something tart such as a lemon mousse or cake.

Overall, I was tremendously impressed by both the restaurant and my sweetie for his pick of this dining option. The service was just the right of amount of attentiveness, even when our dining area was completely filled, and without being intrusive. Our water glasses rarely were empty for a long time, our bread plate was always replenished, and our dipping oil only needed to a friendly request to be refilled.

Even the floor or restaurant manager came by to ask us how our dinner was. And later that evening, CP told me how there was some problems with reservations and the manager called him back personally to apologize for the reservation problems and helped make the reservation on the spot. Plus at the end of the dinner, all the ladies received a red long-stem rose. Now that’s what I call customer service!

Sante Ristorante is a place that’s a hidden little sanctuary. There are just businesses left and right of it that don’t seem very special or stands out when you drive by on the road. There is no giant, lighted sign to indicate that this restaurant is there. Just a fading script of “Sante” on a green canopy that leads you into this secret, amazing restaurant.

Granted it isn’t cheap to eat here, given that they are in La Jolla, and there is some need to keep up with the impression of being up-scale like the numerous restaurants up and down the Cove. However, this is a place to take someone you want to spend a very intimate meal with, without the haughty-taughty atmosphere you could get down the road.

Sante Ristorante
7811 Herschel Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037
858.454.1315
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One response

  1. oh man. that dinner looks so awesome. i just got hungry reading through your entry. you managed to down all of those gastronomic delights in just one night?

    Ah well. valentines IS just once a year.

    speaking of valentines – there’s this competition over at SanrioTown, and the grand prize is a limited edition Hello Kitty USB drive. check out the link i provided for more info. 🙂

    February 22, 2008 at 9:43 am

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