It’s all about “atmosphere” when you’re planning the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner date. With the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop, the South Bay is the perfect destination for a romantic Valentine’s Day meal. Enjoy a beautiful seaside sunset, good food and a walk along the strand. When you ask, “Will you be my Valentine?” your date won’t be able to resist.
Mangiamo, Manhattan Beach
Just steps away from the Manhattan Beach Pier, Mangiamo Ristorante & Bar (www.mangiamorestaurant.com) has ambiance, location, plus excellent food and service. The key here is to request a table in the wine cellar, the most intimate, charming room in the restaurant. The small, brick-walled cellar space, with about five booths, has soft lighting and an intimate, low-key vibe perfect for conversation and romantic sparks. (The restaurant won’t guarantee you a spot in this room when you make your reservation, but they will do their best to honor your request.) Begin your meal with a glass of wine from Mangiamo’s fine wine list. Whet your appetite with a crab and shrimp spring roll, black and white striped lobster ravioli finished with a Cognac sauce, or perhaps some figs and goat cheese with crispy pancetta and truffles. Move on to the Chicken Oscar, a chicken breast layered with roasted asparagus, King crab legs and finished with a light hollandaise sauce. Perhaps you’re in the mood for dry aged prime rib or braised short ribs. Save room to share an espresso chocolate soufflé or a blueberry crème Brule. And don’t forget to end the evening with a walk on the pier, just footsteps away. 128 Manhattan Beach Blvd., 310-318-3434.
Mar’sel at Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes
The journey to Terranea (www.terranea.com) will set the perfect mood for your evening. Begin the drive to this oceanfront resort in the daylight to take in the spectacular ocean views along the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Stroll Terranea’s tranquil grounds to Mar’sel, a word that combines the Spanish word for “sea” with the French word for “salt”. Whether you decide to sit outdoors on a patio with views to Catalina Island or indoors near the stone fireplace you will have made the right choice. Order Mar’sel’s signature chili-pineapple margarita and look over the menu, which features California cuisine with ingredients fresh from the restaurant’s own herb garden. You could eat anything, really, and enjoy it with the spectacular ocean views here, but go ahead and enjoy homegrown greens and little gem lettuces, wild salmon or wagyu rib eye. Finish with warm molten carrot cake or caramel pudding with orange cookies. Take another stroll along the oceanfront paths or sit and have an after-dinner drink by the patio fire pit. You won’t want to leave. Don’t forget your wallet, because all of this beauty doesn’t come cheap. 6610 Palos Verdes Drive South, 310-265-2836.
The Bottle Inn, Hermosa Beach
The Bottle Inn (thebottleinn.com) is another choice steps from the sand, in Hermosa Beach. This simple, cozy, old-style European spot has been drawing customers for 35 years. There are plenty of tables for two here, but you might want to request the alcove near the front of the restaurant, or somewhere other than the main room, which is a bit noisier and more crowded with tables. Wherever you sit, the service is pleasant and attentive. Try the delicious homemade soups, seafood dishes, a filet and scampi combo, and pastas ranging from pumpkin ravioli to lobster angel hair. As the restaurant name implies, The Bottle Inn has a wide and varied wine list. Finish the night with a walk along the strand to gaze at the stars, or into your date’s eyes. 26 22nd St., 310-376-9595.