Dining – Hungry for Amore

Reforma’s Chocolate Layer Cake.
Reforma’s Chocolate Layer Cake.

 

Candlelight, an intimate ambience, an exquisitely prepared dinner and possibly even a decadent dessert are the ingredients for a romantic dining out experience. Here are six tried-and-true local restaurants sure to inspire love.

BY SARAH BURTON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS VENEKLASEN

Reforma Modern Mexican. Mezcal + Tequila

Whether you choose a spot on the picturesque patio overlooking St. Philip’s Plaza and its fountain, or a cozy place within the walls of Reforma’s urban chic interior, you’re in for a departure from your usual Sonoran-style Mexican eateries. Besides the difference in surroundings, the menu itself is inspired by the fresh flavors of central Mexico. While you look over the menu, Owner Grant Krueger recommends you take advantage of what he says is possibly one of the largest tequila selections in the state: “Start with a handselected tequila flight and let the servers take you through some of the finest agave spirits in the world.” From there, he opines that sharing is the way to go, so opt for the guacamole trio to start — an assortment of traditional sweet and spicy variations. And since romance often is synonymous with chocolate, why not go with the chicken mole, featuring deep flavors of chocolate and poblano. To ensure a delicious end to your special dinner with your sweetheart, linger over an order of the house-made churros

4340 N. Campbell Ave., Ste. 101, (520) 867-4134, reformatucson.com

 

Warm Griddled Lemon Cake with Berries and Cream at GOLD.
Warm Griddled Lemon Cake with Berries and Cream at GOLD.

GOLD

High in the foothills, part of the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa property, sits a stately dining room with nearly panoramic views. You’re off to a good start here, before you’ve even glanced at the contemporary menu, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking both the city below and surrounding mountains — even better if the weather allows for a seat on the terrace. GOLD’s menu is made up of seasonally inspired modern American cuisine, with nods to the Southwest whenever possible. No matter what season, you can expect plenty of seafood options, as well as classics like steak, lamb and slow-roasted chicken. Whatever you order here, you can be assured an artful and well-balanced culinary experience. There’s a reason why the restaurant has won the prestigious AAA Four-Diamond Award for numerous years. “GOLD has been a romantic culinary destination for decades,” says Executive Chef Todd Sicolo. “I enjoy pairing the timeless, breathtaking views of Tucson with creatively reimagined dishes featuring regional products straight from our local partners.”

245 E. Ina Rd., (520) 297-1151, www.westwardlook.com/dining/gold

The Pan-Roasted Diver Scallops at GOLD.
The Pan-Roasted Diver
Scallops at GOLD.

Kingfisher Bar & Grill

A longtime local favorite, Kingfisher has maintained its stellar reputation for carefully balanced classic dishes and an inspired menu for 25 years. Well known for seafood, the restaurant kicks off its menu with the likes of oysters, housesmoked ruby trout, steamed mussels and shrimp cakes. Once you get to entrées, look for even more seafood dishes, such as grilled sea bass or the macadamia nut crusted Hawaiian fish. Similarly tempting are standouts like baby back ribs, chicken pot pie or steak. Not sure what to order? That’s fine by Chef Jim Murphy: “I think romance is about slowing down and being thoughtful with one another — spending time savoring life together. “I would start with a half bottle of Veuve Cliquot alongside grilled and chilled shrimp, baked oysters Rockefeller, and a golden beet and heirloom tomato salad,” he says. For an entrée he points to sautéed Onaga long tail snapper, while suggesting that you leave room for banana-datepecan cake with candied pecans.

2564 E. Grant Rd., (520) 323-7739, kingfishertucson.com

Jonathan’s Cork

For roughly 25 years, Tucsonans have counted on Jonathan’s Cork for their special occasion dinners out. And the décor, a homey throwback to the ’70s filled with dark wood and Southwestern art, accentuates that feeling of longstanding tradition. “We have several small, private rooms with their own fireplaces,” Chef Jonathan Landeen points out. If that’s not enough to set the scene for a special occasion meal, the menu boasts traditional starters like shrimp on ice, oysters and escargot, as well as classic entrées such as roast duck, steak, or ribs. More unusual offerings include bison, ostrich and venison. So, what would Chef Landeen recommend for a romantic meal? “I would share crab cakes, the grilled romaine salad, salmon or prime rib, and ostrich for the more adventurous,” he says. And since no meal is really complete without dessert, “I would finish the meal by sharing a bread pudding.”

6320 E. Tanque Verde Rd., (520) 296-1631, jonathanscork.com

Caffe Torino

It’s not difficult to make an eveningmemorable when you’re dining on the cuisineof Northern Italy. Caffe Torino truly brings authenticity to each dish offered by Owners Ollie Shouse and Daniela Borella, with a menu full of recipes passed down for generations by Borella’s family. “When guests come in from Italy, they tell us, ‘This tastes like home,’” shares Tony Frank, entertainment and social media director for Caffe Torino. Think beyond the spaghetti kiss, à la Lady and the Tramp, with more complex and heady dishes like the Tagliata al Gorgonzola (flat iron steak served with creamy Gorgonzola sauce) or the Scottadito di agnello (grilled lamb chops with citrus pesto). There’s definitely something for every palate, as well as all of the classics you’d expect, such as gnocchi, cioppino, lasagna, and eggplant Parmesan. Even with so many rich and textured flavors to choose from, nothing will conjure romance quite as much as dining on the patio under the stars. “We’re a small, intimate restaurant with a great romantic atmosphere,” says Frank. “Candlelit tables, low lighting, impeccable Italian food and an amazing wine list — not to mention jazz on the weekends.”

10325 N. La Canada Dr. (Oro Valley), (520) 297-3777; 5605 E. River Rd., Ste. 121 (Foothills), (520) 300-6860, caffetorinotucson.com

Harvest on River’s Triple Chocolate Cake.
Harvest on River’s Triple Chocolate Cake.
Harvest on River’s Wild-Caught Salmon.
Harvest on River’s Wild-Caught Salmon.

Harvest on River

With any special occasion, having a great view or unique atmosphere can take it to the next level. Harvest on River, tucked into the second floor of a shopping center with a patio overlooking the city, is a great locale for a quiet dinner with your special someone. When Reza Shapouri and his wife Lisa took over ownership of Harvest in Oro Valley in 2011, they kept the focus on what the restaurant is known for: local and seasonally inspired fare. The same is true at this newer location in the Catalina Foothills, which the Shapouris opened in 2015 in partnership with Executive Chef Michael Veres. The menu offers everything from roasted cauliflower tacos and vegan gnocchi to burgers and short ribs. With a little bit of everything, and a menu perfect for sharing, Shapouri points out they see their fair share of date nights. “We have a great wine selection, house-made cocktails, and you can’t forget our fantastic desserts — like the triple chocolate cake made in house by my wife, our pastry chef.”

5605 E. River Rd., Ste. 201, (520) 529-7180, harvestonriver.com

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Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.

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