The usual suspects, from Carmelo’s Italian Ristorante and The Perfect Caper to Isabella’s Bistro, Grill at 1951, Chaz 51, Rosebud’s and La Botte, will pamper couples this Valentine’s Day.
And then there are the really special places, and the events that last the whole month of Valentine’s Day.
HEARTS AND CRUNCHY
In the early hours of the morning at Waffle House, many couples stared into each other’s bloodshot eyes over a plate of eggs and hash browns.
It’s quite different.
General Manager Dave Robbins of the cult restaurant’s yellow shoebox Punta Gorda hosts his second annual Valentine’s Day dinner for Waffle House lovers, both those who love the place and those who love themselves.
Some 150 other waffle houses nationwide have been making dinner every Valentine’s Day for more than a decade. Some couples make the event an annual tradition.
Only five Florida Waffle Houses pulled out all the stops for V-Day this year, and Robbins’ is one of them.
“In our other markets, like Georgia, that’s a big thing,” he said. “We started the trend here in downtown Punta Gorda by decorating, using appropriate black linen napkins and tablecloths, dimming the lights and serving a $20 all-inclusive menu with T-bones , pork chops or chicken and a special waffle dessert.
Dave and his cooks don black chef jackets for the occasion. Guests dress to impress, but they also receive party hats.
It would be great for Waffle House to have a liquor license (imagine the possibilities of Bloody Marys!), but it doesn’t. Valentine’s Day guests instead receive a flute of sparkling grape juice.
And there’s a photo booth to capture all those special Waffle House memories. It doesn’t even have to be 3am and a visit you’ll probably forget.
Reservations, please. Robbins reported that last year there were 30 takers and only two no-shows.
As one fan from Warsaw, Indiana reminds us, “If she doesn’t enjoy Waffle House on Valentine’s Day, is it even that one?”
waffle restaurant ($-$$), call 941-626-8768 and ask for Dave, 1228 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda.
‘WE’RE ALL MAD HERE’: AN UNFILTERED VALENTINE’S DAY
Punta Gorda’s whimsical new hippie hangout, Unfiltered Punta Gorda, has a thing for Alice in Wonderland.
An Alice-themed 3D shadowbox next to her front door announces: “Welcome to Wonderland”.
In the open-air lot between Unfiltered and Pizza Gorda next door is a giant pink teacup, tables, chairs and sofas suitable for any crazy tea party.
“I love to party,” owner/founder Geanie Folder tweeted, and immediately set about proving it.
The cafe/market/event venue has already seen its first private party and is looking forward to a big dinner party “centered on all the love we have for you in this beautiful community.”
This dinner party – Alice in Loverland – is scheduled for Valentine’s Day, February 26, with live music from Jazzy Pearl and a menu described as “rustic, alfresco, falling down the rabbit hole”.
Starting with a welcome platter of deviled eggs and nested cheese truffles, enchanted guests will nibble on crusty bread with honey-nut butter, magic mushroom soup, smoked Cornish hens with potatoes herb roasts and honey glazed carrots and blackberry mascarpone butter cake for dessert.
While the Unfiltered wine and beer license is pending, sip a Sleepy Hollow Mocktail or bring your own bottle.
Nearly 30 people expressed interest in the 30 reserved seats for the dinner. You should try to enter anyway.
Remember what the White Queen said: “Sometimes I’ve believed up to six impossible things before breakfast.”
Unfiltered Punta Gorda ($, O), 813-481-1234, 321 Taylor Road, is open Wednesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Alice in Loverland Dinner is Sunday, February 26 from 6-9 p.m. pm Reserve tickets for $45 plus 25% gratuity at [email protected]
THE BIG TAKE AWAY
Valentine’s month also gives us the ultimate cheesy goodies — heart-shaped pizzas from Hungry Howie’s, Marco’s, Papa Johns and Pizza Hut — not to mention National Pizza Day on Wednesday, February 9.
Some pizzerias are giving even more by joining Slice Out Hunger, a national nonprofit that fights food insecurity through pizza.
Locally, Bella Napoli, 20, of Vito Recchia, and Taglio Cucina & Pizzeria Romana, 3, will for the first time join pizzerias across the country in feeding the hungry through the February 9 Pizza Across America 2022 campaign.
Only 26 Florida pizzerias, including Joey D’s in Venice, are participating this year.
As part of the campaign, Recchia will donate 20 pies to the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition on National Pizza Day.
“That’s how we give back to the community,” said Recchia, who is already well known for nurturing teachers and hospitality workers, artists, barbers and beauticians displaced by the pandemic.
“We are getting involved because we are grateful for the support our city has given to our business.
“In my eyes, the best way to celebrate National Pizza Day is to help others and give back to our local communities,” said Carmine Testa, co-founder of Pizza Across America from Carmine’s Pizza Factory in Jersey City.
Bella Napoli Pizzeria & Restaurant ($$), 941-764-8000, 1938 Kings Highway, Port Charlotte, is open Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Taglio Cucina & Pizzeria Romana ($$), 941-628-7663, 24065 Peachland Boulevard, Port Charlotte, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Send news and restaurant and bar recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at [email protected]
Average price ranges are $=cheap (under $10), $$=moderate ($11 to $30), and $$$=expensive (over $30), including tip and drinks. Outdoor seating available = O.
PHOTO BY BEVERLY BACK
District 5 City Councilmember Melissa Lockhart and Tiffany Clary celebrate Valentine’s Day 2021 at the Waffle House in Punta Gorda.
PHOTO BY BEVERLY BACK
Valentine’s Day dinner at Waffle House includes, of course, a special waffle dessert.
SUN PHOTO BY SUE WADE
It’s hard to imagine a nicer place for a Valentine’s month dinner than Unfiltered Punta Gorda.
SUN PHOTO BY SUE WADE
Unfiltered Punta Gorda has a special fondness for Alice in Wonderland, which provides the theme for her lovers’ next dinner party.
SUN PHOTO BY SUE WADE
Bella Napoli and Taglio’s Vito Recchia is no stranger to feeding those in need. In 2020, he participated with Carmelo Mangiafico and Eric Andreas in Restaurants for a Cause, providing hundreds of free meals to workers displaced by the pandemic. Now he competes in Pizza Across America.