Old-World charm always is in style, and La Grotta has been offering it since 1978. The dimly lit white-tablecloth dining room is an inviting, timeless space, with excellent service. Part of the charm is the journey getting there. The wine cellar-like tunnel is a good place to hold hands before enjoying antipasti. Dining here feels like being in a secret club, with excellent dover sole al meuniere, veal scaloppini in marsala or wild mushroom risotto with truffles. There also is an intimate patio with twinkling lights, where you can enjoy top-tier tiramisu.
2637 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 404-2312-1368, lagrottaatlanta.com
Just across from the Fox Theatre, this restaurant sets the stage for a romantic evening with a playfully alluring and snug dining room. With a musical backdrop of sultry jazz or new wave, you can enjoy a creative cocktail or glass of wine from the cleverly curated stock. The restaurant offers cozy tables spaced for intimate conversation, velvety drapes and intriguing art. You can have a dinner in five acts, with the rye and amaro punch of a Fists of Fury cocktail, cold smoked scallops, crispy artichokes, herb-roasted chicken and one of chef-partner Craig Richards’ incomparable pastas.
693 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-963-2637, lylalilaatl.com
Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
Calling Marcel a steakhouse belittles the sense of nostalgia that restaurateur Ford Fry evokes here. Named for pugilist Marcel Cerdan, who evidently loved a steak dinner as much as he did singer Edith Piaf, it has all the trappings of an irresistible French brasserie. It’s moody and dreamily dark, with heavy curtains, backlit fencing masks, and chandeliers that reflect from antique mirrors. Sink into a soft banquette and share prime cuts of beef, caviar, beef Wellington, oysters and baked Alaska. Small table lamps help the top-notch martinis sparkle at the bar.
1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-665-4555, marcelatl.com
Atlantans have been enamored with Aria since 2000. The softly illuminated space specializes in refined approachability, with tasting menus or a la carte dishes. Among the offerings are butter-braised lobster, crisp duck confit and a Black Angus filet over celery root puree. You are stewarded easily through a vast wine collection by knowledgeable waitstaff. Artwork and lighting sculptures offer surefire conversation starters, and smashing desserts sweep you away. It’s bewitching in its totality, thanks to the ambiance, culinary magic and exemplary service.
490 E. Paces Ferry Road NE, Atlanta. 404-233-7673, ariaatl.com
Diners who flock to this riverside setting look out at lush gardens — a befitting stage for chef Matt Basford’s menu, which includes game meat from his native Australia. Where else could you find peppercorn-crusted kangaroo while watching herons fly over the Chattahoochee? It’s an experience for the senses, with 300-plus wine selections, and tables situated for cozy conversation. Take a stroll before or after dinner, or linger by the patio fire.
4199 Paces Ferry Road NE, Vinings. 770-432-2663, canoeatl.com
Summerhill’s Little Bear has an “I know this great little place” vibe. It eschews formal, stuffy dining for a more laid-back experience, with charming energy. The tiny space clearly is designed for couples. The small menu is playful, galvanized by the seasons, and allows a couple to order the whole shebang with hopeful enthusiasm. The heart and authenticity of this restaurant are innately romantic.
71 Georgia Ave., Atlanta. 404-500-5396, littlebearatl.com
Slide into the subterranean sanctuary at Highland Tap for a first date or a 20th anniversary. The Virginia Highland spot may feel like a special club you need to belong to, but all that’s needed here is for you to descend the stairs to a timeless, shadowy room with stone walls. Whether you nuzzle closely at the bar for excellent martinis and nibbles of oysters and escargot, or share a 32-ounce wood-grilled tomahawk steak at a cozy table, the place is perfect for a rendezvous, at lunch or dinnertime. It’s a great setting for wining, dining and wooing.
1026 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. 404-875-3673, nightcapfoodandspirits.com
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