Sure, not everyone wants to celebrate Valentine's Day. It's not so hard to sit it out.
But imagine if you and your sweetheart worked together in the Valentine's Day industry, catering to romance but, come dinnertime on Feb. 14, never able to experience it yourselves.
That's the situation facing couples who work together in restaurants. Picture them: One is firing up a filet mignons, the other is clambering over boxes of sparkling wine in the walk-in. All the while, customers are glowing dreamily in the candlelight, clasping hands under the table and feeding each other succulent bites of lobster Thermidor.
You have to adapt your definition of Valentine's Day — or of romance.
Cecilia Benalcazar and Kevin Perry opened Liv2Eat in South Baltimore in November. They're in the old Bicycle space and live upstairs with their son, Jack. Benalcazar is new to the game, but Perry has been in the restaurant business for years, recently as the sous-chef at an Annapolis seafood restaurant.
Like a lot of restaurant veterans, Perry isn't a huge fan of Valentine's Day. "It's work," he said.
But Benalcazar is looking forward to spending Valentine's Day with her husband at Liv2Eat, even if it is work. "I like it. I think it's exciting," she said. "Kevin's putting together a beautiful Spanish-themed menu. We want these people to have a very special time."
So for this Valentine's Day, at least, Benalcazar and Perry are focused on making other people happy. For themselves, they're content with creating romance at other times — something their fellow restaurateurs know much about.
The Baltimore restaurant scene is blooming with husband-and-wife restaurateurs — Amy and Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen, Karin and Bud Tiffany of Peter's Inn, Tina and Guido De Franco of Caesar's Den, Debi Bell-Matassa and Michael Matassa of Alchemy and Bridget and Galen Sampson of Dogwood. The list goes on.
A few of them shared their experiences of injecting romance in their workday lives.
Making every day special
"I can tell you that we will probably celebrate at lunch, not dinner," said Cyd Wolf, who co-owns Little Italy's popular Germano's Trattoria with her husband, Germano Fabiani.
The couple has been together for 30 years, said Wolf, who can't remember the two ever going out for a Valentine's Day dinner.
"But my sweetheart makes me a cappuccino with a heart in it every morning," Wolf said.
Wolf said she and Fabiani usually celebrate Valentine's Day over lunch. If the 14th falls on a weekend, they typically dine at home. If it's a weekday, the couple will go out to a secret destination of Fabiani's choosing. "For Valentine's Day, we'll go for Greek or Indian. Or Thai. Just not Italian," Wolf said. "I would be happy with a hamburger."
Wolf said she and Fabiani weren't always such smoothies. Before joining Fabiani in the restaurant business, she tried having a Valentine's dinner waiting for him. "I decided I was going to do oysters, but I didn't know you needed a special oyster shucker. He came at the end of a very busy Valentine's Day and had to shuck the oysters for me."
Work, kid, work, kid
"We've never really done anything for Valentine's Day," said Cristin Dadant, who co-owns Clementine with her longtime partner, Winston Blick. "We just kind of acknowledge it's our anniversary, and then we get back to work."
Dadant and Blick, it turns out, ignited their romance on a Valentine's Day 10 years ago, when they were working together at Sobo Cafe in Federal Hill. The restaurant crew did what crews do after a rough shift, Dadant remembers.