Top 10 Romantic Restaurants Around St. Pete

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 With its picturesque waterfront, abundance of al fresco dining and beautiful beaches, St. Petersburg abounds in options for an intimate evening out.

By KEVIN GODBEE

Whether you’re a guy or a gal, it never hurts to have a handy list of romantic restaurants at your fingertips. Valentine’s Day is one of the biggies, but there are also anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s Day, and other holidays.

What makes a restaurant romantic? In general, it’s obviously the overall ambience. One of the important things to note is that many of the best restaurants in the St. Pete area do get noisy when busy. Normally, we would disqualify a loud place from being romantic, except if we did this, we would have a top two list and be missing some great places. So, for most of  our recommendations, you may have to bear with a certain degree of discord to the occasional full-on cacophony. That’s just the way it is around here, although on this list Rococo and Selene are the quietest.

All of the restaurants on the list offer outdoor seating, which can still be nice in February. We recommend reservations, especially for Valentine’s Day.

Rococo Steak
655 2nd Ave South
St. Petersburg
(727) 822-0999

In a 1920s manse, this Baroque-chic steakhouse serves grass-fed beef, seafood, small plates and wine. Although it has “steak” in its name, and the steaks are great, the seafood is excellent as well. Some of our favorite  dishes include Shrimp Cocktail, Country Salad, Dry Aged Cowboy Ribeye, Raw Oysters, the Seafood Platter, a side of Mushrooms and Creamless Corn Mash. Rococo also hosts many weddings in their elegant, grand setting, and they are one of the only restaurants on the list that rarely gets noisy.  rococosteak.com

IL Ritorno
449 Central Ave 
St. Petersburg
(727) 897-5900

IL Ritorno’s unique style of Old Country Northern Italian with a modern twist is one of our favorites.  The restaurant recently re-opened after a remodel that doubled its size and qualified it for a liquor license. They have some small-batch wines from Italy that you can’t get elsewhere, and have always provided us with excellent pairing suggestions. The restaurant has an intimate setting with rustic brick walls and a view of the park across the street. The setting and the amazing food remind us of being in Manhattan. The service is impeccable and you won’t find food like this anywhere else. The Caprese, Tagliatelle, Short Rib Mezzaluna, Cappelini Nero, and Pan Seared Chicken are a few of our favorites. ilritornodowntown.com

 Annata Restaurant & Wine Bar
300 Beach Dr NE
St. Petersburg
 (727) 851-9582

Annata is another restaurant that reminds us of New York City for its brick walls and long, narrow shape, plus the elegance of their small plates and impeccable service. They offer excellent cheese and charcuterie, pastas, tapas, and full entrées. They offer exquisite wines from California, Italy and France. Annata does not take reservations, but they will take your number and send you a text message when a table becomes available. annatawine.com

Sea Salt
183 2nd Ave North
St. Petersburg
(727) 873-7964

Sea Salt St. Pete is one of the grand anchor tenants of Sundial  in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg. It’s an excellent 5-star gourmet restaurant with the freshest fish (most of it local), a large selection of oysters, and great steaks with several dishes having unique eclectic twists that foodies love. seasaltstpete.com

Grace Restaurant
120 8th Avenue
Pass-a-Grille Beach
(727) 317-4770

Grace Restaurant is the only fine dining in Pass-a-Grille, and only one of four elegant eateries with gourmet quality food in the St. Pete Beach area. Grace is an upscale yet laid-back, modern American dining experience. They offer New American, Greek/Mediterranean, and Seafood near the popular 8th Avenue shopping area on Pass-A-Grille Beach. They are an oasis of splendid epicurean creations at the beach. gracestpete.com

Ceviche
10 Beach Dr NE
St. Petersburg
(727) 209-2299

Located in a renovated 100-year-old building, stepping into Ceviche is like stepping into the charm and ambiance of Spain. After a  complete makeover about a year ago, they also revamped the menu to be the most authentic and freshest Spanish food in town.  The building has Old World charm, and  downstairs ,  a Latin-themed lounge called Ché offers late-night live music and dancing. ceviche.com/st-petersburg

Gratzzi Italian Grille
211 2nd St South
St. Petersburg
(727) 623-9037

Who knows food and romance like the Italians? Gratzzi Italian Grille is a long established favorite right in the heart of downtown St. Pete. The owners, Tony and Domenic, are both from Italy. Gratzzi is so popular that on nights other restaurants are half empty, Gratzzi has a wait for tables.

There is something for everyone here with from all Italian classics  to exotic specials like Gambas (Gigantic Mediterranean Prawns that could beat up a lobster – their lobster dishes are amazing, too), Rack of Elk and the Veal Ossobuco is to die for. Mama mia! gratzzigrille.com

Parkshore Grill
300 Beach Dr NE
St. Petersburg
(727) 896-9463

Parkshore Grill is another long-established favorite that was here long before the restaurant boom and still stands tall with excellent cuisine, professional service and an elegant setting in the scenic heart of Beach Drive.Try the Beef Wellington, the Parkshore Filet Mignon and  Lobster Tail, Parkshore Salad, and the Blue Cheese Stuffed Meatballs. The Parkshore Martini is a favorite as well. The inside space is refined, and the outdoor patio provides great people-watching on Beach Drive. parkshoregrill.com

Selene Restaurant
4945 Gulf Blvd
St Pete Beach
(727) 317-2064

Selene is another one of the rare standouts on the beach. Everything is fresh, of the utmost quality, and expertly prepared. Recommended dishes are Lobster Linguini, Scallops and Shrimp Risotto,  Half Chicken with Spaghetti Squash and Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts, Airline Chicken Sous Vide with Pureed Fennel and Roasted Mixed Vegetables, Branzino, the fresh catch, and just about anything, really. When you make your reservation, ask to be seated in the back room, which is more cozy and quiet. selenerestaurant.com

Pia’s Trattoria
3054 Beach Blvd S
Gulfport, FL  
(727) 327-2190

Pia’s Trattoria in Gulfport is a staple that’s been around for 13 years. The ambience brings you back to the rustic Italian countryside. It almost feels like you are in the cozy comfort of someone’s home. Perfect for Italian comfort food made from scratch, Pia’s shaded courtyard feels friendly and warm as well. They use family recipes from Pia’s mother.  Piastrattoria.com

Kevin Godbee is an unabashed foodie and admitted romantic. Read more of his restaurant reviews and news on the St. Petersburg dining and drinking scene at stpetersburgfoodies.com