January 31, 2020

Cincinnati's 25 Most Romantic Restaurants To Take Your Sweetheart

From a cozy basement trattoria hidden beneath the city streets to upscale restaurants boasting spectacular views of the city, award-winning steakhouses and more, the Queen City is home to dozens of elegant eateries where you can treat your special someone to an intimate evening on the town, whatever the occasion.
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Orchids at Palm Court
35 W. Fifth St., Downtown
Nestled inside Carew Tower’s historic Art Deco Hilton hotel, Orchids hosts a breathtaking feast for the eyes — a perfect backdrop for the seasonally attuned menu that takes advantage of seasonal produce and combines those ingredients with top-quality seafood and meat from a variety of sources. The AAA five-diamond menu features creative, fresh cuisine paired with an award-winning wine list and delicious desserts.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Orchids at Palm Court

35 W. Fifth St., Downtown
Nestled inside Carew Tower’s historic Art Deco Hilton hotel, Orchids hosts a breathtaking feast for the eyes — a perfect backdrop for the seasonally attuned menu that takes advantage of seasonal produce and combines those ingredients with top-quality seafood and meat from a variety of sources. The AAA five-diamond menu features creative, fresh cuisine paired with an award-winning wine list and delicious desserts.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Sotto
118 E. Sixth St., Downtown
Sotto is Cincinnati's clandestine basement trattoria — a below-street-level Italian eatery, nestled underneath sister restaurant Boca on Sixth Street downtown. It’s a hot spot for diners celebrating a special occasion or simply looking for some excellent pasta. With multiple dining rooms, the kitchen is open to view, including the custom-made woodfire grill in front and a fresh-pasta room in the back hallway. Menu items include handmade pasta, house-cured salami and big-ticket items like Bistecca Fiorentina, a grilled Creekstone porterhouse steak with daily sides. Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Sotto

118 E. Sixth St., Downtown
Sotto is Cincinnati's clandestine basement trattoria — a below-street-level Italian eatery, nestled underneath sister restaurant Boca on Sixth Street downtown. It’s a hot spot for diners celebrating a special occasion or simply looking for some excellent pasta. With multiple dining rooms, the kitchen is open to view, including the custom-made woodfire grill in front and a fresh-pasta room in the back hallway. Menu items include handmade pasta, house-cured salami and big-ticket items like Bistecca Fiorentina, a grilled Creekstone porterhouse steak with daily sides.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Nicola’s
1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine
Italian darling Nicola’s opened in a renovated car barn in Over-the-Rhine two decades ago, with Nicola “Nick” Pietoso at the helm. (Pietoso immigrated from Italy in 1991.) Patrons will be delighted by the lovely main dining room, resplendent with a beautiful interior where everything your eye rests on makes you feel indulged. Nicola’s housemade pastas and secondi piatti transport diners to the heart of Italy. On Mondays, you can enjoy the tagliatelle alla bolognese and a house salad for $15.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Nicola’s

1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine
Italian darling Nicola’s opened in a renovated car barn in Over-the-Rhine two decades ago, with Nicola “Nick” Pietoso at the helm. (Pietoso immigrated from Italy in 1991.) Patrons will be delighted by the lovely main dining room, resplendent with a beautiful interior where everything your eye rests on makes you feel indulged. Nicola’s housemade pastas and secondi piatti transport diners to the heart of Italy. On Mondays, you can enjoy the tagliatelle alla bolognese and a house salad for $15.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Precinct
311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum
The Precinct, housed in a historical Romanesque-style former police precinct, opened in 1981 and was the first in a long line of Jeff Ruby’s steakhouses. The space is intimate and elegant, offering excellent service as well as a menu boasting prime steaks, fresh seafood and a generous wine selection. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

The Precinct

311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum
The Precinct, housed in a historical Romanesque-style former police precinct, opened in 1981 and was the first in a long line of Jeff Ruby’s steakhouses. The space is intimate and elegant, offering excellent service as well as a menu boasting prime steaks, fresh seafood and a generous wine selection.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Pepp & Dolores
1501 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
Pepp & Dolores is the latest from Thunderdome Restaurant Group — the team behind The Eagle, Bakersfield, Currito and Maplewood Kitchen and Bar. The Italian eatery is inspired by Sunday dinners at Thunderdome co-founders Joe and John Lanni's grandparents' house. “We designed the space to have a timeless look and feel with elements of a classic cafe or bistro from the early to mid-20th century on the first level and a lower level that is darker, cozier and reminiscent of a New York City supper club,” says John Lanni. The menu features housemade pastas — like the cacio e pepe, a butternut and mascarpone pasta and a lobster and squid ink pasta — along with a focus on shareable dishes, salads and bread.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Pepp & Dolores

1501 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
Pepp & Dolores is the latest from Thunderdome Restaurant Group — the team behind The Eagle, Bakersfield, Currito and Maplewood Kitchen and Bar. The Italian eatery is inspired by Sunday dinners at Thunderdome co-founders Joe and John Lanni's grandparents' house. “We designed the space to have a timeless look and feel with elements of a classic cafe or bistro from the early to mid-20th century on the first level and a lower level that is darker, cozier and reminiscent of a New York City supper club,” says John Lanni. The menu features housemade pastas — like the cacio e pepe, a butternut and mascarpone pasta and a lobster and squid ink pasta — along with a focus on shareable dishes, salads and bread.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Salazar
40 Republic St., Over-the-Rhine
This petite eatery from chef Jose Salazar mixes old and new to create an approachable yet refined farm-inspired menu. The elegant space features a massive marble bar countertop, and opening dining space. There are creative, comfortable choices like burgers, fish and a vegetarian option. Seasonal, farm-fresh specials frequently pop up on the changing menu, as do staple favorites like the little fried oyster sandwich with kimchi, local radish sprouts and garlic mayo. The wide-ranging drink menu features thoughtful craft beers, cocktails and wines.
Photo via Facebook/SalazarCincinnati

Salazar

40 Republic St., Over-the-Rhine
This petite eatery from chef Jose Salazar mixes old and new to create an approachable yet refined farm-inspired menu. The elegant space features a massive marble bar countertop, and opening dining space. There are creative, comfortable choices like burgers, fish and a vegetarian option. Seasonal, farm-fresh specials frequently pop up on the changing menu, as do staple favorites like the little fried oyster sandwich with kimchi, local radish sprouts and garlic mayo. The wide-ranging drink menu features thoughtful craft beers, cocktails and wines.
Photo via Facebook/SalazarCincinnati
Branch
1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
The Littlefield Restaurant Group rehabbed a historic Art Deco Bank in East Walnut Hills to create the aptly named restaurant, Branch, and adjacent downstairs bar Night Drop. Dinner choices are presented in two columns, “Shares” and “Stocks,” a play on the building’s history. The kitchen has Asian and Mediterranean influences, serving up dishes like black garlic ribs with sesame and fennel-apple slaw, chili-smoked wings with chimichurri and a peanut lemongrass smoked tofu on sesame noodles with a baby bok choy salad. In addition to dinner, Branch serves a weekend brunch menu that is fantastic. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Branch

1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
The Littlefield Restaurant Group rehabbed a historic Art Deco Bank in East Walnut Hills to create the aptly named restaurant, Branch, and adjacent downstairs bar Night Drop. Dinner choices are presented in two columns, “Shares” and “Stocks,” a play on the building’s history. The kitchen has Asian and Mediterranean influences, serving up dishes like black garlic ribs with sesame and fennel-apple slaw, chili-smoked wings with chimichurri and a peanut lemongrass smoked tofu on sesame noodles with a baby bok choy salad. In addition to dinner, Branch serves a weekend brunch menu that is fantastic.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Trotta’s Steak and Seafood
441 Sixth Ave., Dayton, Ky.
This steakhouse is located in the heart of Dayton, Kentucky, offering an upscale feel while still maintaining a laid-back vibe. Owner Kathleen Trotta opened Trotta’s after traveling and working at many restaurants across the United States. Being from the area, she thought it’s exactly what the neighborhood needed. Trotta’s features a menu of quality hand-cut, dry-aged steaks and fresh seafood. The restaurant offers nightly specials throughout the week like all-you-can-eat ribs on Mondays and 40-percent off wine bottles with the purchase of two entrees on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Photo via Facebook.com/TrottasSteakandSeafood

Trotta’s Steak and Seafood

441 Sixth Ave., Dayton, Ky.
This steakhouse is located in the heart of Dayton, Kentucky, offering an upscale feel while still maintaining a laid-back vibe. Owner Kathleen Trotta opened Trotta’s after traveling and working at many restaurants across the United States. Being from the area, she thought it’s exactly what the neighborhood needed. Trotta’s features a menu of quality hand-cut, dry-aged steaks and fresh seafood. The restaurant offers nightly specials throughout the week like all-you-can-eat ribs on Mondays and 40-percent off wine bottles with the purchase of two entrees on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Photo via Facebook.com/TrottasSteakandSeafood
Boca
114 E. Sixth St., Downtown
A trip to chef David Falk’s Italian/French gemstone is an experience to be savored as much as the food itself. Take your time, invest a few hours and allow him and his attentive, knowledgeable staff to unfold an epic tale of two or three courses, plus dessert. The popular restaurant recommends making reservations in advance to ensure a table, but they are not required. The Pommes Soufflees “1949” — puffy french fries — are a call back to the restaurant’s former iteration as the Maisonette, and most entrées are available in full or tasting portions.
Photo via Facebook.com/BocaRestaurant

Boca

114 E. Sixth St., Downtown
A trip to chef David Falk’s Italian/French gemstone is an experience to be savored as much as the food itself. Take your time, invest a few hours and allow him and his attentive, knowledgeable staff to unfold an epic tale of two or three courses, plus dessert. The popular restaurant recommends making reservations in advance to ensure a table, but they are not required. The Pommes Soufflees “1949” — puffy french fries — are a call back to the restaurant’s former iteration as the Maisonette, and most entrées are available in full or tasting portions.
Photo via Facebook.com/BocaRestaurant
Primavista
810 Matson Place, East Price Hill
Along with a beautiful view of the city, this restaurant offers an upscale dining experience with menu options like sausage and mushroom ravioli, roasted lamb loin and tiramisu. Without leaving your seat, you can look out on views of Carew Tower, Great American Tower and the Cincinnati sign with a glass of wine in hand.
Photo via Facebook.com/Primivista

Primavista

810 Matson Place, East Price Hill
Along with a beautiful view of the city, this restaurant offers an upscale dining experience with menu options like sausage and mushroom ravioli, roasted lamb loin and tiramisu. Without leaving your seat, you can look out on views of Carew Tower, Great American Tower and the Cincinnati sign with a glass of wine in hand.
Photo via Facebook.com/Primivista