By now even the unrepentant Paul Jankas of the world know that One if by Land, Two if by Sea is widely regarded as the most romantic restaurant in the city. Normally wed hesitate to match a cheesy holiday with a played-out restaurant, but now that new chef Craig Hopson, formerly of Picholine, has replaced the humdrum chicken Kiev with entres such as turbot poached in coconut milk with peeky toe crab, mango and sea beans (you can peruse the new menu here), we dont feel the least bit corny about asking Michael Lombardozi, a waiter at the West Village institution for seven years, to walk us down lovers lane.
Whats it like to work there on Valentines Day?
Its weird thats the one day out of the year when nobody ever complains. Everybodys in a great mood. Everybody is in love. Theres always quite a few engagements you have to keep up on it
Whats the most romantic one youve seen?
Two young ladies were here on vacation from England. One got a note brought to her at the table saying, Go to the piano. She goes over and sees her boyfriend who flew in that day to come to propose to her at the restaurant. And his friend came with him to videotape it.
Do guys exaggerate their wine knowledge in order to impress their dates?
The girl will order a glass of Pinot Grigio, and the gentleman will say [in pompous tone], Give her the Santa Margarita. Its decent wine, fine, but try something new. Or theyll order the Pinot for the lady. You have to ask, Pinot Noir? Grigio? Blanc?
What are some other dating faux pas?
Using the improper utensil for the dish our setting is a salad fork, entre fork, and on the right side will be a teaspoon and a knife. They use the entre fork before they should. Or theyll pour their own wine. Thats something we dont like to see some people like to pour their own wine, but when its a mess.
Do you ever deal with lovers spats?
The winell do that to you. I overheard a guy talking about his wife to his girlfriend. They were discussing leaving her. Eventually hes going to divorce her to be with her. Thats always uncomfortable.
What do you do when people start making out at the table?
Recently there was an incident in the bathroom. It was a busy night, and this couple was gone for a good 25 minutes. We sent someone downstairs, and hey, look at that, theres a party going on in there. I guess they were trying to have a baby.
Whats the most romantic seat in the house?
Table 63 is always a favorite, but I personally like 72. Sixty-three is a garden view (theres a window). Its against the wall so you have no one behind you, just two guests on either side. On the opposite side is 72, which is a banquette. Its for three or four, but for a deuce, youre closed in on all sides except for the front and its romantic.
Did presenting Craig Hopsons new menu take some getting used to?
The beef Wellington used to be a filet and on top was a mushroom duxelle; they used to put foie gras in there as well and cover it with the pastry shell. Now they removed the foie gras from the creamy mushroom, and that foie gras is on the dish as a sauce with an array of winter vegetables. People have a hard time adjusting to a change like that.
How many people still order the beef Wellington?
Fifty percent. When a deuce sits down, at least one will order it. I think we make it the best in the city.