Best Place for a Last Date Houston 2000 - Valentino's
The grand doorway opens at this obscure Midtown corner on Fannin. A heavy sense of foreboding can be felt with the first step into the enormous premises. The clock freezes at the just-off-peak dining hour. Over in the hazy corner, by that faded mural of the canals of Venice, a jazz vocalist lazily ends her set. She sings throaty refrains about love in retreat. On the table, a candle flickers. Coupled with the others, it casts huge and faintly moving shadows on the three-story walls. Footsteps can be heard ascending the maze of wrought-iron-railing stairs that form near-illusions in the distance. This slightly forlorn setting was once a classy gallery. It remains a tribute to the fine art of romance -- both making and, unfortunately, breaking it. When the moment comes to part ways, couples can call it quits at commercial establishments or chain restaurants or any manner of in-your-face and up-your-ass venues of the crass. Or, simply come to Valentino's for instant nostalgia. Order up a merlot-warmed high. And remember why this special romance just had to die. Then softly cry. There's farewell food of good quality and variety. Regardless of the selection, the main course is a splendid feast of melancholy. Medium rare. Memories, if not love, are in the leftovers.