Whether you’re looking for a place to impress your date or want to celebrate a marriage that’s aged like fine wine, you have several great places from which to choose in Cleveland County. Following, we look at two restaurants that fill the bill nicely and, coincidentally, enjoy deep roots in the community. (See also our bonus fourth page!)
Since opening in 2005, Benvenuti’s Ristorante also has won numerous accolades, via the media, positive reviews on social media platforms, and recommendations from renowned food and travel critics.
Benvenuti’s hits all the points that are hallmarks of a romantic fine-dining establishment.
“I feel that when looking for a restaurant for a romantic dinner, it's essential to consider the ambiance, service, food selection and wine list,” says Anthony Compagni, Benvenuti’s partner and executive chef.
“A great venue for a romantic dinner typically features dim lighting, intimate seating arrangements and a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. Excellent and attentive service is also crucial for creating a special and memorable experience. A diverse and sophisticated food selection, complemented by a wide variety of wines and other spirits, can elevate the overall dining experience. I believe Benvenuti’s excels at this.”
The restaurant, which specializes in authentic Italian fare with a creative flair, offers a wide selection of dishes, from salads and appetizers to entrees and desserts that are sure to please the palate (and impress your date). Entrée suggestions include Chilean sea bass and Bolognese Al Forno. Benvenuti’s boasts an impressive wine list, as well as domestic and imported beers and cocktails.
105 West Main St.
Launched in 1967 as a pizza delivery service headquartered behind a laundromat on Norman’s South Base, Legend’s moved to its current location on Lindsey Street a year later. Its menu gradually evolved to include fresh seafood, pastas, steaks, fowl, pork, lamb and much more.
Over the next half-century-plus, countless couples have made Legend’s their go-to place for Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and other celebrations, as well as business meetings and casual meals.
Legend’s has been recognized in numerous media polls as the Best First Place Restaurant and Best Romantic Restaurant, among many other accolades. It also has held a three-star rating in the Mobil Travel Guide and Three Diamonds in the AAA Travel Guide. Legend’s mouth-watering homemade desserts have been recognized by Bon Appetit Magazine and Southern Living, and the restaurantisa recipient of the Oklahoma Beef Commission’s Silver Knife Award.
Ambiance is key when selecting a restaurant for its romantic appeal. Legend’s boasts a cozy atmosphere with out-of-the-way spots for intimate dining. The restaurant also features low lighting, white tablecloths, candles and a subdued noise level (no sports-TV!), to allow for an intimate conversation.
“In addition, our servers are trained to be unobtrusive in date situations,” notes Joe Sparks, Legend’s co-owner (with wife Rebecca and daughter Eva).
“There is a range of items on the menu to suit most budgets, and we offer sharable appetizers and entrees, which encourage a romantic experience. A great selection of wines and cocktails complement a romantic dinner,” he added.
On Valentine's Day, the restaurant frequently offers a Sweet-Heart Special with a sharable appetizer, a special sharable surf-and-turf entree and a sharable dessert. On other special occasions, including date nights and wedding anniversaries, Joe’s recommendations include espresso martinis, shrimp cocktails, Caesar salads, medallions of beef tenderloin, a bottle of Quilt Cabernet and chocolate mousses. A variety of mocktails or non-alcohol beverages are also available from the bar, he notes.
“We get lots of couples coming in for dates,” Joe said. “Every day, we see several couples celebrating wedding anniversaries who come back year after year. Lots of couples had their first date here and celebrate that every year. We’ve had many weddings here as well as loads of rehearsal dinners, and people then make a tradition of returning for their anniversary.”
1313 W. Lindsey St.
May We Further Suggest ...?
Another great Valentine's Day option is Oliveto Italian Bistro (OlivetoBistro.com), where you'll find a warm and friendly atmosphere; a range of flavorful appetizers and entrees; and mouth-watering desserts; and a generous selection of wines, beers and cocktails from which to choose.
But they had us with two of their specialty cocktails, which might have been created with Valentine's Day in mind: the Chocolate Oliveto and the Flirtini.
The Chocolate Oliveto is a decadent chocolate martini made with Godiva chocolate, Bushmills, Bailey's, Kahlua and cream, served in a chocolate-swirled martini glass. It's finished with a frothy top dressed up with sprinkled chocolate. Tongue in cheek, the management describes it as "pure debauchery," "addictive," "immoral" and "yummy."
The Flirtini is described by management as "slightly less perilous [we assume in comparison to the Chocolate Oliveto) yet hardly harmless." The drink is further described as fun, delightful, playful, gorgeous and delicious. The concoction is made with SKYY raspberry vodka, Patrón Citrónge, and pineapple and cranberry juice with a splash of champagne.