Mario UncloggedThis year for Valentine's Day, I'm taking my kids and wife, Susi, out for our traditional fondue fest at Artisanal. We all send Susi a dozen wacky flowers (never roses—way too common), and then it's out for the first seating at 5:30 p.m. for some cheese and chocolate, and then home early!

My ideal menu celebrates the most mysterious and romantic town of Italia—Venezia—and is based on Carnevale, which always falls near, and sometimes overlaps, with Valentine's Day. The celebration is simple and based on seafood and birds from the Venetian lagoon—or the closest lagoon to you.

I love dungeness crab, but good lump crabmeat is delish in February and easy to find and works well in a crab tortelloni. The quail is extra special in its honey and balsamic marinade; just be sure to make the polenta very thin, almost the texture of a velouté, as it will be less filling and much more tasty.

For dessert, the brutti ma buoni cookies ("ugly but good") may or may not define the entire evening for a few first daters.

It's all about love on February 14.

In boca al lupo!

Mario Batali's Valentine's Day Menu

About the author: Mario Batali has created a thriving restaurant empire and has established himself as a top restaurateur. Together with his partner, Joe Bastianich, he operates seven New York City hotspots. Mario splits his time between New York City's Greenwich Village and northern Michigan with his wife, Susan Cahn, of Coach Dairy Goat Farm, and their two sons. More Mario:


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