Everyone appreciates a romantic overture, regardless of the time of year.
And spending time together, undisturbed, is one of the most romantic propositions one can offer. Even more so if you planned ahead to ensure a romantic atmosphere.
While many influencers will tell you the only way to be romantic is to spend a ton of money, you can find romantic restaurants in CT at any price point.
Because in the end, your date won’t necessarily remember what you ate, and (hopefully) not how much money you spent on them.
If your date is a keeper, they’ll remember the thought, planning, and attention you lavished upon them for your romantic trip.
The details are not just the details. They make the date.
So start planning those special date details by picking from the best romantic restaurants in Connecticut for your next special date.
Start your plan with great date ideas in Connecticut
Taking your date to your usual haunt won’t be enough for a special occasion.
Instead, find a new dining option off this list, even if it requires a drive. There’s something exciting about going someplace new and experiencing something new, together, for the first time.
Luckily, nowhere in our little state is much of a drive from anywhere else.
Plan a romantic getaway or day trip with our list of romantic getaways and places in Connecticut. Or plan your day, afternoon, or evening around some of our favorite date ideas in CT.
Romantic restaurants in CT: the ultimate guide
This guide to romantic restaurants in Connecticut is divided into sections, based on:
- Views (waterfront or rooftop)
- Type of dining (fancy, French, Italian, etc)
No matter what type of restaurant you’re looking for to impress, you’re sure to find the perfect fit in this list.
4 of the best romantic restaurants on the water across Connecticut
Pair your culinary experience with views of Long Island Sound, and romance will be in the bag.
L’Escale offers a modern yet elegant dining experience. In the warm months, you can snag a table on their outside patio with views of the harbor. And in the winter, grab a table by one of their large wood-burning fireplaces for that added touch of romance.
And this mainstay in Greenwich’s roster of restaurants continues to release culinary masterpieces, all in keeping with their southern French tradition.
The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, Rowayton
As the name implies, this restaurant started in 1996 as an addition to a local seafood market.
And with spectacular views of the water, The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood is now a draw to Rowayton in and of itself.
Obviously, the fresh seafood from the market on-site takes precedence, both on the menu, and when making your choice here.
Shell & Bones Oyster Bar, New Haven
Much of New Haven’s waterfront isn’t picture-perfect, to be fair.
But Shell & Bones Oyster Bar in the City Point neighborhood has a sweeping view from its floor-to-ceiling windows of such points on the harbor as:
- Fort Nathan Hale
- East Shore Park
- Sandy Point Bird Sanctuary
This restaurant wins awards for its menu centered on seafood, steak, and raw bar.
Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook
Continue along the Connecticut shoreline to one of the most charming towns in the state, Old Saybrook.
And there, where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound, sits one of the most romantic places and restaurants in CT.
The almost panoramic views of the water at Fresh Salt are sure to impress, especially at sunset.
And after dark, the fireplaces, including the large stone fireplace that serves as the focal point of the dining room, continue to provide warmth and romantic ambience.
The American-style menu is full of seafood, including a raw bar. If seafood is not your forte, there are plenty of land-based options as well.
Rooftop restaurants for romantic dinners in Connecticut
One of this writer’s favorite Sunday afternoon activities when living in Charleston, South Carolina, was enjoying a drink at a rooftop bar while watching the sun dip behind the city’s historic buildings and church steeples.
It’s an activity that one can replicate in a more Yankee style, albeit with a shorter season or a safely-enclosed space in which to enjoy it.
An immensely popular restaurant along the strip of South Norwalk (or SoNo to locals) restaurants, Evarito’s offers delicious Mexican cuisine.
The vibe here is lively yet still romantic. And the food is its own draw, with a salsa tour on the menu, featuring samples of seven salsas made in-house.
But warmer months are splendid on their rooftop terrace overlooking lively downtown Norwalk.
Bernard’s and Sarah’s Wine Bar, Ridgefield
Just outside of downtown Ridgefield sits two heavy-hitters on Connecticut’s culinary scene.
Occupying two floors of the same 1875 Victorian house, Bernard’s and Sarah’s Wine Bar offer visitors different yet enchanting experiences.
First floor Bernard’s uses touches such as Garnier Thiebaut linens, Bernaud china, and pastel colors to create the ambiance of a French country inn. But the menu is what drives that feeling home, with house-made items like pâtés, ravioli, and charcuterie. And as befits a French restaurant with a wine bar attached, the wine selection is superb.
A pianist plays on Friday and Saturday nights as well as brunch on Sundays.
Sarah’s Wine Bar
Upstairs, Sarah’s Wine Bar is a more casual restaurant with rotating artwork on the walls and wooden tables. And yet the menu is just as intriguing, including a bacon sampler and exotic meats like venison, prepared four different ways.
Visitors to the wine bar can enjoy live music Wednesday through Sunday.
And while not exactly rooftop, both restaurants offer their own unique, magical version of outdoor eating:
- Visitors to Bernard’s can enjoy dining under the stars in the summer, surrounded by a garden
- Sarah’s Wine Bar offers a tree house-feel seating arrangement on its second floor porch
Exploring the restaurant scene is one of the absolute best activities in Hartford, Connecticut.
Capping-off a city date to see a show or visit one of the fantastic art galleries in Hartford, ON20 offers a glamorous fine dining experience with a view to match.
Situated on the 20th floor of One State Street, one of the tallest buildings in Hartford, On20 features fantastic views of the Connecticut River and the surrounding city. Watch the sunset with a cocktail, then enjoy the twinkling lights over dinner.
And speaking of dinner, extravagant items such as duck, venison, and octopus with chorizo fill the menu.
An evening here is sure to dazzle the senses.
Fancy fine dining restaurants in Connecticut
While not the only way to make a romantic overture, an evening at a fine dining restaurant is one of the most acceptable, culturally-speaking.
It is what it is.
That said, a fancy restaurant is perfect for special occasions, especially of the romantic sort.
Some of the most common high-end dining restaurants in Connecticut feature French, Italian, New American, and Mediterranean.
French restaurants in Connecticut
Due to some interesting historic peculiarities of French influence on the Western world, French cuisine is a top choice for fine dining restaurants in Connecticut, as well as most Westerner’s minds.
And Greenwich, CT, has fine French dining in abundance. A few top restaurants in downtown Greenwich include Le Penguin.
Some other fantastic French restaurants hug the Connecticut shoreline:
Union League Cafe, New Haven
This writer has memories of going to Union League Cafe as a child.
Back then, New Haven was a cost-effective way for parents to introduce their children to what was considered high culture:
- An off Broadway show or musical
- Yale University museums
- French cuisine
And the Union League Cafe was always a part of that experience.
And decades later, this New Haven restaurant is still a local institution. Although it’s become quite a bit more expensive, so your romantic outing will not likely feature families with young kids.
Union League Cafe remains an ideal place to impress a date. The interior feels like a Parisian brasserie with:
- A fireplace
- Dark wood paneling
- Marble pillars
- High ceilings
- Lighting perfect for the romantic ambience
And as is typical of brasseries across the Atlantic, the food and attentive but unobtrusive service is a staple. The restaurant’s signature dish is the confit de canard, or boneless duck leg confit with potato galette and a salad of Granny smith apples, walnuts, and watercress salad. But updated classics are regularly added.
This romantic restaurant in New Haven earns plenty of accolades from the likes of Zagat, Connecticut Magazine, even the New York Times. So you’re sure to enjoy your visit.
Le Petit Café, Branford
For a cozier, more intimate meal, head to the Branford Green.
Celebrated bistro à la française Le Petit Café has a setting more in the line with a country inn than the upscale brasserie of the Union League Cafe.
But the flavor and elegance of a meal here competes with that of any French restaurant in Connecticut.
The prime New York strip steak and rack of lamb are major draws to this cozy bistro, though as with any French restaurant, the desserts are not to be missed.
Romantic Italian restaurants in Connecticut
Do you, like most inhabitants of the Northeast, have Italian heritage?
Then perhaps a romantic evening is not complete without a few of the dishes you remember from Nonna’s kitchen.
If that’s the case, then Connecticut is just as renowned for its Italian cuisine as other states in the Northeast that make a louder commotion regarding their collective heritage.
Not mentioning any names.
This writer has only had brunch at Lugano, but it’s without question a perfect setting for a romantic evening.
The focal point of this Italian restaurant is the marble-topped bar. Grabbing a pre-dinner drink here while you wait for your table is a must, once that’s possible again post-pandemic, at least.
This is a winos paradise, with over 15 wines by the glass available on the menu from global hotspots for wine, including Italy.
Spiga, New Canaan
While Lugano is famous for its wine, Spiga focuses on locally sourced dishes to stimulate its classically inspired Italian cuisine.
Be sure to start the evening with their famous (and scrumptious) salumi and cheeses before tackling their handmade pastas and brick oven pizzas.
After over 17 years of business, Match in South Norwalk must be doing something right.
Perhaps it’s the rustic urban design of the space, with exposed brick and antique wood surfaces over dark walnut wood floors, all lit by a dramatic chandelier of pipe fittings and bare bulbs.
The weekly signature dishes always feature whatever pasta the restaurant made that week, though anything on the menu at this casual yet romantic spot is amazing.
This Italian restaurant in downtown Fairfield is a top pick for the young and hip.
The romantic lighting and decor helps Molto resemble a Roman trattoria from the 1950s, though the updated tapas-style dishes are sure to delight.
In warmer months, the outdoor seating area can be quite pleasant, depending on how bad traffic is on the Post Road.
Lucia Ristorante, New Milford
One of the best Italian restaurants in Litchfield County is on Bank Street in downtown New Milford.
From its cozy, unpretentious storefront, Lucia Ristorante serves pasta made in-house by hand, and an eggplant parmigiana that could be one of the best you’ll ever enjoy.
If you’re into that sort of thing.
L’Orcio, New Haven
Close to Wooster Square, the center of Italian cuisine in New Haven, L’Orcio occupies a charming and historic townhouse.
Inside, a glowing fireplace sets the ambience for a romantic dining room, though the trellis-covered patio is perfect for warmer months, especially when the wisteria is in bloom.
While all the pasta is homemade, the ravioli, ricotta gnocchi, and pappardelle are favorites.
Tre Scalini Restaurant, New Haven
Situated right on Wooster Street in the historic Italian neighborhood of Wooster Square in New Haven, Tre Scalini is a more old-school destination on this list.
The decor is more traditional, yet still oozes romance. Reserve a table next to the window wall facing Wooster Street for some solid people watching.
But of course, the major draw here is the classic Italian food of this trattoria-style restaurant. Be sure to get some advice on pairing your meal with one of the 6,700 wine bottles from their wine cellar.
Arugula, West Hartford
The menu of this romantic restaurant in West Hartford is not just Italian. With Middle Eastern and French influences to this menu in addition to Italian, the owners would describe it more as a Mediterranean-inspired bistro.
But regardless, the cuisine at Arugula is delicious, especially the desserts made in-house.
Romantic New American restaurants in CT
Connecticut was celebrating farm-to-table cuisine before it was cool, though it’s now enjoying a bigger resurgence than ever in following the national trend.
Add-in the state’s historic element, with many restaurants occupying former estates, farms, even schoolhouses, and diners are guaranteed a unique and scrumptious experience.
Baldanza at the Schoolhouse, Wilton
In the quaint neighborhood of Cannondale in Wilton sits a former schoolhouse converted to an intimate restaurant.
Baldanza at the Schoolhouse only seats 36 people at a time, so it’s intimate. And the staff avoids detracting from that experience, with policies like avoiding booking parties larger than four on busy nights.
This pricey but adventurous eatery is perfect for a special occasion. The restaurant even provides personalized menus to congratulate visitors on an anniversary or other major milestone.
Be sure to top-off your meal with the chocolate souffle, a schoolhouse favorite.
Arethusa al Tavolo, Bantam
Shortly before the start of the pandemic lockdowns, OpenTable released its list of the 100 most romantic restaurants in America for 2020.
And of the thousands of restaurants across our little state, only one, Arethusa al Tavolo was awarded the accolade.
This very upscale restaurant is the brainchild of the owners of the celebrated local dairy, Arethusa Dairy Farm. Its dishes featuring local beef, fish, produce, and dairy from Arethusa are simple yet sophisticated.
And with only 48 seats and a snug wine bar, this is another intimate dining experience.
The best dessert option here is the ice cream from Arethusa’s Dairy Farm Creamery, right next door.
Winvian Farm, Morris
Just up the road from Arethusa al Tavolo in Morris is another Litchfield County heavy-hitter.
Cozy, firelit rooms containing only three to four tables each with scenic views of the fields and forests of the old farm are the perfect setting for the farm-to-table menu. Wines selected from 13 countries in the wine cellar are sure to make the perfect pairing.
Artisan Restaurant, Tavern, and Garden; West Hartford
Artisan has two locations in Connecticut: one in Southport, the other in West Hartford.
This writer prefers the West Hartford location, so this directory of Connecticut romantic restaurants is highlighting that one.
While the New England farm-to-table menu is award-winning, the major appeal of this restaurant is its atmosphere.
The interior of Artisan offers an introduction to Scandinavian eighteenth-century design, with:
- Gustavian Swedish furniture
- Bookcases full of classic Swedish books
- Light wide-plank pine flooring
Yet the 1,500 square foot outdoor garden, including an herb garden and shaded pergola, is the coolest part. A starlit dinner in the warmer months makes this a perfect romantic choice in West Hartford.
Casual romantic restaurants across Connecticut
Being romantic doesn’t necessarily require putting on your formal attire.
In fact, the remaining restaurants on this list are ideal for a more casual dining experience. Though they’re no less romantic than many of the other options on this list.
You just won’t necessarily need to set aside a special occasion budget to pull-off eating there.
This Spanish restaurant serving tapas-style dishes started in South Norwalk and has spread from Boston to Atlanta and beyond.
While Greenwich misses its former outpost downtown, and the restaurant has a location on Summer Street in Stamford, the best in Connecticut is in Fairfield.
As befits a Spanish restaurant, Barcelona has a fantastic charcuterie selection. Hams from Mangalica and Serrano, as well as Castilla-La Mancha and Ibores cheeses grace the menu, served on a board.
Sit outdoors in the warmer months in this location’s kitchen garden. It produces more than half of the seasonal produce the restaurant uses.
In this writer’s opinion, nothing says romance like a steaming bowl of ramen noodles.
And Mecha offers a youthful update to centuries old recipes in a hip atmosphere.
While South Norwalk is a great place to try-out Mecha, the other locations in Fairfield and New Haven are just as good.
Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria
Down the street from Tre Scalini in Wooster Square is the original pizza shop in a city known for its pizza.
Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria has been pulling pizzas out of its signature ovens since 1925.
This is no fine dining, but it’s history makes it one of the most unique restaurants in Connecticut.
The owners of Union League Cafe selected the cute town of Madison for another French restaurant in their line-up.
This new entry, Bar Bouchée, offers simple but beautifully prepared French classics. And all of it is in a very cozy bistro with a more boisterous atmosphere than its counterpart in New Haven.
What’s the most important thing to remember when picking from romantic restaurants in CT
So, of this lengthy list of romantic restaurants, which is perfect for you?
Don’t obsess over it too much.
In the end, taking the time and effort to plan and enjoy a delightful meal together is the most important part of the entire experience.
As a writer for the Guardian commented,
“Perhaps restaurants are less about the food than we think, and our relationship with them is more emotional and social than gustatory. When I asked a group of French restaurateurs what was the most important ingredient to a restaurant they answered, in unison, “ambiance” – the feel of the place.”
As you may have noticed, this writer focused more on the ambience of each location than the food.
Pick the atmosphere that best fits you and your significant other, having a good meal at any of the choices above is guaranteed.
Unless you’re more into burgers and fries. Then skip the fancy part of the list.
Find more romantic things to do in Connecticut
A meal on its own may be nice, but having a larger itinerary planned is recommended.
Especially if you would like to take your significant other to a new destination.
Keep exploring your many options in Connecticut, with:
- Top romantic things to do in Greenwich, Connecticut
- The best date ideas in Connecticut
- All of the most romantic places for getaways for couples in CT
- All our favorite romantic things to do across Connecticut
Or check-out our list of top free things to do in Connecticut, if you plan on blowing your budget on dinner to really impress.
Updated and republished: December 6, 2021