With restaurants open with limited seating due to covid restrictions, it may be difficult for couples to find a table on Valentine’s Day.
This year, a Sewickley nonprofit has found a way to make those romantic hot plates sizzle while supporting local businesses.
Couples and families can order meals through Sweetwater Center for the Arts, a charity that offers hundreds of artistic opportunities annually.
Its members would then pick up the food at various restaurants, put it all together at the center with a Valentine and deliver within a 10-mile radius. People can also pick up meals at the center, 200 Broad St.
“We all need to work together, and that has never been more apparent than during the pandemic,” said Sweetwater board secretary Barbara Thaw. “We could not have concerts in our community room, so we thought we’d do this dinner.
“We are not asking the restaurants to donate because they’re struggling. We’ll all work together and support businesses and support Sweetwater — and you don’t have to cook.”
Deadline for orders is Feb. 7. Meals for couples would be ready Feb. 13. Meals for families would be ready Feb. 14.
Sweetwater assistant treasurer Maggie Settler said she saw an organization in another community offer dinners for New Year’s Eve, and thought it would be great for Sewickley to have such an event for Valentine’s Day.
“It’s a great day for the restaurants, one of their big days,” Settler said. “Now they can be open, but they can’t have many people.”
Restaurants and bars throughout the state have been on a bit of a roller coaster due to changing covid restrictions. Many were shuttered during the recent holiday season and offering takeout only. Some have reopened to indoor dining, but at 50% capacity or less.
The pandemic forced many of the center’s programs to go online, which impacted revenue and the amount of participants.
“We get about half of our income from our classes, and we’ve had very few classes,” Settler said. “We’ve lost about 80% of our income from our classes because we’ve had some online, we’ve had a few in person, but of course we’re very limited.”
Restaurants pitch in
Vivo Kitchen is set to provide entrees for couples on Feb. 13.
Menu includes short ribs with San Marzano tomatoes and red wine served over polenta, and vegetarian lasagna with sliced zucchini, tomatoes, tofu and tempeh.
Vivo owner and chef Sam DiBattista, said he hopes the Valentine’s dinners are a boost to everyone involved.
“It’s nice to see everyone was going to provide a piece of the puzzle for the whole dinner,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes this year. There are people a little scared to go out, and people who are going out no matter what.”
DiBattista said he enjoys helping the community, and Sweetwater has been a big supporter of his business. Vivo’s Kitchen is takeout only until February.
Appetizers served at many Sweetwater events over the years has come from 424 Walnut.
Proprietors James Zipparo and Joe Piccirilli said they will have entrees ready for families on Feb. 14.
Items include risotto chicken or salmon or pasta primavera for adults and chicken fingers or pasta and meatballs for children.
“We always try to take an active role in the community,” Piccirilli said. “This is probably more prevalent this time because of everything that’s going on.”
The restaurant is open for takeout and indoor dining with patrons socially distanced. All servers wearing masks.
“We’re holding our own, but we’re a skeleton crew (due to the pandemic),” Piccirilli said. “We’re doing as much as we can by ourselves and wear many hats. We do what it takes to survive.”
Chefs from both restaurants said the entrees offered were chosen because they are popular, travel well and hold their flavor when reheated.
Soups will be provided by Sweetwater board members. Other parts of the meal include salads by Bridgeside Market and rolls by Mediterra Cafe.
The Ultimate Pastry Shop has dessert covered with icing and sugar cookies people can decorate together.
Organizers said they hope to serve about 60 meals each day and raise much needed funds.
Meal prices range from $125 for couples to $137 for a family of six.
More information and order forms are available online at sweetwaterartcenter.org/valentines-day-dinners.