Serving up love for Valentine’s Day
AT MAMA TANINO’S, Kimberley Strain-Patrinostro and Gaetano Patrinostro will spend Valentine’s Day serving up classic Italian dishes with a side of love.
Born and raised in Italy, Gaetano Patrinostro did not grow up celebrating Valentine’s Day. After leaving home at age 13 to attend culinary school and work in the kitchens at resorts around Lake Como, he learned to celebrate the holidays through exquisitely prepared dishes presented to patrons. And even though he proposed to his wife the day after Valentine’s Day in 2004, the pair will celebrate this occasion by servicing other couples’ love stories as the proprietors of Mama Tanino’s here in Sonoma.
“He better get me a card at least,” said his wife, Kimberley Strain-Patrinostro.
When you work in the restaurant business, you learn how to mark special occasions on the off days, when there’s time away from the kitchen. That time is especially limited – and precious – at a small family business such as Mama Tanino’s, where Patrinostro is the executive chef and Strain-Patrinostro runs the front of the house. In a way, she said, it forces them to make every day special.
“We kind of celebrate all the time. We sit down to lunch together every single day,” said Strain-Patrinostro, adding, with a laugh, “We live together, we work together. We’re together 24 hours a day. The fact that we don’t fight more is something to celebrate.”
While the holidays might mean work in the restaurant business, the pair does share the love through Patrinostro’s culinary creations. Entitled “Viva L’Amore,” Thursday’s $55 four-course menu includes rich starters like ravioli di aragosta (lobster and ricotta ravioli), followed by a soup or salad, and then an entrée such as filletto di salmone crosta di pinolli (wild baked Alaskan salmon crusted in pine nuts with a white wine sauce) or vitello valdostana (veal with prosciutto and pecorino Toscano). Of course, the meal ends on a sweet note with a selection of house desserts.
“I just find the flavors that people like, that will make them smile,” said Patrinostro. “Everything is fresh and made here the way I did in Italy.”
The restaurant is still accepting Valentine’s Day reservations at 933-8826.
This entire holiday week will be busy for Lynn Lipka, who manages the floral department at Sonoma Market. On Monday, she began receiving shipments of roses, some of the hundreds she’ll weave into arrangements for lovers this Valentine’s Day.
“I’m thinking we’ll have close to 600 roses coming in,” she said. “It’s a big week for flowers.”
After roses, she said tulips are the most popular Valentine’s Day flora, followed by mixed bouquets. It’s a holiday florists have to prepare for early in order to get good stock, Lipka said. That’s especially true with red roses, which have been a romantic symbol for centuries – ever since Venus, the Roman goddess of love, declared them her favorite flower.
“Everything red sells out immediately,” Lipka explained, adding that, thanks to the laws of supply and demand, “Everything triples in price.”
According to ProFlowers.com, one of the nation’s largest florists, Americans will spent $1.7 billion on flowers this Valentine’s Day, including the purchase of 110 million red roses.
A whopping $3.5 billion will be shelled out for jewelry, with another $1 billion spent on sweets, including 8 million boxes of candy hearts and 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Another $1.1 billion will be handed over for greeting cards. Not surprisingly, condom purchases reach their annual peak this week, with a 30 percent bump in sales (consequently, more pregnancy tests are sold in March than any other month of the year).
The average American spends $116.21 on their loved ones for Valentine’s, although men out-spend women nearly two-to-one, dropping $158.71 on average compared to $75.79, according to Business Insider.
And what inspires many Westernized countries to make these official, if not commercial, declarations of love? The answer is murky at best. There are dozens of origin stories for Valentine’s Day, most of which pull from a mixture of Roman history and church lore. But the most popular origin, according to the History Channel, begins with Emperor Claudius II.
After deciding that single men were better in battle, the emperor outlawed all new marriages in the Roman Empire. A priest named Valentine continued to marry young lovers in secret, until he was discovered and subsequently martyred for his transgressions. Years later, that priest was elevated to sainthood by the Catholic Church, which declared Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.