Friend-zones, Romeos, good ol’ Country Boys — lend me your ears! Valentine’s Day approaches, and maybe you’re looking for a swanky date site. Allow me to recommend Brio Gusto, “where fire meets taste.” I dined there some time past, for my birthday dinner, because Brio Gusto is fancy and yet familiar. And on my birthday, I did my duty and ordered a Caesar salad.

Brio Gusto takes cooking very seriously, and their Caesar is no casual tossed together salad. Each ingredient is harmoniously married to create an overall taste and texture experience. Let’s break it down:

There are actually two Caesar salads on menu and I sampled the starter salad for $6. The main course salad is much the same, but with the addition of a chipotle chicken breast, and runs for $19. “What is chipotle doing in my Caesar salad?!” I hear you wondering. The Brio Gusto Caesar has flavour and panache that makes it extraordinary.

Lettuce? Romaine. Solid. Traditional. A good base to build on. A sturdy foundation.

Dressing? Sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic add some oomph to what would otherwise be completely acceptable Caesar dressing. It adds a complex level of flavour that makes chipotle chicken a natural choice.

Parmesan? Grated in generous amounts, like snowy drifts of stinky cheese.

Bacon? A strip of crisp prosciutto takes the place of bacon.

Croutons? Brio Gusto presents a real game-changer here. Instead of bready croutons, Brio Gusto has MORE CHEESE. A delicate lace-work crisp of asiago.

Lemon wedge on the side.

Not only are Brio Gusto’s flavours incomparable, but the physical pleasure of breaking up the chips and prosciutto add some tactile excitement. Maybe it goes back to the primal urge to hunt and rip apart your own food. But in a civilized environment!

Brio Gusto is a classy joint. Fellas, do your date the decency of dressing up a bit. Put on a vest, or some suspenders. Wear a bow-tie (bow-ties are cool). I have nothing to say to the women, because you’re all always stunning. Maybe watch a YouTube video on how to read a wine list. And don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is just a corporate scheme to force you to express your love in monetary terms! Don’t feel bad if you don’t have a date, just treat yourself to some self-love. Heck, take yourself out to a fancy restaurant!

FUN FACT: St Valentine is the patron saint of lovers — but also plague, epilepsy, and beekeepers. St Valentine’s true story is shrouded in the mysteries of time, but most accounts agree that he was martyred by the Romans in the third century under the rule of Claudius II. When Christianity was no longer outlawed, early Christians got their revenge turning the Roman festival of Lupercalia into St. Valentine’s feast day. Lupercalia celebrated Juno, Queen of Heaven and protector of women. Courtship rituals or marriages on that day were especially blessed.

EXTRA FUN FACT: in the course of researching a historical tidbit I learned far more about kinky Roman sex lives than I wanted to. History is terrible.