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Tira tardi has its menu, both in Italian and English, posted on the outside of the restaurant.
Tira tardi has its menu, both in Italian and English, posted on the outside of the restaurant. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
Tira tardi has its menu, both in Italian and English, posted on the outside of the restaurant.
Tira tardi has its menu, both in Italian and English, posted on the outside of the restaurant. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
The beautiful bar at tira tardi, an upscale restaurant in Vicenza, Italy. Things get busier later in the evening.
The beautiful bar at tira tardi, an upscale restaurant in Vicenza, Italy. Things get busier later in the evening. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
Candles, chandeliers, blue lights, exposed brick walls and photographs of Princess Diana, Tom Cruise and other celebrities make for a glowing, gorgeous ambience at tira tardi in Vicenza, Italy.
Candles, chandeliers, blue lights, exposed brick walls and photographs of Princess Diana, Tom Cruise and other celebrities make for a glowing, gorgeous ambience at tira tardi in Vicenza, Italy. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
The restaurant tira tardi provides the most gourmet dishes in downtown Vicenza, Italy, along with the most romantic atmosphere -- and the heftiest check.
The restaurant tira tardi provides the most gourmet dishes in downtown Vicenza, Italy, along with the most romantic atmosphere -- and the heftiest check. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
The food is beautiful, too, at tira tardi in Vicenza, Italy. Here's the lobster salad with orange and fennel.
The food is beautiful, too, at tira tardi in Vicenza, Italy. Here's the lobster salad with orange and fennel. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
The fois gras appetizer at tira tardi in Vicenza, Italy, looked inviting on Valentine's Day.
The fois gras appetizer at tira tardi in Vicenza, Italy, looked inviting on Valentine's Day. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Many were the times I stopped to peer through the window into the most elegant restaurant in downtown Vicenza. And many were the times that I kept on going.

The prices on the menu posted outside were high, but more important to my wandering elsewhere was that there were few, or no, customers.

Obviously something was amiss, right?

Sometimes being completely wrong is a revelation. Such was the case, I discovered on Valentine’s Day, with tira tardi.

Determined to have a romantic meal with a visiting fiancé, I’d made a reservation one afternoon a few days before the Hallmark holiday. As usual, the restaurant was empty.

But I’d been seduced by the space in a side street across from Palladio’s Basilica: exposed brick walls, sleek lighting, and especially the chairs — perhaps the only ones in all of downtown with cushioned rather than straw seats , and spaced for privacy instead of jammed at tiny tables cheek by jowl.

We arrived as skeptics at 8 p.m. joining two other parties already in the process of their Valentine’s celebrations and took our comfy seats. Desi, my miniature poodle and actually a huge romantic himself — so loyal! — lay on his special scarf at our feet.

But I sense I’m being self-indulgent…

What you want to know is — how was the food?

It was fantastic. It was luxurious ingredients, lobster and fois gras and monkfish and the best branzino prepared simply, cooked expertly with refinement, notably different from the usual Vicenza rustic vibe.

And the service? With so few customers, it was like being at home, with your own chef and server: so attentive, so knowledgeable, and yet so non-obtrusive. We couldn’t have been happier.

As the night progressed, more and more couples arrived. It reminded me of a trip to Milan many years before in which the restaurants didn’t open until after 9 p.m. and only got lively near midnight. So, it turned out, the restaurant caters to a late-night crowd.

We left as devotees. We went back twice in a week – once at 7 p.m. when we were the only patrons. We had the spaghetti with raw sea urchins, the risotto with scampi, and the sea bass encrusted in salt.

We look forward to trying some of the meat dishes in the future.

The restaurant is also open for lunch, with more reasonable prices. I plan to sample the Penne Alla Angry. It’s only 7 euros.

montgomery.nancy@stripes.com

tira tardi

Address: Contra Daniele Manin 11, Vicenza, Italy

Menu: in Italian and English.

Hours: Lunch is 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m; dinner is 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers are in the double digits; ours cost 29 and 23 euros. We shared a first pasta course for 22 euros, and our second fish courses cost 26 and 33 euros. Lunch dishes are mostly in the single digits and no more than 14 euros.

Dress: Chic.

Information:Telephone: (+39) 0444-325204; website: www.ristorantetiratardi.it (in Italian).

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