So while Valentine's Day is rarely anyone's favorite holiday, it's something to latch onto in the middle of the long, dark month that comes before spring. Whether you love it, hate it, or feel completely ambivalent, but sometimes buy a box of chocolates for fun, we have a Valentine's itinerary for you.
But first, take this quiz so Pittsburgh City Paper can better understand your relationship to Cupid's birthday (or wherever this holiday comes from).
A. I love it! So romantic.
B. I could take it or leave it, who really cares?
C. This holiday sucks rotten eggs.
D. Honestly, it makes me a little sad and lonely.
What's your ideal romantic gesture?
A. Candlelit dinner, roses, chocolates. Basically something out of a movie.
B. My date surprises me with my favorite takeout and wine, which we consume in sweatpants on the couch.
C. My name tattooed in a heart on their butt.
D. Something thoughtful, like a heartfelt card or handmade jewelry.
Which dog breed do you identify with?
C. A cat
D. Golden retriever
If there was no pandemic, where would you want to travel?
A. A tropical island
B. A cabin in the mountains
C. Literally anywhere that isn't my house
D. To see family or friends
Who’s your favorite Pittsburgh celebrity?
A. Billy Porter
B. Rick Sebak
C. Sharon Needles
D. Joe Manganiello
You are a true romantic who loves Valentine's because of its over-the-top cheesiness, not in spite of it. While you may not be able to go out for a classy dinner at a restaurant and share a spaghetti noodle like in Lady and the Tramp, it's possible to recreate that experience at home.
Try DiAnoia's Eatery's special Valentine's Day takeout meal (2549 Penn Ave., Strip District. dianoiaseatery.com), which comes with a feast of Italian dishes including baby octopus in sauce, rigatoni with ragu, braised short ribs, strawberry and pistachio mousse, and more. Not everyone's idea of romance involves a big spread of Italian food, but it's certainly hard to go wrong with it.
For a dynamic and heartwarming romance, check out the 1982 film Cane River (rent on Amazon). The film explores the romance between a former football player from a prominent Louisiana family and a young woman who's the first in her family to go to college. The film stands out from its era for having an all-Black cast and crew, but it wasn't until the last couple of years that the film was made available to the public.
For a movie heavy on yearning and mournful glances out onto the ocean, look no further than Portrait of a Lady on Fire (stream on Hulu). The 2019 film, set on a French island in the 18th century, is about a love that can only burn bright for a short period of time, when a portrait painter falls in love with the subject she's supposed to be painting.
Join the Pittsburgh Opera (Sun., Feb. 14, 5:30 p.m., pittsburghopera.org) for “Songs from the Heart,” a free performance streamed on Facebook and YouTube full of "amorous arias, tender duets, and romantic ensembles." As part of the celebration, patrons of the Opera also have the option to gift a personalized, or non-personalized, video-gram from the program's resident artists, along with special salted caramels from Edward Marc Chocolatier.
Get your sweetheart a sweet heart they can set on fire, with conversation hearts from North Ave Candles (northavecandles.com). The special heart-shaped candles mimic the classic candy hearts with printed Valentine's sayings ("be mine," "xoxo," etc.) The candles are available individually or as a special gift set that includes two candles and a tea sample.
Go with the Flow
You don't really care about Valentine's day either way; if someone wants to take you for a romantic getaway, great, but eating a whole bag of Cool Ranch Doritos alone ... that's good, too. You're generally easy-going, and while you don't want to get too extravagant, it would be nice to have a little treat on V-Day.
While its name is quotidian, Everyday Noodles (5875 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill. everydaynoodles.net) is still a special treat, thanks to their handmade noodles, which have the perfect amount of bounce and chew. The menu includes dry noodles and noodle soups, as well as soup dumplings and a selection of dim sum dishes.
The 1988 rom-com Crossing Delancey (rent on Amazon Prime) is sweet, but not saccharine, and romantic without being cheesy. A young woman has a dream job working at a bookstore and organizing literary events. Her old-school Jewish grandma sets her up with a pickle vendor, and she surprises herself by falling for him.
For a less romance-based movie, watch Obvious Child (streaming on Hulu), a 2014 comedy starring Jenny Slate as a stand-up comedian who gets pregnant after a drunk hookup and decides to get an abortion, on Valentine's Day no less. While there is some romance involved, it's not the primary focus of the movie. Instead, it's about friendship and family, and a woman coming to terms with her choices.
Walking around an art museum is a great date, alone or with someone else. While most museums are currently open, if you feel more safe viewing the art from home, tune in to the Carnegie Museum of Art's virtual event, Zoom In: Types of Love (Sun., Feb. 14, 2 p.m., $10, cmoa.org). The event will explore "relationships between family, friends, spouses, lovers, and even pets and their humans" within the museum's collections.
Since you're such a chill person, try CBD caramels from Hippie and French (5122 Butler St., Lawrenceville. hippieandfrench.com). These little candies are sweet, tasty, and will leave you feeling so calm, you'll forget that it's even Valentine's Day in the first place.
You, understandably, hate this holiday and everything it stands for, maybe because you're disgusted by the Valentine Industrial Complex. Seeing how big companies twist every holiday into a way to make money selling garbage irks you. And that's OK, you don't have to partake in the romance or chocolate-eating, but you can still experience the holiday in your own way.
People say you shouldn't eat sloppy food on a date. Those people are wrong, but either way, you're not on a date, so it doesn't matter! Get Showcase BBQ (6800 Frankstown Road, Homewood. showcasebbq.net), some of the messiest, and most delicious food around. The meat choice is up to you — they all come with a tasty, tangy barbecue sauce — and definitely don't skimp on the sides. The red beans and rice and macaroni are especially good.
Valentine's Day is too much about love, and not enough about skateboarding vampires who eat bad men. Part Western, part horror, the 2014 film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (stream on Amazon Prime) is the perfect antidote to the cheesiness of V-Day. Though, fair warning, it does have a romantic ending.
For an even harsher look at romance, try Eyes Wide Shut (stream on Hulu), the infamous Stanley Kubrick psychological drama that can actually be considered a comedy once you know how it ends, and think about what it says about the straight male psyche.
Despite its title, author Hannah Cajandig-Taylor's chapbook Romantic Portrait of a Natural Disaster is not about romance, at least not between two humans. Cajandig-Taylor writes about "what it means to live in a world that seems to always be ending," from one natural disaster to another. Join White Whale Bookstore (Fri., Feb. 12, 7 p.m. whitewhalebookstore.com) for a book launch that includes readings.
Since you don't care about Valentine's Day, and probably don't care about receiving or giving a gift, consider donating to charity instead, like the Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid (pghrestaurantworkersaid.org), which provides resources and support to service industry workers struggling during the pandemic. Some of these workers will likely have to serve happy couples dining out on the holiday.
Single and Sad
This holiday might be a little hard for you, whether it be because of a recent breakup, because you're single and wish you weren't, or because we're 11 months into a pandemic and you just feel sad in general. If this is the case, you should take Valentine's Day as a chance to indulge in whatever kind of treats will make you feel better, and we have some suggestions.
What could be more of a treat than a pickle pizza from Spak Brothers? (5107 Penn Ave., Garfield. spakbrothers.com) Regulars to the pizza, wing, and sandwich shop have their favorites, but the pickle pizza is a special one; it was once limited-time only, but it now has a permanent spot on their menu. The white pizza is topped with a creamy ranch and dill sauce. Just trust us.
Even when life seems lonely, friends can appear out of nowhere, as they do in Howl's Moving Castle (stream on HBO Max). While the Hayao Miyazaki film might not be typical V-Day fare, it's actually a very sweet movie about a girl who falls in love with a wizard while trying to break a curse put on her by a witch.
For a more grounded movie, watch Wild Nights with Emily (stream on Hulu), a film that corrects the historically accepted idea that poet Emily Dickinson was a unmarried recluse, when in all likelihood, she was simply a lesbian having a lifelong affair with her sister-in-law. Unlike many films about the 19th century, it's surprisingly funny, and treats Dickinson's life as aspirational.
Make yourself a piece of art during the Pittsburgh Glass Center's Valentine's Day Mosaic Happy Hour (Sat., Feb. 13, 6 p.m. pittsburghglasscenter.org). Learn how to assemble your own mosaic using a kit purchased from the Glass Center, or using materials you have lying around the house.
Get yourself a gift set from Una Biologicals (4322 Butler St., Lawrenceville. unabiologicals.com). They have a special Galentine's Day set, which includes rooibos tea, body butter, lip balm, a chocolate bar, and a sticker that says "Mayor of Babetown." But they also have different sets to fit different moods.