"If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch Of the North Church tower as a signal light, One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country folk to be up and to arm."
From The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We remember this classic poem from our grade school days. A man by the name of Mario DeMartino remembered it from his classes to become a United States citizen and decided to name his soon-to-be-opened restaurant, One If By Land, Two If By Sea. While he undoubtedly wasn't envisioning a future web site address, it was appropriate because a previous owner of his 18th century restored carriage house was none other than Aaron Burr (yet another character from the American Revolutionary War). The history theme seemed like the logical direction at the time.
It was my first visit, and frankly, the history thing made me a bit nervous. I was thinking Lawrence Welk and chicken-pot pies. I appreciate history and the proverbial fireplaces, but somehow this restaurant seemed out of place in Greenwich Village. I heard it was romantic, but all too often the word romantic is another restaurant buzzword that means there are probably candles on the tables and you won't be able to read the menu. I really wasn't searching for romance - I was hoping for a lot more. Somewhere, I read they have a pianist who plays love songs and classical favorites. Let's just say I was more in the mood for the classical favorites.
What a surprise. The building was knocked-out beautiful and when we walked in the door, I immediately understood why this place has survived and prospered for over three decades. With a classic bar, four fireplaces, a stunning view from the garden room, the aforementioned candlelight and fresh flowers at every table, this place is all about love, romance and diamond rings. It took approximately 30-seconds to understand why One If By Land, Two If By Sea is the most romantic restaurant in New York City (and possibly the world).
According to Rosanne Manetta (the General manager who has been there for twelve years) … "Some twenty-four couples get engaged here on a weekly basis (most of them over dessert), and guess what, over all these years, there has only been a handful of ladies that declined. We have built a reputation for happy endings and it has become a big part of running this restaurant. Even after all these years, I still see the tears in the eyes of our waiters who continue to play their role in one of life's most momentous occasions." "Some choose to actually get married here, and almost all of them return for their anniversaries. They want to sit at the same table where it all began, so we are in the habit of keeping things pretty much the same. It's worked for over 33 years, and romance is always going to be a part of the legacy of this restaurant."
New York is New York, and all the romance in the world is not enough to get it done in the number one restaurant city in the world. The one thing that has changed is the food, and with the addition of a Russian born chef named Gary Volkov, their "classic American cuisine" has become more modernized and the preferred designation is now "American Seasonal". Chef Volkov graduated number one in his class at The French Culinary Institute in New York, and prior to joining One If By Land, Two If By Sea, he worked under Chef Kerry Heffernan at Danny Meyer's Eleven Madison Park.
This restaurant is worth a visit, even if you just relax at the bar and enjoy the piano music. There is no cover charge, and it's one of the best shows in the City. Not everyone is here to get engaged, but it is part of the theater of this particular restaurant, and it keeps this classic spot young and refreshing. You might hear or read that gentlemen must wear jackets, but that's no longer the case. One If By Land, Two If By Sea has made some changes with the times, but the romance part of it will never go out of style.