6:45 pm, Tutto Pasta on State Street

A couple looks out the window onto State Street while a half-eaten piece of turtle cheesecake (one plate, two forks) sits on the table between them. He places his hand on her knee while she laughs at a comment he made about a passerby.

Gena McDonald and Darquel Tibbs are at Tutto Pasta for their third date. The two have known each other since high school, but just recently started dating. Owner Pam McCord sees many couples like McDonald and Tibbs at Tutto Pasta, voted the “best date night restaurant” by readers of the Daily Cardinal in 2012.

McCord says she loves interacting with her customers, especially when she gets to help them do something special. She changed the menu for one man as a part of his proposal, has accommodated wedding rehearsal dinners for couples who had their first date at the restaurant and even let one man rent the entire downstairs.

She also enjoys seeing students on first dates.

“Sometimes you see them and they just don’t know what to say to each other,” McCord said. “So if I know a couple is on their first date, I like to put them upstairs by the railing. It’s my favorite date spot.”

It won’t be the last date for McDonald and Tibbs.

“We really enjoyed our night,” says McDonald.

– Sara Schumacher