Whole Lotto love for Valentine’s

Lottery machines were whirring like mad as New Yorkers with Champagne dreams lined up for tickets and a chance to win the whopping $179 million Mega Millions jackpot tonight. Business was markedly brisker than usual, even for a big-bucks prize, after word that two Brooklyn players just missed the jackpot Tuesday when it was a mere $150 million. Each did nail $250,000, however. The not-quite-lucky-enough players, who haven't come forward yet, both had five correct numbers, but not the Mega Ball. At the Superior Market in Flatbush where one of the $250,000 Mega Millions tickets was bought, customers lined up five and 10 deep for tickets Thursday. Co-owner Simon Roman, 42, explained, "When someone hears that someone won a big amount and this is a lucky store, people get excited and buy more tickets." One person on line was 50-something Pamela D'Rudder, who refused to say what she did for a living, but confessed she buys $200 worth of tickets a week. "Lotto, Mega Millions, scratch, you name it," she said, clutching a fistful of green. "I won $1,000 a month ago and that gave me hope I can hit the big prize and maybe be able to retire." Earlier, Queens nurse Pablo Mogollon and Brooklyn electrical contractor Oleg Soloviev enjoyed the best Valentine's Day of their lives, collecting their shares of an $8 million Lotto jackpot from the Jan. 30 drawing. "I love Lotto," gushed Mogollon, who bought his winning ticket at BHP News on 82nd St. in Jackson Heights. Tops on his to-do list is visiting relatives in Peru, from which he emigrated in 1988. He also wants "to buy a house in Forest Hills." Soloviev, a 50-year-old divorced father of two daughters, got his winning ticket at CJ Express Deli and Grocery on Cropsey Ave. in Brooklyn, choosing numbers he pulled "out of thin air." Soloviev will use his winnings for his credit card and car payments and for his daughters - college for one, graduate school for the other and weddings for both when the time comes. Continue Reading

LOVE’S JOYS. Eat, laugh & be pampered this Valentine’s Day

ME-OW! Yes, diamond-encrusted Hello Kitty charms are as thoroughly over-the-top as Kimora Lee Simmons, the queen-of-bling, who started designing these flaunt-worthy feline pieces last year. For Valentine's Day, she has done a new litter of pavé Kittys with onyx eyes, rose gold nose and pink diamond bow. $800-$3,900 at www. neimanmarcus. com. SWEET SCRIBBLES: It may be small, but the new Pilot G-2 Mini is sure to cause pen envy. At just 41/2 inches long, you can tuck it away and whip it out in an emergency - like having to scribble a last-minute missive to your valentine. The G-2 Mini comes in eight vivid colors, including red and pink. $1. 98 each. SHINE ON: V-Day is a time when you want to channel your inner va-va-voom. For a bit of help, celeb hair colorist Louis Licari is offering all Valentine's Day customers an Instant Deep Conditioning treatment and a complimentary red "Love Louis" nail polish to take home. If $85-$225 for single-process color is a bit steep, treat yourself to a bottle of the polish ($10). Louis Licari Salon, 693 Fifth Ave., at 54th St., 15th fl. (212) 758-2090. SPECIAL DELIVERY: Many restaurants claim their valentine menus are fit for a king, but few can deliver an actual royal chef to back that up. That doesn't mean you can't. For a cool $5,000, Darren McGrady, the former private chef to Princess Diana and her sons and a 15-year veteran of royal service, will jet into town and cook dinner for you and your loved one (and up to eight others, if you really want company). And while you're allowed to pick the three-course menu in advance, we suggest you leave that in McGrady's clearly ­capable hands. Buy online at www. wallbounce. com. NOT SO ALONE: Single? Turn V-Day from pure torture to pure bliss. From 6 to 9 p. m., ladies are invited to the 49th St. branch of Bliss Spa for brownies, free minimassages and brow waxes, discounted products and a chat with matchmaker Janis Spindel, author of "Get Serious About Getting Continue Reading


It took only one swing for Jose Valentin to provide the Mets with all the offense they would need in last night's 7-0 win over Houston at Shea. In the second inning, the second baseman unloaded on the second pitch he saw from Taylor Buchholz and launched it over the right-field wall for a grand slam and a 4-0 lead. Valentin's second slam in the last nine games extended one of the Mets' most impressive hot streaks. "Big hit after big hit," Willie Randolph said. "He's been awesome in this nice little run." During this "nice little run," which is at nine games, Valentin has hit .351 with 12 RBI. Picked up in the offseason as a utility man, he now has the second base job cemented. Valentin has managed an impressive 11 homers and 41 RBI in his 211 at-bats. "I've gotten my second life," the 36-year-old Valentin said. "I wasn't playing at all at the beginning of the year. It was a bad situation. Now that I get to play every day, I want to stay there. I don't want to lose the job." PEDRO UPDATE: Pedro Martinez (hip) claimed he will throw his scheduled simulated game after today's game, but doubted Randolph's pregame suggestion he might return as early as Wednesday. The hobbled ace more likely is targeting a return to the rotation next weekend. "I have no idea, but I don't think so," Martinez said last night about Wednesday's game against the Cubs. "Normally, if you pitch a simulated game, they normally treat it like a regular outing." SON ALSO RISES: GM Omar Minaya introduced prized amateur signee Francisco Peña to the media by saying, "You have to like the pedigree, but we also like his size, his arm and his bat." Peña, the 16-year-old son of Yankees first base coach and former All-Star catcher Tony Peña, was signed out of the Dominican Republic to a reported $750,000 signing bonus. The Mets project the younger Peña as a catcher, too, and plan to start him out in the Instructional League in the fall. "I can't believe I'm a Met," Pena Continue Reading

HEARTS ON FIRE. Kitchen Casanovas whip up Valentine’s Day feasts for their honeys.

When it comes to concocting a Valentine's Day feast for your sweetie, passion is much more important than cooking expertise. Whether you're a beginner or practically a pro, the secret ingredient on the perfect menu is romance, and by the time you're ready to sit down to dinner for a duo, the kitchen's not the only thing that's steamy. Here's how three culinary Cupids with different skill levels heat up their evening on the holiday. THE COOK: YARON Milgrom-Elcott, a graduate student at NYU working toward a Ph.D. in Jewish mysticism. He cooks for: His wife of two years, medical student Miriam Sheinbein. Where they live: Upper East Side. Level of expertise: Seasoned cook. Yaron Milgrom-Elcott is a serious cook who shops at all specialty markets - bread from the Sullivan Street Bakery, pasta at Raffetto's, produce from the Greenmarket and so forth. "I spend as much time cooking and riding my bike to food markets as I do studying," says Migrom-Elcott. "I cook from Gourmet and Bon Appétit [magazines], but they sometimes take shortcuts. I like to learn how to do each thing completely from scratch." The menu: "I'll probably start with some fresh ravioli dough that I buy at Raffetto's," says Milgrom-Elcott. "For the main course, I will prepare salmon with root vegetables." Also on the bill of fare: Jerusalem artichoke soup, beet purée and a salad of roasted radicchio, chestnuts and pomegranate seeds. "For dessert, I make a chocolate cake that is molten in the middle," he says. "I adapted it, and now I poach it in my egg poacher. This was something that I tried that just worked out." THREE-CHEESE RAVIOLI IN HONEY TANGERINE & FENNEL REDUCTION Serves 4 Milgrom-Elcott buys the dough at Raffetto's (144 W. Houston St.; 212-777-1261). It needs to be ordered a day in advance and there's a 3-pound minimum. He buys fresh ricotta at Alleva Dairy (188 Grand St.; 212-226-7990). As for the gouda, Milgrom-Elcott likes to use Continue Reading


JOSE VALENTIN spent the better part of a decade getting used to seeing his name in the lineup every day. Now 36 and at the back end of his career, things are different. He was signed by the Mets before this season to be a reserve. And the adjustment hasn't gone smoothly. Before this past week he'd gotten into 26 games, but only started two. In 23 of them he'd batted only once or not at all. For a guy who's spent his career as a run producer, he had to embrace an entirely different of mindset. "There's a lot of pressure on you when you come off the bench and have one at-bat to go up there and do something," he said. "When you play as a starter you're not trying to do everything in one at-bat." With a huge road trip, he may not have to do that quite as much. With his bat, he made an argument to Wilie Randolph to get a couple starts per week. He started three of the last five games on a trip in which he went 7-for-15 and raised his average from .179 to .279. He had two home runs and eight RBI. And he was in the lineup again last night for slumping Cliff Floyd. "Right now I have a good read going on and I'm swinging the bat pretty well," Valentin said. "My confidence is a lot better now than it used to be. "In my career I've been a guy who plays every day. Now I am a guy who comes off the bench. It's not easy." Valentin thinks playing time has made all the difference in his productivity. He said that he wants to produce for his team and was trying too hard to do it with one swing when he was getting only one turn at the plate per game. "It's a lot easier to make your adjustments when you're in the field more often," he said. "You know you'll have two or three at bats in the game. You get to see the guy more; it's not when you're coming off the bench. "It's tough to come off the bench and get one at-bat and try to do a lot. When you're in the game you know you're going to have to bat at least three times. If you don't do it in the first at-bat, you Continue Reading


This year's Mets, unlike their fumbling ancestors, have become the unAmazin's. They won their fifth straight yesterday, almost routinely, own best record in the league and have spent exactly one day out of first place. They swept away the Piazza-less San Diegos, 7-3, yesterday, breaking the game open in the seventh after edging ahead on - warning: you've seen this name before - David Wright's double. Wright walked twice, stole two bases, and hit two doubles. He doesn't pile on all that good stuff every game, but it does seem that way. There were runners on first and second, none out, when he came up in the seventh, licking his chops. "You have to want to be there," he said afterward. "You can't shy away from it. Can't be scared of it. " So after his double, the Mets were a run ahead. But let's face it, one run ain't much, especially since the Mets were playing most of their bench yesterday. A one-run lead meant they might have to bring on the nervous-making Billy Wagner. And what if Mike Piazza pinch-hit in the ninth and drove another ball into the cheap seats? One run, when you think about it, is the closest thing to nothing at all. Which is why the next batter, coming up with the bases loaded, needed to make something out of almost nothing. The 36-year-old Jose Valentin was batting fifth for only the second time this season, because Cliff Floyd is on the DL, Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca were given a day off, and Xavier Nady is eating his meals in Pittsburgh. There's something about the bases being loaded that puts a gleam in Valentin's eyes. He has nine grand slams, two this year. He's the only Met to hit a grand slam and a bases-loaded triple in the same game. If he had his way, every at-bat would happen with the bases stuffed. "You're not in the hole," he points out. "Bases loaded, it's the pitcher's problem, not my problem. " The infield was pulled in, and Valentin, batting lefthanded, slashed an outside pitch down the third-base line. Continue Reading


KISSING OFF PROSECUTORS' concerns, a soft-hearted federal judge tossed a Valentine yesterday to John A. (Junior) Gotti. The former mob boss was briefly released from home detention last night to celebrate his 42nd birthday at a Long Island restaurant over government objections. "It was wonderful," Gotti told the Daily News after returning to his Oyster Bay home. "I had a lovely time." Prosecutors had a less rosy view. "This is a defendant who conducted most of his criminal activity in restaurants and social clubs for years," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGovern protested in court. But Manhattan Judge Shira Scheindlin didn't see any harm in allowing Gotti a Valentine's Day night out with wife Kim and their burgeoning brood. Kim Gotti is pregnant with the couple's sixth child. The judge signed off on the special outing after assuring prosecutors they had plenty of time to line up any surveillance they wanted at the restaurant. "One thing's for sure - you won't hear this again," Scheindlin said. "It's only once a year." Gotti declined to say where he enjoyed his repast. Except for weekly visits to church and a Christmas Eve dinner at the mansion of his older sister, Victoria, Gotti has been confined to his home while awaiting a retrial on charges that he ordered a 1992 hit on radio host Curtis Sliwa. Gotti has been under house arrest on $7 million bond since September. The four-hour dinner pass was granted as prosecutors and defense lawyers began picking a jury for the new trial, which likely will start next week. Dozens of potential jurors were weeded out for everything from knowing the brother of Mob boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante to describing Victoria Gotti as "one of the three people" least admired by a prospective panelist. In a 30-page survey, would-be jurors were asked 72 questions, including whether they had ever watched Victoria Gotti's reality series, "Growing Up Gotti" or listened to "Curtis & Kuby," the morning radio show Continue Reading


Jose Valentin finally managed the first hit for the Mets yesterday in the seventh inning. As he has done regularly and unexpectedly in his first season at Shea, he also delivered the biggest one a few innings later. Valentin's improbable run of clutch hits continued yesterday when his bases-loaded single in the 10th inning accounted for the only run in a 1-0 victory over the Cubs, preventing a three-game sweep before the Mets headed for Atlanta. "The dude's been clutch," said Cliff Floyd, who had grounded out as a pinch-hitter with two runners aboard for the final out of the ninth. "Valentin, he's been as important as anyone here all season." Not bad for a player whose role appeared undefined early this season as a little-used bench player, before Willie Randolph finally settled on him as Kaz Matsui's replacement at second base. Valentin, a 15-year veteran who never had played second regularly, has made the most of the opportunity with an array of big hits - including two grand slams among his 11 homers and 42 RBI. The Mets simply needed a hit from anyone yesterday; they hadn't managed any against Cubs starter Mark Prior and two relievers until Valentin dropped a bloop single between shortstop Ronny Cedeno and center fielder Juan Pierre with one out in the seventh. "We knew we had seven innings without a hit," Valentin said, "but the good news was it was still a 0-0 game." The scoreless knot remained when Valentin failed to drop a sac bunt in the ninth, fouling out to catcher Michael Barrett. But Valentin got a second chance against ex-Mets lefty Glendon Rusch in the 10th, when David Wright was intentionally walked ahead of him to load the bases. "Certainly we didn't want to pitch to Wright in that situation and (Valentin's) usually not as good (batting) righthanded," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We got him in the hole 1-2, but (Rusch) got the ball up and out over the plate." Valentin stroked a single up the middle and raised both arms above his Continue Reading

Oregon woman sues Italian restaurant for $100K over alleged poor service during solo Valentine’s Day meal (VIDEO)

An Oregon woman is suing an Italian restaurant for $100,000 over claims she was treated poorly during a solo Valentine's Day meal. Kathleen Hampton was dining by herself at Enzo's Caffe Italiano, in Portland, because her husband was "still full from lunch" and decided not to attend, reports The Oregonian. She alleges that, as she sat alone at the table for two, no-one would take her order. Hampton also claims that she was left feeling "crushed" after being asked to give up the table. When she allegedly asked to have her food to go, she was then reportedly told they "don't do take out." "That was the final straw," she wrote in the lawsuit. "I've never heard of a food place not having to go. I was so devastated I cried for one day. I don't want this to happen to anyone else that's why I'm filing this complaint," she added. Hampton also alleged to KOIN 6 that she had been booted out of the eatery because she is African American. But this has not been alluded to in the lawsuit. Restaurant owner Enzo Lanzadoro dismissed the allegations. "She made [A]reservation for two and when she got there, said 'Oh, just by myself,' " he told The Oregonian. "We offered for her to sit at the bar with other single diners since Valentine's Day is very busy and all we know is she got up [from the table] and left without paying after she drank two glasses of wine," he added. Hampton is representing herself in the lawsuit, which was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Feb. 26. She is demanding the hefty sum and "a public apology both in person and in writing in news and community papers." ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Man, 21, faces possible murder charges in Queens Valentine’s Day killing: cops

A 21-year-old man is in custody facing possible murder charges in connection with the killing of a 56-year-old Queens man on Valentine's Day, police sources said Monday. Kevin Lopyan was found dead in his 77th Ave. basement with head injuries at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 14 after cops responded to a call from the suspect, Popal Rahmatullah, sources said. Rahmatullah, who did odd jobs for the older man, was taken into custody and charged with robbery, burglary and criminal possession of stolen property because he had the dead man's credit card and ring, police said. The medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide Friday, and Rahmatullah is expected to be hit with additional charges. Police said the younger man went to the home seeking money. When he didn't get it, he left but returned and broke in, cops said. A fight ensued and ended with Lopyan dead on the floor, cops said. Rahmatullah told police the dispute started after Lopyan, who also suffered from an undisclosed medical condition, hit on him, the source said. Lopyan had one prior drug possession charge from 2011. Rahmatullah was previously charged with robbery and criminal possession of marijuana. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading