John Stowe embarked on a career in the restaurant business when he started bussing tables at a local inn as a teenager. After years he amassed a dossier that includes waiting tables, bartending, sampling cuisine throughout Europe, and cooking aboard a 115-ft. luxury schooner. The self-taught chef opened his own restaurant, Rustica Cucina Italiana, in 2006.
Black-and-white photographs line his eatery's crimson and cream walls, and black linen-topped tables support the weight of large portions of rustic Italian fare prepared to order with fresh ingredients. Pasta arrives curled around seafood, meatballs, or house-made Italian sausage and cloaked in herbaceous marinara or creamy parmesan alfredo sauce. Sandwiches fill diners with homemade focaccia during lunch, and crisp pizzas fill guests with warmth any time they're used as seat cushions.