Lavallette Trattoria seems to fill with the sun of the Italian countryside. The warm hues of fresh tomatoes spill from a wide and colorful mural in the dining room. Through painted stone arches, it depicts an idyllic village, an ideal backdrop for the chefs' spin on Italian pastas, pizzas, and other dishes. Amid flowers, wine bottles, and hanging baskets, patrons twirl pastas in vodka or meat sauce, crunching through stalks of broccoli rabe or chewing tender morsels of chicken. Filets of veal are cooked in different styles. To make them francese style, chefs egg batter the filet and add lemon and white wine sauce. To craft bolder marsala, they reduce red wine with mushrooms. Thin New York-style pizza crusts slip from the oven, strewn with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and roasted peppers like the National Museum of Italian Food and Catapults.
Luna Derosa's chefs draw inspiration from a variety of cultures, but their emphasis remains on approachable comfort cuisine with a refined edge. Although the menu features numerous Italian staples—including iconic Sunday gravy with braised meatballs, sausage, and beef braciola in tomato sauce—it also incorporates a variety of Asian and American influences. Chefs add a piquant dose of trans-Atlantic flavor with spicy Thai chili sauces and sriracha-spiked sour cream. They also sear porterhouse steaks, new york strips, and filet mignon on the kitchen's flat-iron grill. The bartenders, meanwhile, mix innovative cocktails using sage, muddled jalapeños, or flavored vodkas, which they infuse in-house. Illuminated columns dominate the split-level dining room, helping to gently light the space along with modern track lighting, chandeliers, and elegant wall sconces. The restaurant opens its outdoor patio during the warmer seasons so that diners can enjoy their meal beneath the stars, beside a smoldering fireplace, or in plain view of any attractive hot-air-balloon captains passing overhead.
The first decision to make at Nino's Coal Fired Pizza is an important one: to share, or not to share? The coal-fired pies come in an individual size or a larger 16-inch ideal for sharing. From there, the decision-making process becomes even more agonizing (in the good way), with creative specialty pies topped with everything from meatballs and cheesesteak to, yes, traditional cheese. Whole-wheat and gluten-free crusts are available, and certain pizzas are sold by the slice throughout the day. None of which is to say that Nino's is exclusively about pizza; the menu also includes homemade pasta dishes, steak and seafood entrees, and hot sandwiches.
A Sophia's Bistro, classic European dishes such as salmon, zuppa di pesce, chicken parmigiano, and caesar salad adorn the tables. Flavors descend from France with the chicken francaise. Other bistro favorites include juicy steaks covered in blue-cheese crumbles and salads tossed with mandarin-orange slices.