Specializing in American Continental and Italian cuisine, chef Oscar Monterroso immerses taste buds into gourmet meals packed with emerging trends and flavors. With nearly a decade of restaurant experience tucked into his apron, Chef Oscar has doled out dishes across the United States. Today, having planted his fork-emblem flag on the East Coast, he showcases his talents by travelling to clients' homes and preparing three- to five-course gourmet meals. Chef Oscar also leads interactive dinner parties, enabling groups of students to chop, dice, and whisk their way to becoming better cooks.
As carrot cake rises in the oven, its sweet scent wafts from the kitchen to mingle with Louis Armstrong’s timeless trumpet trickling from the dining room's speakers, enveloping Mike's Tortoise & Hare Cafe & Catering in a homelike feel. The eatery's namesake Mike Clawson—a Connecticut transplant from North Carolina—strolls past the dining room’s fireplace on nights like this, greeting his crews of regulars and stopping off to introduce himself to new faces. Mike opened his restaurant in January 2011 to bring the slow-cooked tastes of his beloved home state to locals. The only thing that makes him happier than whipping up soul-warming plates of southern comfort food is the personal connections he makes with patrons who come in each day to tuck into hearty plates of his catfish, collard greens, and other family recipes. His passion for food began early in the kitchens of his grandmothers, whose recipes grace all 12 of the café's mouthwatering desserts, from rich banana pudding to a decadent chocolate layer cake. Since the café is BYOB, Mike encourages patrons to bring along a favorite brew or chocolate fountain to accompany their meals, and invites all to attend his increasingly popular wine dinners starring quaffs of locally made wines.
Serving the Hartford area with American bistro cuisine, Michael Christophers spruces up standard dishes with stylish preparations and singular sets of flavors. Thrill taste buds and tongues with starters such as grilled cheese sliders ($6.95), chicken parmesan spring rolls ($8.95), or loaded garlic bread, a savory strongman of a plate that hefts artichoke hearts, tomatoes, garlic butter, and four types of cheese with ease ($5.95). Then sink teeth into mouthwatering sandwich-styled main courses, such as the signature Michael Christophers burger topped with crispy onions and Vermont cheddar cheese ($9.95), and the genoa and pepperoni-stuffed grilled hot Italian ($9.95). Other platters include Cajun-spiced blackened salmon, expertly backfloating amidst watermelon salsa ($18.95). Fridays bring an all-you-can-eat fish fry, served with a choice of fries, baked potato, or cole slaw ($15; available during Lent). The bistro also plays home to a full-service bar stirring up a large selection of cocktails, and frequently hosts events, such as beer-paired dinners and readings of Shakespeare’s surf 'n' turf themed sonnets.
True to its name, San Gennaro Wood Fired Brick Oven Pizza & Ristorante churns out crispy, bubbly, Old World–style pies from a brick-lined, wood-fired kiln. Guests gather at wraparound communal benches surrounded by rustic, bare-brick walls, watching chefs toss disks of dough high into the air and cover pizzas in Italian tomatoes, chicken, and shaved prosciutto. Like the Roman empire, San Gennaro's culinary authority extends beyond Italy. Diners can opt for chicken wings with inventive sauces such as buffalo blue, a blend of buffalo sauce and blue cheese.
Plainville Restaurant & Pizza has been stacking sandwiches, baking specialty pastas, and slathering sauce and toppings across tasty thin crust pies for 25 years. Diners can mouth-mash appetizers such as fried cheese ravioli ($8.75) before sinking incisors into more substantial fare from the expansive menu. Specialty pies include the extra-large spinach and ricotta pizza ($17.50), which sates adventurous taste buds wandering across a mozzarella field strewn with sausage and olive boulders. Verdure votaries can dive mouth-first into the vegetarian pizza awash with broccoli, mushrooms, and eggplant ($17.50). Specialty and baked pastas include fresh veal parmigiana ($13.95) and stuffed manicotti ($9.95), with the latter guarding gooey cheese from prey inside tantalizing tubular noodles. Sandwich-seekers can lure wandering coyotes with more than 20 grinders ($4.50–$9) or bun-splitting chicken sandwiches such as the crispy chicken with bacon and cheese under a blanket of ranch dressing ($8).
Robin and Steve Andrikis can attest that sometimes a wrong turn can send you in the right direction. Just 28 days after accidentally stumbling upon 81 Whiting Street—the future site of Big Steve's Grill—the pair began planning a business that would change their lives forever. After operating their own grocery store for 18 years, Robin and Steve opened Big Steve's Grill in August 2009, and have been satiating stomachs with fresh, made-to-order casual eats, from hand-pressed Angus burgers and bowls of house-made chili to deep-fried Twinkies drizzled in chocolate, ever since. Vivid orange and yellow walls ensconce guests in the dining room, which offers views of the patio dotted with picnic tables, where diners can enjoy an idyllic dinner beneath the bright blue sky and looming Godzilla shadows.
Jitters Café deftly intermixes locally grown, organic ingredients whenever possible to fill empty stomachs with a toothsome menu of soups, salads, and baked goods. Lavish neglected spice yens with a pungent bowl of veggie or meat chili flanked with stacks of crispy tortilla chips ($3.75/cup, $5.75/bowl), or spoon up savory destiny with a cup of the rotating soup of the day ($3.50/cup, $5.50/bowl). A vitamin-kissed mixed greens and spinach salad laced with candied walnuts, grape tomatoes, and judicious sprinkles of feta cheese ($6.75) hones jaw muscles and rabbit impressions. Guests can opt to eschew greenery entirely for the primal chew of cheese, pepperoni, or veggie pizza by the slice ($4–$5). Congo lines of freshly whipped desserts fill sweet teeth with bites of strawberry-topped cheesecake ($5.50), vegan cookies ($2.50), and frosty glasses of ice-cream-kissed frozen coffee ($3.50).