Five decades ago, Kirio Pantelis wheeled a wooden cart around Kalamata, Greece, peddling syrupy sweets to locals. Today, his son and daughter-in-law oversee the American patisserie and café that evolved from these humble roots, nestled in both Brookline and Brighton. The bakery pays homage to its heritage with walnut-studded cakes and tarts that echo back to communal baking in wood-burning Greek ovens, though the shop draws from all over Europe for luxurious ingredients such as chocolate genoise, poached Turkish apricots, and Belgian cocoa. Puffed éclairs, petits fours, and fruit tartlets evoke the patisseries of Paris, and the bakery’s from-scratch gelato transports tasters to Italy without the hassle of concentrating hard enough to teleport.
Along with these sugary delicacies, the Brighton location also dishes up savory, Mediterranean-inspired fare at a café with marble tabletops and loft ceilings. Diners here fork into cold poached salmon, munch on paninis layered with gruyere or house orange-scented sausage, and savor cold sandwiches filled with roasted pancetta.
The chefs at Café Nicholas adorn pizzas with one of three sauces before adding a heaping handful of toppings chosen from more than 30 options. Within the pizzeria's art deco-inspired walls, guests dig into 35 types of sandwiches, homemade pastas, and pizzas crowned with traditional and unique ingredients such as prosciutto, shrimp, and eggplant. For diners with gluten allergies, the cooks can substitute gluten-free crust for any of their pizzas. They also cater to low-fat tastes by serving up salads with low-cal dressings, frying appetizers in cholesterol-free canola oil, and pouring unlimited glasses of calorie-free water.
Like Mr. Rogers dressed in a banana-yellow zoot suit, American Craft's menu gives comfy American fare a tasty artisanal twist. Each of its appetizers ($8–$11) conceals a variety of inspired tastes, from the butternut-squash risotto to the pulled-duck hash with root veggies. Fresh salads and a trifecta of soups (du jour, oven-roasted tomato, and onion) will appease dainty diners, though they also go really well with a build-your-own burger of beef, turkey, or veggie served on a hi-rise challah roll with hand-cut fries or mixed greens. Once all the palate's previews have played, it's time for the main movie: American Craft's heartier plates include a grilled flat-iron steak au poivre with grilled asparagus and gorgonzola mashed potatoes, a veggie-friendly grilled tofu steak with broccoli rabe, and stout-braised short ribs with whipped potatoes. Entrees range between $14 and $24, and sandwiches are $9 to $12.
In an effort to find a healthy alternative to fast food without sacrificing speediness, the creators of Pita Pit began assembling their signature sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks. At each location, thin, Lebanese-style pitas encircle lean, grilled meats and fresh veggies. Sandwich selections span the spectrum from gyro meat and falafel to turkey and prime rib. The staff empowers customers to make healthy choices by displaying nutrition information for each bread, meat, and post-meal toothpick and corralling a selection of healthy sandwiches, which dining companions can wash down with fruit smoothies.
Named Best Deli in Boston by Boston magazine in 2008, Rubin's Kosher Restaurant stacks the sandwiches high on its menu, New York deli-style. Indulge growling stomachs with the Madison Avenue combo sandwich ($15.99), uniting hot corned beef, hot romanian pastrami, and hot tongue on your choice of bread, or eat your way through an emotionally detached cold salami sandwich ($7.99). In addition to bread-bookended bites, Rubin's also rolls out a slate of soups and entrees. A cup of homemade sweet-and-sour cabbage soup ($3.99) is ideal for diners born with ladles for hands, and herbivoyeurs can enjoy the meat-free Middle Eastern wrap, containing hummus, tabouli, and eggplant salad ($12.99). All edibles can be washed down with a refreshing Sam Adams ($4.50) or played off by a decadently patriotic slice of apple pie ($3.99).
Metal-topped tables, transparent cobalt blue chairs, and a monochromatic gray wall lined with artwork. It has the look of a dapperly decorated modern cafe, but Dante's Frozen Yogurt, instead of merely serving coffee, presents frozen yogurt made with natural ingredients and fresh milk. The staff welcomes customers to create their own chilly concoctions with fro-yo made from fresh milk and real fruit purees. The result is a smooth and creamy treat, bolstered by live yogurt cultures and probiotics. Healthier than many other desserts, it comes in delectable flavors such as red velvet cupcake, blueberry tart, and triple chocolate. Despite the emphasis on smart eating, indulgence is never shunned at the toppings bar. There, guests select just about any color from the rainbow, perhaps sprinkling white chocolate chips, fresh mochi, and M&Ms over swirls of frozen yogurt. Of course, keeping it healthy is easy with nutrient-packed garnishes such as kiwi, strawberry, and granola.
While not a cafe, Dante's Frozen Yogurt actually does serve grin-inducing Arabica coffee and espresso drinks, as well as hot chocolate. The team also loads cookie jars with buttercrunch-stuffed chocolate bark, cookies, and cannolos. Whimsically, the shop is named after a cat with its own heartwarming story—though being the kingpin of a dessert empire hasn't gone to his head.