Upon entering Tuscany Ristorante, guests are greeted by the sweeping country landscapes that pepper the bright-yellow walls, evoking summers spent under the Tuscan sun, sipping wine and dancing the tarantella until the INS showed up. The warm interiors paired with crisp white linens and hardwood floors infuse the restaurant with a casual elegance to match its classic, flavorful fare. The chefs whip up rich Tuscan dishes, including hearty pasta; prime, dry-aged steaks; and decadent housemade desserts. Pasta and risotto entrees showcase carb sculptures such as the rich rigatoni boccelli, which, like any marble statue, comes doused in pancetta and light vodka sauce. As guests dine, they can indulge in a bottle of wine plucked from the floor-to-ceiling wine rack that lines the walls with rustic wood planks and elegantly displays hundreds of bottles.
As the heir apparent to three generations of cooks, Rose Foote’s decision to follow in their footsteps was no surprise. Her journey started when she worked at her parent’s restaurant at the age of 9, and it continued in 1995 with her catering service, and, eventually, a culinary tour throughout Tuscany. All of these influences can be found in her inventive breakfast, lunch, and brunch menus at Bella’s Café—Rose describes the resulting theme as “European roots with contemporary flair.” An illustrative example is the eggplant ciabatta, a unity of grilled eggplant, fire-roasted red peppers, gooey melted mozzarella, and spicy arrabbiatta sauce.
The food isn’t the only aspect of Bella’s Café that blends a classic European aesthetic with contemporary influences—the décor adheres to that theme. Burnt yellow hues give the walls a rustic look, and framed prints and paintings remind guests that they don’t have to sculpt their French toast into a bust of Napoleon playing with his food to see beautiful art.
Golden-fried clam strips, fantail shrimp, and bay scallops anchor the tables at J’s Crabshack (formerly Tinker’s), sending up clouds of steam next to hearty steak and lobster dinners. Founded by chef and scallop fisherman James Tinker more than 20 years ago, J’s Crabshack has grown into a bustling seafood hotspot, where an aquarium teeming with eels and tropical fish overlooks the dining area. The shack’s market counter dishes out freshly snagged raw shrimp and scallops, earning recognition as runner-up for best fish market in Hartford from the Hartford Advocate in 2011. The restaurant’s culinary team, which includes James Tinker II in its ranks, works diligently to serve guests in the ocean-themed catering hall, then sticks around to burp everyone postmeal.
Chef Kausik Roy didn't invent his signature dish after attending culinary school, nor did he do it while he was working at some of the best restaurants in India. In fact, he was only a 9-year-old boy in Mumbai when he took one look at a plate of slimy okra and told his family he refused to eat it until it was crunchy and spicy. Someone took pity on him, sprinkled the okra in green chili, and deep-fried it. To everyone's surprise, they all loved it, and this dish, karrarri bhindi, has been a mainstay of Roy's kitchens.
At his newest restaurant, Tawa Indian Cuisine, there are two distinct dining areas: the more laid-back downstairs, where guests dig into plates of finger food and can get away with wearing mismatched socks, and the fancier, intimate space upstairs, where guests enjoy Indian fusion favorites. These include shrimp, calamari, scallops, and basmati rice flecked with saffron—the Indian version of paella—and coconut-and-pepper shrimp served with a chutney mayo.
Hailed by none other than the New York Times for eclectic dishes that combine “a homey touch with a dash of originality,” The Pine Social throws a sophisticated spin on traditional American comfort fare. Chandeliers cast a soft glow on tables situated side by side within the tavern-like restaurant and lounge, which anchors its menu on free-range meats, ocean-fresh fish, and locally sourced produce. The kitchen’s homemade sausage and slow-braised beef short ribs are not to be missed, based on their own merits as well as their shared ability to whet palates for the dessert menu’s warm apple spring rolls. Sips of aged scotch and spiked, hot apple cider thaw jaws frozen agape at the tavern’s dark-stained walls, rustic wooden accents, and plush furnishings. Light from high-definition TVs glints off the bar’s full-service spirits station, beside which guests can treat their ears to music that pours forth from live bands on Thursday and Friday nights.
The chefs at O'Hana Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar expertly roll dozens of sushi specialties and sizzle meat-centric Japanese entrees atop a hibachi grill. Snag a seat at the bar to watch chefs chop, slice, and wrap the popular Snow Crab Heaven roll, a blend of cream cheese, snow crab, and avocado topped with spicy mayo ($11.95), and other specialty rolls on the menu. Bite into the Hottie Susan’s molten core of spicy tuna, cucumber, and salmon ($12.95), or let daring chopsticks challenge the Dragon ($9.95), a California roll packed with eel and a deep-seated grudge against questing knights. Alternately, chefs can flip fiery portions of steak, chicken, shrimp, or scallops on a traditional Japanese grill to yield four types of hibachi dinners ($12.99–$17.99 each) flanked by onion soup, a house salad, grilled vegetables, and rice. Kid-friendly options, including pint-sized portions of teriyaki chicken ($8.99) and steak ($9.99), keep young mouths busy so they don’t shout out parents’ computer passwords in the middle of dinner.