At the outset, Cakes for Occasions owner Kelly Delaney was a one-woman baking wonder, churning out specialty cakes from a single oven in her mother?s kitchen. Today, just more than a decade later, nearly 30 employees join Kelly to sift, whip, and frost more than 700 wedding cakes each year. The still-expanding business has drawn the attention of many press outlets, including The Today Show, and has earned a multitude of accolades that include the Wedding Wire Bride?s Choice Award in 2012, a spot on the Boston Globe 2011 and 2013 A-Lists for its birthday and wedding cakes, and an appearance on TV Diner. The legendary lineup of baked goods ranges from four-tiered fondant wedding cakes to tuxedo cake pops, ideal for black-tie food-on-a-stick galas.
Executive chef Ilias Kakouris, a former apprentice of celebrity chef Nicholas Peter Valhouli, pushes up the sleeves of his white uniform as he leads his crew of chefs who roast baby eggplant, grill pizzas in the brick oven, and pan-sear scallops. Kakouris not only oversees the kitchen, but also co-owns Brutole Restaurant with Nick Kakouris, with whom he works to curate a menu of Mediterranean and American flavors. Near the warm glow of the brick oven, cooks pile pizza dough with caramelized onions, figs, and julienned pear while others top grilled beef tenderloin with a red-wine reduction.
The dark-wood-trimmed interior creates a romantic setting in which votive candles flicker atop white tablecloths and the silverware hums Tom Jones's greatest hits. A full bar draws in swarms of entranced patrons with its backlit glass shelves, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, and signature martinis.
A look of resigned beatification crosses the faces of fresh kiwis, mangos, bananas, and papayas as they knowingly march into whirring blenders to join Maui Wowi Hawaiian's homemade, nonfat yogurt. With no artificial flavors, unnatural colors, or fake accents, the smoothies—most of which harbor less than 250 calories in their 12-ounce incarnation—infuse guests with two servings of fruit and a bevy of vitamins in flavors that range from the tart kiwi lemon lime to the dulcet black raspberry. For caffeinated pick-me-ups, baristas brew kona coffee and mix up specialty drinks, starting with a blend of arabica and kona espresso.
Francesco Pellino was born in Naples. At 9 he moved to the United States, at 15 he became a dishwasher, and six months after that, he was the assistant to the night chef at the acclaimed Stella's of Boston. He paid for his college education by continuing his work in restaurants, and in 1992 he opened the doors to his very own restaurant Pellino's Ristorante, which has flourished ever since.
20 years later, Francesco was ready for a new challenge, so he opened a sister restaurant called Mamma Luisa Cucina & Bar. Rustically-minded and swathed in cozy shades of red and cream, Mamma Luisa focuses on Northern Italian fare with Provencal influences, and many dishes are inspired by Francesco's yearly trips to Italy. That includes pastas, such as gnocchi amatriciana or penne bolognese, which are made in-house every day, or traditional entrees like veal saltimbocca topped with fresh sage and prosciutto. The dining area can also be reserved for intimate gatherings of up to 50 people or 100, if they all bring their imaginary friends, making it a perfect choice for birthdays, work gatherings, or holiday parties.
For native Greeks, each bite of moussaka at Ithaki Mediterranean Cuisine is like a warm, delicious hug. Owner Petros Markopoulos and his team individually bake each serving, layering together beef, eggplant, zucchini, and spices, and topping it all in a delectable b?chamel sauce. That cooked-to-order dish is just one of the ways Petros reminds his fellow Greeks of home?while also introducing nonnatives to the flavors and comforts of Mediterranean cuisine. In a 2005 review, The Boston Globe happily noted that Petros "doesn't veer when it comes to the classics," though some of the menu goes beyond the Mediterranean, such as the fried Cape Ann haddock sandwich.
In 2010, a 15-week renovation brought even more comforts to the restaurant. Petros expanded the building, adding colorful accents such as oil paintings, comfy couches, and a full bar, where diners can nibble gyros while watching a game or listening to occasional live music. He also expanded the menu to include a selection of small plates and a raw bar.
You won't find many surprises at Top It Your Way Yogurt Bar. For the most part, there's just delicious, made-from-scratch frozen yogurt and a toppings bar stocked with a wide array of fruits, nuts, and candies. Still, the Danvers yogurt shop has a few tricks up its sleeve. Flavors in the self-serve machines rotate daily, while the original tart flavor—homemade with greek yogurt—is available at all times. Other flavors made with greek yogurt include key lime pie, black-raspberry, and more. There are also bubble teas available in flavors such as strawberry, mango, pineapple, and creamy avocado.