In 2011, the Michelin Guide recommended Vareli for its upscale and creative Mediterranean fare, crafted by chef and Gramercy Tavern veteran Amitzur Mor. Chef Mor uses sustainable and organic ingredients whenever possible to inform Vareli’s ever-shifting local menu, which has featured such rich meats as Hudson-Valley duck and Pennsylvania lamb. Resident sommelier Richard Bill draws from his experience at Beacon and Ouest to complement each succulent entree with a wine list of 20 wines by the glass and 100 wines by the bottle. From Thursday to Saturday, Vareli’s kitchens remain open until 2 a.m., so patrons can sip vino and draft beer or rouse sleepwalking roommates with wafts from cheese and charcuterie boards late into the night.
On the ground floor of Vareli, a polished copper bar runs for 20 feet below a rustic arched ceiling, as wide stools belly up to the bar and to barrel-shaped plates. In the upstairs dining room, wide windows look out on treetops and burnished walls support velvety banquettes and lantern sconces. During the summer, couples close in on an intimate outdoor patio for fresh air from nearby Central Park, while colder days invite diners to gather around a cracking fireplace that the New York Times lauds for creating a cozy atmosphere.
Reeling in boatloads of fresh seafood, the culinary captains at Questan’s quench appetites with organic ingredient-infused dishes and outstanding service. The lunch menu bears the precious midday cargo of a succulent grand marner jumbo shrimp appetizer ($15) and the lobster-salad sandwich served with homemade fries, beefsteak tomatoes, and avocado ($19). Dinner portions transform tumultuous seas of hunger into languid Lake Placids with a half-dozen oysters ($9) and organic beet salads featuring toasted pistachios, goat cheese, and poorly table mannered wild arugula ($9). Dunk a ladle deep into the hearty seafood chowder ($7) before stabbing your fork wildly into one of Questan’s entrees, including crab-stuffed jumbo shrimp scampi in sweet garlic and butter sauces ($28). The fisherman’s platter boasts a bounty of broiled, grilled, or fried fish, shrimp, lobster tails, scallops, and calamari served inside a pair of topsiders ($36).
Umbertos Clam House piles on heaping portions of classic Italian seafood and pasta specialties along with savory steaks and chops, catering to patrons craving homemade family flavors. Divvy up a half-dozen cold-water oysters eager to ride throat rollycoasters while perusing possibilities such as homemade lobster ravioli, pork chops with vinegar peppers, or shrimp scampi over rice. Sip on homemade sangria or a variety of cocktails, specialty drinks, and wines while treating your ears to live music on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Whether you're dining with friends, a loved one, or flanked by imaginary monsters that won't ever leave, Umbertos provides a lively dining environment featuring high ceilings and nautical décor. See the online menu for more details and prices.
Flex Mussels does offer other dishes besides the eponymous bivalve, but the menu makes sure that they know their place. It's divided into just two sections: "Mussels, Mussels, Mussels" and "Not Mussels." The star of the show basks in the attention of more than 20 different preparations, from the Classic with white wine, herbs, and garlic, to the Maine with lobster, smoked bacon, chowder, and parsley. On this globe-spanning tour of complexly spiced broths, "nearly all stops are postcard-worthy," according to the New Yorker. Surrounding these are supporting characters such as oysters, a lone land-based entree of chicken, and the formidable lobster roll, which layers one pound of meat with citrus aioli, celery, and lemon inside a toasted bun. Whereas the main course may feel downright continental with classic pairings of piled-high mussels and hand-cut fries—optionally spiked with truffle—desserts shuck off some of the refinement with such options as a deep-fried whoopie pie and a collection of nine flavors of donuts, just the thing for a baseball coach who wants to make each of his players feel special.
Chef and owner Maurice Gallo brings more than 30 years of experience to Carnevale Ristorante, where dishes flourish with classic flavors culled from the gustatory traditions of both northern and southern Italy. Glass art and décor inspired by the colorful Carnival of Venice surround white tablecloths that cover the tables under which hide the best hide-and-go-seek players from Florence. Local New Jersey wines join customer-toted libations in the BYOB eatery, where live music sprinkles freshly harvested, mellifluous notes onto forks every weekend. Gourmet dishes, such as veal in cognac sauce and truffle-oil-drizzled mushrooms and brie, team up with gluten-free and whole-wheat pasta options to please even persnickety palates.