Bensi co-owner Genci Previzi helms an immense menu of classic Italian cuisine, including hearty homestyle dishes with roots in Calabria, Italy. Entrees, joined by a house salad or cup of comforting housemade soup, range from spaghetti and meatballs to gluten-free grilled chicken in a lemon-garlic marinade served over a veggie medley. The chefs also prepare an array of specials such as pignoli-crusted goat cheese and arugula salad, barolo-braised veal osso buco, pan-seared Chilean sea bass with eggplant caponata, and nutella chocolate pizza with fresh strawberries. The dishes are served in a modern dining atmosphere where minimal table settings and simple dark-wood furniture keep the focus on the vibrant cuisine.
At K & J's Ice Cream Shop, you can eat pumpkin pie without a fork. That's because the shop's 40-some flavors include several varieties inspired by time-honored desserts. In addition to pumpkin pie, there's Twinkie, Almond Joy, and raspberry cheesecake. The creamy selections are supplemented by 25 fruit-flavored italian ices, which cool off tongues faster than a french kiss from a snowman.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Espresso 77 is a convivial independent coffeehouse, serving its loyal clientele strong, full-flavored espresso in a bright, art-friendly space. Brewing beans from popular Ithaca-based Gimme! Coffee, the café's baristas place warm mugs of deeply aromatic cappuccinos ($3.60) and espressos ($2) into caffeine-craving hands. Complement bold java with a delicately sweet scone ($3) from Alice's Tea Cup or a Mom's-not-watching breakfast of frozen custard ($3.75) from Timmy O's. If the cafe's menu of coffees and teas gives your stomach the energy to draft a formal request for nourishment, order up one of the eatery's light and filling wraps ($6.50). For sweltering, mercury-rising days, the New Orleans–style iced coffee ($2.75–$4.50) will cool off foreheads faster than stepping into Mr. Freeze's cryogenic suit.
Red Hen Bistro's made-from-scratch menu revolves around the fresh, seasonal meats, fish, and produce in French and Californian cuisine. Francophiles will feel conflicted in trying to select only one dish, be it the croque madame, an upscale ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a sunny-side-up egg ($10.95), or the salad nicoise, a hearty helping of organic greens crowned with roasted potatoes and hard-boiled eggs ($8.95). California dreamers can sample West Coast–inspired temptations such as tamales with braised pork ($8.95) and fish tacos served in crisp tortillas ($9.95). Simplicity seekers can opt for the tomato soup and grilled cheese ($9.95) while enjoying the restaurant’s attention to detail—evident in both the food and front-of-house service. With rich-red walls, large windows boasting street views, and touches of French country charm, Red Hen Bistro exudes an air of casual intimacy, though lacy nightclothes are discouraged.
Gianna’s offers a menu full of upscale, old-world Italian fare, reviving tired taste buds with subtle sauces and precisely prepared pastas. Each dinner entree serves two people, but single orders are also available. Split the vodka-sauce-laced penne with a dinner date ($25.95), or share an order of lasagna with your invisible nemesis ($26.95). Rigatoni with broccoli rabe and sausage fills bureaucratic meat quotas ($29.95), and eggplant parmigiana pleases pairs of plantivores ($23.95). A wine list is also available, so you can pair your meal with a bottle of 2008 Danzante pinot grigio ($25) instead of the FDA-recommended 12-pack of Capri Sun.