Even with a plethora of restaurants to choose from in Boston’s North End, Il Villaggio manages to stand out, and not just because of its prime location on Hanover Street. The glassy restaurant offers Mediterranean-leaning takes on classic Italian dishes, like a semolina gnocchi served with creamy pesto sauce. With white tablecloths on a small number of tables, Italian wine bottles placed carefully on skewed shelves and chandeliers that look like freshly trimmed branches, the homey restaurant also serves up classic Italian comfort food from its open kitchen in the back. The chefs here use fresh mozzarella and churn out generous portions of lobster ravioli, chicken parmesan andlasagna to the masses that always seem to be queuing up out front.
The Boston Wine Expo’s Grand Tasting event unites varietals from nearly 200 wineries around the world with cuisine from more than 40 local eateries during four hours of culinary harmony. Attendees can sip more than 1,000 red and white elixirs culled from the grape-producing and wild-cork-taming regions of North America, Europe, the Southern Hemisphere, and the Mediterranean. Samples from Boston-area restaurants such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Sandrine’s Bistro complement each swig as vintners enlighten enophiles on current winemaking trends. Throughout the afternoon, top gastronomic maestros tread two stages during live demonstrations that divulge recipes and directions for finding the secret compartment hidden inside every wine bottle. Lifestyle exhibits and a full schedule of seminars enlighten guests on topics ranging from cheese-and-wine matching to the diversity of Italian varietals (not included with this Groupon). A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit local charities.
Thanks to a $50 loan from his grandfather, Chef James Messinger was able to promote his small catering business in the local classifieds, kicking off the career he dreamt about as a student at the Culinary Institute of America. The unlikely success from this small ad helped The Crazy Chefs Caterers to flourish and allowed Messinger to finance a long-desired wine-tasting odyssey through Spain, where the local cuisine quickly captivated both his tongue and imagination. Upon arrival back home, he established Loco Tapas & Wine Bar with his wife, brandishing fresh, quality ingredients from local farms to construct traditional tapas influenced by Spain's Catalonia, Basque, and La Rioja regions. The highly praised seasonal menus flaunt a rotating arsenal of small plates and elegant entrees, including a saffron-rice paella with chicken, chorizo, and mussels that the Boston Globe declared as one of "40 fantastic dishes" in the Boston area.
Hovering above Loco Tapas & Wine Bar's fully stocked bar, a chalkboard announces a handwritten roster of Spanish wines by the glass. Elsewhere in the dining area, dangling chandeliers and flickering candles set the stage for shadow-puppet tours de force upon rich crimson walls. Striking black accents, tablecloths, and furniture punctuate the sleek color scheme.
Front Street Gourmet furnishes home feasts with comprehensive deli offerings, spirits, and sweet confections available for carryout and catering. The daily takeout menu wraps up and sandwiches slow-cooked barbecue chicken, lobster salad, and classic cold cuts, and hefty catering trays boast Boar's Head meat and artisan cheeses to be mixed and matched by groups and famished cement trucks. At the onsite bakery, confectioners decorate desserts such as cupcakes and full-size cakes with custom artwork that conveys anything from a birthday message to a baby's first haiku. An extensive cache of international beers, wines, and spirits rounds out the epicurean inventory, and Front Street Gourmet's team of gastronomes specializes in at-home wine tastings, providing parties with staff members upon request.
A spectacular range of locally sourced delicacies and keepsakes fills Local Vines with a whirlwind of color and fragrance. Ranks of marmalade, honey, tapenade, and olives ($4.25+) strut the brimming aisles, eager to move into their new belly-homes, and hand-painted tea towels ($10.74) serve as more enduring kitchen companions. The shop's customizable gift baskets ($20+) can be loaded with seasonal epicurean favorites as carefully selected as Emeril's bedtime story, and the dulcet Puopolo dark-chocolate almond bark ($14.99/half-pound bag) baits sweet teeth into pouncing. Though this Groupon is not valid toward alcohol, the shop's extensive wine selection showcases a plentitude of hometown-grape heroes and imported Bacchus fuels alike, and an array of events strengthens budding oenophiles and parades potential cheese pairings. The shop's Summer Solstice shindig, which runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on June 25, celebrates the invention of the sun with appearances by area winemakers and samples of cheese, craft beers, and sausage.