Chef Francisco Argueta’s love for Italian cooking doesn't just stretch across his 20-year culinary career—it stretches across three area restaurants: Francisco's on the River, Florentino's, and Mamita's. In contrast with the pastoral setting of Francisco's, Florentino's embraces the antique charm and gourmand poltergeists of historic downtown Newtown. Here, Chef Francisco builds a solid foundation of classic red, wine, and cream sauces, draping them over entrees of lobster ravioli, shrimp scampi, and eggplant parmigiano. Tradition isn't everything at Florentino's; Chef Francisco has been known to switch things up with plates of mango-salsa salmon and lunches of pesto burgers and filet mignon sandwiches.
White columns, tapestries, and venetian blinds bespeak both American hominess and Italian tradition at Christine?s Restaurant. Under the house's a-frame roof, Chef James Armetta prepares cuts of eggplant, veal, and chicken in the style of parmigiana or of Picasso's Dinner Period. Patrons bring their own beverages for lunch or dinner as they tuck into seafood, steak, pasta, and burgers. While Chef Armetta prides himself on his traditional Italian cooking, he is also given to experimenting with original creations that riff off of classic plates.
Built in 1929, the Lovett Barn's stalls no longer house rows of dairy cows. What remains of the old farm structure's interior forms booths and seating arrangements in the appropriately named La Stalla, the Italian eatery that now inhabits the space. Rather than wipe out all vestiges of the edifice's origins, the owners celebrate its rustic charm by decorating it with period paintings and artifacts from its previous incarnation, as well as by occasionally mooing at their visitors.
Of course, the chefs also serve delicious Italian food to boot, focusing on a family-style approach that's reminiscent of the culinary philosophy prevalent in the Tuscan countryside. They decorate dozens of kinds of pasta in light sauces, bread and pan-fry chicken and veal, and sauté giant shrimp with butter and garlic. They also serve special meals in their intimate wine room, including chef-chosen courses that, in good Italian tradition, pair perfectly with celebratory bottles of wine.
While growing up in Naples, Italy, Ernesto Leone developed his love for authentic Italian style pizza. He eventually brought it to the United States, opening several restaurants. In 1980, Leone designed his Café Riviera as a cafeteria-style restaurant where his chefs prepare salads and Paninis in front of the customers. Behind the pizza counter, servers dish up slices of fresh pizza cooked by Leone himself. The restaurant’s walls are adorned with Italian home recipes and blue tiles, and the interior also features padded booths and bright suns dangling from the ceiling, kind of like Spider-Man in a good mood.
Tomato sauce basks in lochs of extra-virgin olive oil atop the tomato pie, a thin-crust creation that Pomodoro’s channels from the osterias of Italy. Sicilian-style and mozzarella-spotted margharita pies round out the menu’s pizza selection alongside a variety of Italian cuisine, from gourmet pastas and handheld paninis to desserts such as homemade profiteroles. Crimson walls reflect off Formica tabletops within the cozy dining room, where an exhibition kitchen enables diners to view the chefs’ culinary prowess or to engage them in games of peekaboo.
Chefs at Fat Tony's populate a family-friendly menu with bubbling pizzas, brimming subs, and classic Italian entrees. Pizzas are tossed fresh daily with handmade dough, including slices of inside-out deep-fried pizza ($4.25+), sicilian cheese pies ($13) that arrive bare but for creamy mozzarella and zesty sauce, and 13 different gourmet pies ($10.50–$16) bearing toppings such as prosciutto, pineapple, or pesto. Seven ounces of thinly sliced sirloin fill each steak sandwich ($5.50−$7) and the verdant vegetarian sandwich ($6) cultivates a garden of spinach, peppers, and broccoli inside its gate of fresh italian bread. Venerable Italian dinners such as sliced eggplant or chicken cutlet parmesan ($9.50) preside over debates between forks and tablecloths to see who can throw the most food on the floor.