The Kentucky Ballet Theatre was founded in 1998 to give Lexington audiences their own local company of ballet dancers. The performances that have followed have included classics such as Prokofiev's Cinderella and new works such as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. The dancers host their shows at the Lexington Opera House, a historical landmark which was built in 1887, was converted into a movie theater in the 1920s, and did a brief stint as a Rockette before returning to its classical roots in 1976.
Even among Lexington's other historic buildings, Bellini's Italianette-style architecture stands out; perhaps because the building has been a city fixture for close to 150 years. This was a large draw for long-time friends Giancarlo Marletta and Nader Iweimrin when they started the restaurant some 10 years ago. But Bellini's has been a shared success. Chef Craig Devilliers deftly helms the kitchen and insures quality with a strict sustainability pledge: organic and locally sourced seasonal ingredients whenever possible. The result is a dynamic menu pairing rack of lamb and diver scallops with modern accents of basil relish, blackberry compote, and sweet candied fennel.
Owner Erin Miller stocks The Crushed Violet Fragrance Boutique with delightful scents that are imported from around the world or locally brewed. Shoppers can browse shelves of luxurious brands such as L'Artisan Parfumeur and Lucy B, or enlist Miller's matchmaking skills, a fragrance wheel, and a series of speed dates to find the most accentuating perfume. Peruse a variety of sweet-smelling spritzes such as elizabethW's Sweet Tea ($32) or Lucy B's Royal Egyptian Amber & Honeysuckle ($30). Gift wrapping ($2.50/gift) a whimsically packaged TokyoMilk Sea & Sky scent ($30) or a locally made Woodford Wicks candle makes a great present to welcome a new neighbor or celebrate the end of a pet's job search.
Supervised by owner and native Neapolitan Leonardo Capezzuto, staff at Leonardos Italian Cafe serves up specialty pastas, pizzas, and grilled paninis in a “casual and unfussy” atmosphere praised by the Lexington Herald-Leader. Hungry hands can pluck pizzas by the slice ($1.75) or fling 14-inch disks festooned with a single topping ($8.99) into waiting mouths or nearby frisbee-golf baskets. Alternately, forks can swirl up specialty pastas such as the penne amatriciana ($6.99), which spackles penne pasta with house tomato sauce, caramelized onion, and bacon. A savory chicken breast roosts on a nest of spaghetti in the chicken parmesan ($6.99), and the turkey panino ($5.99) slides poultry and gouda cheese betwixt basil-lined bread halves and sheets of fresh tomato. To prevent the sweet sorrow of spoken goodbyes, end-of-meal mouths can stuff themselves with the literal sweetness of sicilian cannoli or tiramisu ($3.99).
As the sun descends over downtown Lexington and gives way to the city’s own twinkling lights, guests take the Chase Building elevator 15 stories up to gaze out the windows of the aptly named Vue Restaurant. Executive chef Ray Cameron can hardly take a moment to enjoy the view, as he presides over a bustling kitchen that churns out creative American fusions alongside traditional steak and seafood dishes.
As Chef Cameron’s creations arrive at their oversized booths, guests shift their eyes from the downtown landscape to artful plates of Kentucky Alltech Angus steaks, bacon-wrapped scallops, and pan-seared pork tenderloin medallions. A wood-burning stove—used for baking the restaurant’s signature pizzas—adds a warm, crackling soundtrack to meals illuminated by hanging lights above. Behind the trapezoidal, granite-top bar, mixologists craft drinks such as the bourbon-based Bluegrass Sundown and Absolut Vanilla–based Godiva Chocolate Kiss. Aside from these and other cocktails, guests may order wines and craft beers to enjoy with views of Lexington’s most famous landmarks and Spiderman impersonators.
In the middle of July, alfresco diners at Le Deauville might dive headlong into a Bastille Day celebration, watching as servers light red, white, and blue cupcake towers with sparklers or mediate street-side matches of pétanque. Though they bathe their sidewalk bistro in patriotic colors on state holidays, the staffers also immerse visitors in French culture year-round. Chefs populate seasonal menus with traditional French dishes such as steamed mussels in tomato and herbs, roasted rack of lamb with bordelaise mint sauce, and sea scallops with wild-mushroom risotto. They sometimes augment these dishes with globe-hopping guests including Caribbean lobster and Spanish mackerel, introducing new flavors to French preparations without having to pass sushi off as really, really strange-looking ratatouille.
In warm weather, servers ferry these dishes to sidewalk tables draped in white tablecloths next to the restaurant's French-door-covered façade, which is illuminated each night by strings of colored light bulbs. Gray tiled floors inlaid with intricate designs spread out inside, running between dark-wood-paneled and exposed-brick walls. Here, patrons gather at café tables or sidle up to an old wooden bar, where servers pour from a full stock of beer, wine, and spirits.