Growing up across the street from the historical North End building where Villa Francesca now stands, Guglielmo Ranauro never guessed that he'd open a restaurant in 1976 and name it after his beloved mother. Ranauro was inspired by her traditional cooking and wanted to create a place where other people could get an authentic taste of Italy.
Today, Ranauro has handed over the family legacy to longtime manager and protégé Tomas Salmeron. Salmeron and his culinary team continue to follow those classic recipes, turning fresh-caught fruits of the sea into a daily seafood prix fixe menu. Furthermore, they transform chicken, lamb, steak, and veal into dishes you might find while strolling through a Tuscan piazza or steering a one-person submarine down a Venetian canal. The eatery’s extensive wine list, which includes 140 Italian and international varieties, earned a 2012 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Even the ambiance points diners in the direction of Italy: tin ceilings and stained-glass accents add Old-World nostalgia, and the exposed-brick walls are anchored by Romanesque archways and paintings of bustling village scenes.
Brasserie 28 calls upon fresh, local ingredients to inspire their dynamic dinner menu of European-spun sustenance. Practice your dish-passing skills during the Thanksgiving off-season by sharing tasty offerings with your table, such as warm, aged cheddar cheese fondue served with a toasted baguette ($12) and local Wellfleet oysters with pickled black radish, spicy Bloody Mary, and celery sprouts ($8). Move into the meat of a meal with specialty entrees such as the juicy duBreton farm pork chop paired with french lentils, root vegetable, and wilted swiss chard ($24). To upgrade childhood memories, try the snickers dessert, a grown-up pairing of dark chocolate, peanut-butter mousse, caramel nougetine, and a dash of fleur de sel ($8). A three-course prix fixe menu is available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during Valentine's Day weekend, ensuring that every forkful is introduced to your sweetheart’s mouth while it's smiling ($39 per person).
Zebra's Bistro and Wine Bar's eclectic, ever-shifting menu spotlights the freshest ingredients of the season. Rev internal engines with the crab cakes, topped with wilted spinach and saffron citrus essence ($12.95), or fix headlights on the goat cheese empanadas, drizzled with corn salsa ($10.95). For entrees, the pan-roasted chicken breast rests over a Craftmatic mattress of gnocchi (19.95) while panko baked cod ($22.95) hugs a fish fillet in flaky breadcrumbs. Zebra's sushi menu fills eyes before diners fill stomachs with classic tuna rolls ($5.50), sumptuous shrimp tempura ($8.95), and a signature zebra roll stuffed with shrimp, yamagobo, and avocado ($14.95).
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.
After sliding across the soft leather of a horseshoe-shaped booth or finding a spot on the sunshine-dappled patio, visitors can begin their journey through Incontro’s award-winning Italian dishes and wines. The upscale yet cozy restaurant inhabits the recently restored, 14,000-square-foot historic Brookdale Mill, with a dining room, lounge, billiards room, and private banquet rooms offering multifarious settings for romantic dinners, receptions, or celebratory meals following the end of a grueling pasta strike. Incontro's chefs prepare much more than just pasta, however: they also crisp Napoletana-style pizzas in a wood-fired oven; arrange parmesan-crusted pork tenderloin beside porcini risotto and garlicky spinach; and grill citrus-spiced salmon until the fish’s bathing suit completely burns off.