The audience goes wild for Chef Jesus "Suso" Seoane as he deftly dances the handle of a sharp butcher knife between his fingers. As if drawn by magnet, the blade finds a large red pepper and flays it down the center in one fluid stroke. When Jesus isn't flaunting his knife skills on the Telemundo cooking show Cocinando con Suso, he's hard at work perfecting an authentic menu of Spanish and Latin-American dishes at his restaurant, Suso Latino Basket.
The word suso sprawls across his eatery's wall, a painted chef's hat jauntily hanging off the o. Just past the marble-tiled bar, tables populate with steaming specialties such as puerto rican pork pernil, peruvian sautéed pastas, cuban sandwiches, and spanish paella, which overflows with more seafood than Poseidon's bank vault.
During the sweltering summer of 1984, former Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo decided to open the first Rita's Water Ice, naming it after his wife. The specially formulated treat fueled Rita's growth, expanding the family-run business to more than 500 franchised locations nationwide. Despite the incredible expansion, each Rita's stays true to the company's origins by mixing their Italian ice according to Bob's original recipe. Their most famous dessert, the Gelati, features layers of his signature Italian ice between two giant dollops of custard, combining flavors such as mango with vanilla or introducing recently emigrated Swedish fish to vanilla or chocolate. Rita's also promotes community awareness with regular fundraisers for organizations such as Relay for Life.
Each Wood-N-Tap restaurant’s kitchen serves a menu of casual American food that ranges from burgers and sandwiches to pasta, pizza, and entrees. The eatery partners with farms from New Jersey to Maine to cultivate 100% all-natural meats for their homegrown burgers, which feature tender hormone-, steroid-, and antibiotic-free meats such as Wagyu beef, bison, free-range turkey, and pork. Chefs grill entrees including swordfish and bourbon-marinated grilled sirloin, as well as signature items such as mac ‘n’ cheese pizza and Bar Bites sliders constructed with bison, Angus beef, turkey, or a baseball.
Wood-N-Tap blossomed from the fitting combination of its owners’ skills—Mike scouts the locations, Phil markets the brand, and Wil and Kenny manage the daily operations of the various locations. More than a decade ago, after forging a friendship as strong as oak and a partnership as strong as steel-reinforced oak, the crew opened the first Wood-N-Tap location in 2002—and they have expanded to seven locations and counting.
India Kitchen—deemed Hartford County's Best Indian Restaurant in 2011 by readers of Connecticut Magazine—piles family-style offerings from North and South India onto its menu, concocting entrees with imported ingredients and an authentic tandoor oven. Patrons can play games of solitaire with 11 types of traditional breads, such as the raisin- and nut-filled khandari kulcha ($3.95). Jumbo shrimp slip into robes of lemon juice, yogurt, and spices before sizzling in the clay oven, only to emerge as tandoori shrimp ($15.95) or, in rare cases, a single giant shrimp with crime-fighting ambitions and mastery over fire. The chicken chutney wala surrounds poultry morsels with tangy pools of curried mango and mint sauce ($12.95), whereas cashew-and-almond sauce varnishes vegetable-and-cheese dumplings in the vegetarian malai kofta ($11.95).
In addition to its classic menu offerings, India Kitchen hosts a daily all-you-can-eat lunch buffet seven days a week as well as a Wednesday and Sunday night dinner buffet. Featuring a catering menu for larger groups, the restaurant's chefs portion out party-sized servings from a limited menu that includes naan ($32+) and vegetable biryani ($40+). For heartier mealtimes, they also simmer orders of lamb or fish curry ($90) that can either feed 30–40 people or one insatiable garbage disposal.
The pizza purveyors at Sorrento's sling thin-crust pies into a brick oven in between assembling noncircular savories such as hot grinders and calzones. An appetizer of fried dough jump-starts gustatory glands with an accompaniment of powdered sugar and cinnamon or savory marinara sauce ($4.95). Anchor levitating dinner tables with the 12-inch house special, which is a topping-heavy pizza that bears pepperoni, meatballs, sausage, bacon, and chopped vegetables ($10.95). Mouths can admire the 12-inch mozzarella pizza ($7.50) uncovered or conceal its bareness with a choice of regular or premium toppings that include sausage, eggplant, hot peppers, crispy chicken, and clams ($1.25 each). Sorrento's culinary artisans also craft hot grinders into five different flavors of parmigiana, such as veal ($5.50+) and eggplant ($4.95+).
OKI Asian Bistro's menu offers a sprawling variety that includes sushi, hibachi, and Thai. Fresh rolls contain fish such as tuna, salmon, or shrimp, while hibachi grills sear steak, chicken, or lobster tails. Fried rice and noodle options include pineapple or basil, while other entrees include ginger beef, yellow curry, and shrimp tempura.