Though Bistro 20 Restaurant & Tavern's contemporary dining room can accommodate more than 175 guests, its staff keeps the restaurant casual in the bistro tradition. Dark wood panels and a red-and-brown color scheme dominate the cozy interior, where soft lighting plays on photographs and Italian paintings or spills out from a fireplace like syrup from a newly tapped syrup bottle. Inside the kitchen, chefs craft Italian and American meals using ingredients such as housemade pasta, farm-fresh produce, and Maine grass-fed beef. They plate chicken piccata, grilled mahi mahi, and grilled grass-fed beef tenderloin alongside fruits de mer, braised lamb shank, and grilled steaks, and customize pizzas with up to 23 eclectic toppings.
Aromas of sizzling shellfish, spiced tomatoes, juicy steaks, and roasted fruits waft through the sleek modern interiors of Serafina, where chefs craft seasonal Italian dishes with a focus on the Tuscan style. At the raw bar, staffers serve dozens of oysters, jumbo shrimp, and littleneck clams on the half shell. In the dining room, servers ferry complex gourmet dishes whose ingredients complement one another. They serve Italian seafood stew, Tuscan-style sirloin steak, long island duck breast, and pizzas topped with roast pears and figs or barbecue chicken. It’s food that has been praised by reviewers from such publications as the Boston Globe and the Concord Journal.
Behind the bar, floor-to-ceiling wine racks house more than 60 wines from regions throughout Italy and the United States, as well as Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand. The sounds of general merriment are accompanied by regular live piano, bass, or sax in jazz and contemporary styles.
The first Sorentos Italian Gourmet opened in Boston in 1988. It quickly won over locals, whose insatiable hunger for the restaurant's gourmet pizzas, Persian-inspired entrees, and plates of wine-kissed seafood inspired the Sorentos team to open a second locale in Marlborough in the summer of 2008. The timing of the addition was serendipitous—just half a year later, a neighborhood fire caused the Boston locale to burn to the ground, leaving behind nothing but fond memories and a lone calzone with especially crispy edges. Today, the Marlborough location works doubly hard in honor of its predecessor, drawing in crowds, press attention, and a rating of "excellent" from Zagat. Seated at tables draped in white linens, patrons can quell their cravings for the Mediterranean with appetizers such as fried calamari with red-pepper rémoulade; gourmet pizzas with toppings such as grilled chicken, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and gorgonzola cheese; and elegant entrees featuring havarti-stuffed chicken breasts.
Southborough House of Pizza's original 1974 location was teeny tiny. With one table and six stools at the counter, only 10 customers could comfortably fit inside at a time. But people were so crazy for their pizzas that in 1984, the restaurant moved to its current home, a renovated town fire station. Now there's have plenty of room for the pizzeria's faithful customers, who come for the inventive specialty pizzas such as the Cheeseburger topped with pickles, ketchup, and mustard. Another favorite is the Garlic Infusion, with just enough garlic flavor to balance its ripe tomatoes and olives. Diners can also stuff themselves with other Italian-inspired delights, such as hefty grinders on french bread and hearty pasta dishes that will make your fork question whether it's good enough for the job.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
Located inside a sprawling white farmhouse, Tre Amici has a warm, inviting atmosphere that works equally well for a romantic dinner or a large banquet. Italian meals culminate with decadent desserts such as chocolate truffles, lemoncello cake, or individual cake pops plucked from a nearby orchard. Alternatively, a lighter bar menu provides snack options along with an extensive wine and martini list.