For the chefs at Nu Urban Cafe, quality is their number-one concern. To that end, they try to refrain from cooking with frozen or canned veggies, preferring to import seasonal and fresh produce whenever possible. Their sauces, marinades, and dressings are made from scratch, using high-quality ingredients. When fashioning one of the caf?'s handmade desserts, chefs mix in real butter, quality vanilla and chocolate, and real eggs, known to be more flavorful and less metallic than ones laid by robotic chickens. This devotion to detail lends a crisp, fresh flavor to servings of glazed baby back ribs, thyme-seasoned red snapper, and apple-smothered pork chops.
The Lulu is a French pastry made up of delicate pate-choux dough filled with rich French cream, and Charlie Tola learned to love Lulus in a few short months. First, he learned how to make them at one of the very first pastry shops that ever hired him. Shortly thereafter, he met his future wife, Luisa, and decided to nickname her after the sweet delight—a name that continued with their first daughter. So it only makes sense that when Tola opened his own shop in 1999, he named it Lulu’s Bakery. There, he artfully arranges his confections in glass display cases, allowing customers to eye up the biscotti, black-and-white cookies, cannoli, fruit tarts, eclairs, brownies, cupcakes, and 24 types of butter cookies before they make up their minds. To his traditional bakery repertoire—which, of course, also includes the lulu—the baker has now added special occasion cakes. Using icing as his medium, Tola has turned traditional cake bases into a slot machine, a handbag, a fire truck, and a bottle of champagne, which was soon used to christen a gingerbread yacht.
At Villa Rustica, charming murals that speak of Italy’s countryside encircle a dining room filled with classic Italian décor and cuisine. Take tongues on a luxury cruise with the clams oreganata, which consists of six baked Little Neck clams lounging languidly on a plate ($9.95), or drum up appetites with fried zucchini sticks dunked in Italian tomato sauce ($7.95). Deep-sea dinner divers can fish for shell-dwellers with the linguine pescatore, pasta topped with shrimp, mussels, calamari, and clams and sautéed in a choice of marinara, fra diavolo, or garlic and virgin olive oil ($17.75), while birdivores can spear a hearty serving of chicken rollatini, a dish that’s stuffed with prosciutto and romano and mozzarella cheeses, and sautéed in a marsala wine sauce with mushrooms ($17.50). Brick-oven pizzas, baked Old World style, arrive as 10-inch disks bearing the distinctive marks of margherita ($8.50), vegetarian ($10.50), and fra diavolo ($10.50). Wash away your mouth’s leftovers with an espresso ($3), a glass of zinfandel, or a beer imprisoned in a bottle ($4.25).
Japanese recipes and culinary techniques heavily influence the menu at Sho Japanese & Asian Fusion Restaurant, but the chefs refuse to play favorites by incorporating Thai and Chinese elements into their dishes as well. Szechuan peppercorns, lemongrass, or red curry lend a variety of pan-Asian flavors to the seared orders of steak and shrimp. The sushi selection also goes beyond traditional california rolls to feature specialty maki with innovative cores of jalapeño, steamed lobster, or hand-polished macadamia nuts.