Upon graduating from the New York French Culinary Institute, Chef Pasquale Pascarella continued his education under two of contemporary Italian cuisine's most famous chefs: Mario Batali and Scott Conant. He learned well—today, Chef Pascarella serves up his own take on Italian cuisine at Bar Sugo, a critically acclaimed eatery known for its cozy atmosphere and classic food.
For edible evidence of Pascarella's Italian mastery, look no further than his meatballs prepared six ways—some with duck and foie gras, others with beef, melted gouda, and red onion jam. But those who do look further will discover brick-oven pizzas topped with pulled pork and 12-year-old balsamic, as well as house-made pastas such as mint tagliatelle with lamb ragu. That same tasteful touch is extended to the beverage selection, which encompasses wine, Italian beers, and cocktails made with liquors aged and awarded their diplomas in a barrel. But no matter what guests select from the menu, Bar Sugo's laid-back decor—featuring brick walls, a red-and-white checkered floor, and a copper-topped bar—invites them to sit back and savor every bite.
Alex Rubeo wants to take you on a journey. Crossing the threshold into Mariela's Wine Bar, rich hardwoods and a humble atmosphere aim to transport the senses to a faraway place—to France, or maybe Italy—where visitors sip glasses of wine, share intimate conversation, and snack on shareable plates. Alongside pours from the rotating selection of wines by the glass, live music and tastings add to the relaxed atmosphere of cozy tables, a well-stocked bar, and the occasional Snuggie-clad bartender.
With a white-picket fence around its perimeter and an American Flag waving from its bay windows, Boulevard 18 Bistro & Wine Bar might look like a great place to raise a family. But instead of embodying the American Dream, this 1860s Georgian landmark holds a little piece of Paris inside. Chef and co-owner David Raymer transports palates across the Atlantic by pairing more than 80 French wines with traditional entrees. And, much like in a Parisian bistro's kitchen, the focus here is on the craft. Chef Raymer creates country pâté and cures gravlax in house, and even stuffs his own sausages with flavors such as merguez or boudin blanc. The result: French classics with a modern twist, such as grilled mustard-seed-crusted leg of lamb with ratatouille or a duck confit salad.
An antique map of Paris covers the wall of the dining room so that guests never forget where the flavors they're tasting came from. But it also helps tie the room together. The map's curving, cobblestone avenues guide eyes toward the scarlet booths and hardwood accents. Boulevard 18 Bistro & Wine Bar also offers a seasonal dining patio with views of the village fire station where Chef Raymer buys the flames to fill the fire pit.
At Vino on the Brick Walk, sapphire walls cast a nautical vibe across booths and white-clothed tables. There, dishes of Italian, Mediterranean, and seafood specialties pair with drinks from an extensive wine list. The blue hues that surround meals inside also follow diners out onto an outdoor patio, splashing across umbrellas that unfurl to shade tables or conveniently fold down to become giant toothpicks. Brick groundwork also accompanies patio visits, as do plants and flowerpots that combine to create a leafy framework.:m]]
Despite having cooked for distinguished clients such as the Clintons and Leon Panetta, and at prestigious culinary institutions such as Chicago's Palmer House, chef Jason Milanese felt restless. That is, until he opened his own restaurant: Bistro B. As the owner and executive chef, he specializes in crafting gourmet twists on classic American dishes, from small plates like sauce-drizzled chicken lollipops to entrees such as potato-and-onion-crusted halibut and a double-cut pork chop with sweet potato pur?e. A minimal, yet rustic decor featuring earth tones, framed mirrors, and dark-wood furnishings contributes to the restaurant's grassroots American feel.
Not every Italian restaurant needs baked ziti and eggplant parmigiana. At Zeppoleme, the chefs strive to create a hybrid, bistro-style setting that combines elements of a wine bar, a coffee house, and a trattoria underneath the same roof. Instead of designing a menu that incorporates dishes from every corner of the Italian peninsula, the chefs choose to present diners with a curated collection of dishes that is intended to spotlight the potential of a handful of items prepared with hand-crafted care, as well as the occasional modern touch.
Befitting its name, zeppole?Italian-style donuts?appear prominently on Zeppoleme's menu. The list includes the time-honored version so often seen in the kitchens of Italian homes and on the streets during the annual Feast of St. Joseph; however, the chefs also create their own version by folding ricotta into the dough, making the pastry lighter and fluffier than their traditional counterparts. As many as six different dipping sauces, including vanilla cream, Nutella, and lemon glaze, can accompany these zeppole for dessert. For a more savory take on the treat though, Zeppoleme also offers another modern innovation: appetizer-sized versions stuffed with hearty fillings, such as bacon, chives, and provolone.
Although the zeppole appear prominently on the menu and even attracted the attention of Food Network personality Giada de Laurentiis, the selection also features a number of heartier gourmet options. Butter-pressed panini include everything from spicy eggplant and goat cheese to broccoli rabe and beef short ribs that braise for a full 24 hours. Even the salads put on upscale spin on the expected, as evidenced by the classic caesar made with kale instead of standard iceberg filler.
Stopping in for a quick bite or a meal is always an option, although Zeppoleme also caters to the whims of passersby seeking a drink and an opportunity to lounge for a bit in a relaxed setting. Baristas make specialty espresso drinks while exclusively using beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and the bartenders keep spirits high full by pouring fresh glasses of wine straight from the taps. Even with its gourmet bistro spirit and festively vibrant decor, Zeppoleme never manages to lose "the friendly, drop-in culture that thrives here," according to the New York Times.