To perfect his menu, Trattoria Rustica’s chef and proprietor Davide Manzo culls from locally grown produce, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, and an artistry honed as a third-generation restaurateur raised in Pompeii. Antipasto di verdure, a house specialty, greets hungry visitors with a hearty assortment of grilled eggplant, zucchini, and fennel facing legions of peppers, sundried tomatoes, and olives, the ancestral currency of Italy ($10 for small; $20 for large). Gemelli alla sorrentina ($24) satisfies noodle yearnings with fresh gemelli pasta baked in a beehive-style wood-fire oven by chefs wearing beehive hairstyles, then dressed with fresh mozzarella, pecorino cheese, and tomato sauce. Alternatively, diners can feast on one of Trattoria Rustica’s sumptuous secondi courses, such as bronzino alla brace, featuring a whole Mediterranean sea bass stuffed with parsley and garlic ($31), or the vitello alla siciliana, which pairs a lightly-floured and sautéed top round of Cedar Springs veal with roasted red peppers, porcini, and portobello mushrooms in a marsala wine sauce.
The strong-armed kitchen colossi of Hot Tomatoes hand-stretch disks of dough, slather them in sauce and cheese, and then fire them in a hearth oven to create a menu of unusual pies. The tortellini white pizza ($14.95+) lithely pirouettes cheese-stuffed pasta about its doughy dance floor alongside duos of fresh tomatoes and melted gorgonzola. Make a bet on flavorful odds with the clams casino pizza ($14.95+), where glitzy shellfish hangout on strips of bacon and roasted red pepper, blowing all their pearls on games of five-cheese stud. The eggplant and goat cheese pizza ($14.95+) overthrows herbaceous hungers with a revolution led by breaded eggplant, rebellious goat cheese, and other mercenary flavors. Foodsmiths carefully craft the shrimp and capers pizza ($12.95+), balancing powerful flavors in the saucy valley between the rising crests of crust, creating a stunning view for the ingredients and ostrich epicureans who have buried their face in the pizza.
The sage chefs of Trattoria Il Vesuvio's kitchen use recipes passed on through generations to coax rich, classic flavors from a menu of traditional Italian dishes. The melanzane alla griglia ($8.99) plates paper-thin slices of eggplant marinated in garlic, mint, and red-wine vinegar for up to three days before being grilled and ultimately served cold, like a polar bear's revenge. Baby clams and mussels coast across waves of red-wine tomato sauce and linguini in the fra diavolo ($20.99), while culinary architects lay a foundation of homemade pasta beneath load-bearing layers of eggplant, braised spinach, and cheese to create the lasagna di verdure ($18.99). Wield sharpened steak knives to slice through 12 ounces of sirloin coated in a mushroom and marsala sauce from the bistecca al funghi ($23.99). Chefs slow-roast the osso buco veal shank ($33.99) before serving it over risotto to give the meat a more tender texture than sealing it in a bag with Otis Redding’s greatest hits album.
Viva delights perspicacious palates with its zestful menu of Iberian-inspired tapas dishes and entrees, including the paella named best in the Bay State for 2010 by Yankee Magazine. Parties of at least two diners team up to tackle a vegetarian version, mingling fresh veggies in a bed of saffron rice ($27). Hot tapas such as fried artichokes in lemon-garlic alioli set tantalized tongues dancing a flamenco ($7), while fried dates and almonds hugged by a gown of smoked applewood bacon spark a flurry of taste buds clattering their castanets ($8). Temper fiery flavors with a cold plate such as the charcuterie, an array of Spanish meat morsels including chorizo sausage and Serrano and Iberico hams ($14). Appetites averse to sharing may indulge in individual entrees, including the pan-seared tilapia with fennel and olives simmering in white-bean tomato cassoulet ($16.50). To complete the feast, sink a sweet tooth into a dollop of traditional Spanish flan ($6).
Naming his restaurant after the bountiful waters of the Aegean Sea, owner and chef George Cami has garnered multiple Zagat commendations for his menu of American and authentic Greek fare, which includes grilled whole fish. Specialties such as the spinach-and-scallion-stuffed spanikopita ($16.95) and moussaka—layers of baby eggplant, potatoes, and seasoned ground beef topped in béchamel sauce ($18.95)—impart Grecian flavors more effectively than marinating a chunk of the Parthenon in puréed toga linens. Alternatively, fresh seafood specialties include char-grilled lavraki, a Floridian fish known for its nutty personality ($31.95, served whole or boned), or organic salmon grilled with lemon and olive oil ($25.95). Come Thursday nights, diners sate crustacean cravings by devouring fresh steamed lobster ($27.95). Aegean Breeze racks an extensive wine selection (not included in today's Groupon), and calms patron psyches with a rustic interior of stucco walls, tile floors, and posts sawn by the rough tooth of a local beaver. Guests can wander out to the patio when weather permits or stay inside and warm their feet by the fireplace.
Upscale ingredients such as pancetta and aioli imbue Public eat+drink's menu of casual American fare with a gourmet touch. Beneath exposed-brick walls bedecked in brightly colored artwork, friends’ forks share small plates such as tempura-battered red onion rings ($5.95) or baked brie with apples and walnuts ($8.95). Rubbed with herbs and cooked under a brick, the cornish hen entree sails to tables with a helping of roasted root vegetables ($15.95), and fish ‘n’ chips dip into a side of house tartar aioli ($10.95). And, like a self-portrait made from Easy Mac, a blend of pancetta and smoked gouda elevates mac ‘n’ cheese from comfort fare to high art ($13.95). Although alcohol is not included with today’s Groupon, Public eat+drink also pours an extensive list of craft beers and signature cocktails.
Northern Berkshire peaks peek through the windows of Taylor's, where surf and turf unite in a lamp-lit, exposed-brick dining room. An army of appetizers kicks off the menu, including the baked brie, which is infused with grapes and sprinkled with brown sugar, walnuts, and apples ($8). A fresh garden salad sidekicks every entree, serving as a momentary plate mate for hearty dishes such as the filet mignon ($24) and its aquatic, redundant counterpart, grilled mahi-mahi ($21). The ratatouille with tofu forgoes filets for a mix of stewed eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes that are fresher than haircuts of the eighties ($16).