Anna Arace pays meticulous attention to detail. As the owner of Trattoria Il Vesuvio, she transformed a former art studio housed inside a red barn-style building into an airy restaurant with exposed beams and cathedral ceilings. Whether she's in the kitchen mixing fresh seafood with tomato sauce, pinot grigio, and garlic to create the Frutti di Mare—one of her trademark Campania dishes—or travelling to New York for fresh red peppers to jar through the winter, her attention to detail works to ensure that every dish served is fresh and authentic. Along with Campania-influenced dishes, Arace also creates northern Italian classics such as the Lasagna di Verdura to pair with a selection of Italian wines. Popular appetizers include the lightly breaded fried calamari and the melenzane alla griglia, grilled eggplant that's been marinated for up to three days and forced to reflect on its mistakes.
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).
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.
A peaceful, rural town in the lower Berkshire Hills about 120 miles from Boston, New Marlborough is surrounded on all sides by state forests, which host fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and other activities. After a day exploring the outdoors, one could easily spend some time exploring the area's cultural history as well, starting at Herman Melville's Arrowhead, the home where he penned Moby Dick. Melville's study, piazza, and original fireplace are on display, as is the barn where he and The Scarlet Letter author Nathaniel Hawthorne met to discuss their writings and a shared love for Doritos. In nearby Stockbridge, the Norman Rockwell Museum displays a massive collection of paintings and drawings from the famous Saturday Evening Post artist, including the well-known Christmas Homecoming and Girl Reading the Post.
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.
Recognized in 2007 as one of Gourmet magazine's Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants, Route 7's Promethean prep chefs wield fire, smoke, and sauce to create a hearty menu featuring naturally raised meat from local and small-family farms. Sauce scientists atomically balance pulled pork with the highly calibrated Route 7 barbecue blend, imbuing the customary tang with an aroma of fired hickory, alongside a pair of made-from-scratch sides ($18). Baby-back ribs embrace shameless fingers and eager palates with their sticky sweetness, often receiving collar-staining hugs in return ($28). Grilled pork chops arrive at tables propped up by drifts of cheddar-poblano smashed potatoes and apple-kraut ($18), and octuplets of house-smoked chicken wings spew spicy fumes from slow-cooked nibbles bathed in buffalo, smoked-barbecue, or habanero-barbecue sauce ($10). The house salad outfits local greens with Vermont cheddar, apples, and smoked almonds under a flavorful blanket of the chef's signature maple-bacon vinaigrette ($7).