Owner Jacqui’s healthy take on homestyle cooking shines through in every entree at Serenity Cafe & Catering, whether she’s cracking eight eggs to make breakfast pizza in the morning or baking housemade dough for the oven-roasted turkey BLT. A bulk of the menu is dedicated to sating noontime appetites, with fruit smoothies, deli sandwiches, and a hummus wrap stuffed with roasted red-pepper hummus, sprouts, and avocado. Even the dessert menu, with the Wacqui Jacqui brand of gluten-free cookies, sticks to the healthy-living program
Ruby's chefs pluck specialty pizzas and quesadillas hot from an authentic brick oven, in addition to slathering barbecue dishes with house sauce and grilling up steak and seafood entrees. Guests burst out of the barbecue gate with an appetizer of Ruby's smoked ribs, a hickory-smoked heap of pork crafted St. Louis style, piled into a delicately balanced arch. The Odyssey pizza rallies wine, artichokes, and greek olives on a field of mozzarella and feta for an epic journey to waiting mouths, and The Philly covers its sandwich-inspired disk with shaved steak, american cheese, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Diners can summon an 8-ounce salmon fillet in a grilled, blackened, jerk, or citrus model perched across from two sides. For a more portable meat parcel, the pulled-pork sandwich stuffs its bun with saucy strips that have been smoked for 12 hours and trained to defend themselves from beef patties in martial combat.
A lush, tucked-away, culinary paradise, Cava Tapas & Wine Bar is Portsmouth’s only little Spanish grotto. Visitors enter via the quiet, twisting Commercial Alley and pass through the restaurant’s verdant patio (which boasts one of the only vertical gardens in the Northeast), before ducking into the romantic, low-lit dining room and bar. From there, they can head to the street-level wine bar, snuggle into the below-ground wine cave, or, if they’re lucky, snag one of four seats that face the open kitchen, where they can watch chef and owner Gregg Sessler put to work his "smart, creative and visually lovely culinary moves," as described by Seacoastonline. Those smart moves result in a constantly evolving collection of traditional tapas such as burgundy escargots, char-grilled baby octopus, and even foie gras with dark chocolate and pop rocks. To make the most of the kitchen’s fresh, seasonal produce, the chef and trained sommelier also curates a four-course tasting menu, with optional wine pairings.
When someone takes over a business, they usually use it as an opportunity to put their own spin on things. When Don Folckemer and Vickie Farley took over Ronaldo's, they didn't even touch the menu. That's because the restaurant's blend of traditional and contemporary Italian recipes has been a hit with locals for more than 20 years, particularly the seafood fettuccine with fresh lobster, large shrimp, and scallops. Other specialties include the "trilogy" of parmigiana??a combo platter with eggplant, chicken, and veal served over penne with meat sauce. Don and Vickie did update the decor, however, giving the chefs an exhibition kitchen in which to show off their skills. Guests more interested in spirits than sustenance can grab a stool at the bar, where mixologists blend several different kinds of martinis as the TVs broadcast Patriots and Sox games, and probably the occasional commercial.
Every day is Mother’s Day for Chef Sam. The family’s matriarch, Sam’s mother, Assia, recreated the recipes of her girlhood in Revorno, Sicily, filling her home with tantalizing smells and her children with a love of family-style cooking. Sam puts these values on display at La Bella BYOB Italian Restaurant, dishing out Southern Italian staples including lemony chicken francese and veal cacciatore in a softly lit dining room decorated to resemble a rustic Italian countryside home. He also invites diners to bring their own alcoholic drinks and enjoy them without a corking fee, though they must still be 21 and have the ability to recite the Greek alphabet backwards in order to consume alcohol. Fulfilling his promise to make everyone feel like family, Chef Sam also makes La Bella's dishes available for catering for as few as 10 or as many as 1,000 eaters.