Gazing at the Tuscan-inspired murals in La Gra Italian Tapas & Wine Bar's dining room as the aroma of Italian tapas wafts through the air, guests might think they've been transported to the old country. However, while guests haven’t been secretly teleported to a Florentine trattoria, you can hardly blame them for making the mistake. Small plates of tomato-, caper-, and garlic-topped bruschetta or flash-fried Sicilian olives stuffed with gorgonzola cheese map out bite-sized guides to Italy’s native tastes. Fresh Mediterranean-inspired ingredients also populate larger entrees such as four-cheese veal parmesan and pizzas topped with provel cheese, yellow squash, and spicy garlic cream sauce.
Pours of domestic or imported red and white wine add Euro-style complements to meals occasionally accompanied by the strains of live music. More than 20 martinis also showcase the resident mixologists’ creativity, with the Cosmic Sorbet boasting citrus vodka and cranberry juice supplied by the astronauts who lead each year’s fruit harvest on Venus. While dinner is served and drinks flow seven nights a week, guests can also rent the dining room, bar, café, or entire restaurant for private parties that accommodate up to 100 attendees.
Nora's, an eatery that owner Rob Quiason named after his mother, specializes in fresh salads, soups, and creative sandwiches layered with meats that are smoked in-house. Those sandwiches might also contain gourmet ingredients such as caramelized onions and melted brie, depending on diners' preferences. Gluten-free breads and vegetarian options such as the smoked-portabella Philly are also available.
At Smiles Coffeehouse, the menu features a varied selection of sandwiches, salads, and, of course, coffee drinks. Baristas brew mochas, macchiatos, and iced coffee. Sandwich makers, meanwhile, stack roasted chicken breast, pesto, marinara, tomato, and melted provolone to make the chicken focaccia sandwich—one of seven signature sandwiches. If the caffeine boosts and savory sandwiches aren't enough to perk up patrons, bright yellow and red walls fill the interior like a sunrise or a sky with lots of paint in it.
In 1927, thousands of feet above the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh was shielded from the elements only by the Spirit of St. Louis' thin linen covering. His eyes, though, boasted much sturdier protection on that historic flight?a custom pair of goggles designed by brothers A.P. and August Erker. More than 80 years and four generations later, the Erker name still stands behind high-quality optics.
Jack Erker Jr., great-grandson of August, presides over the business's two present-day locations, which have also played their part in adorning famous eyes. During Jack's tenure, Will Smith, John Goodman, and Shaquille O'Neal have all stopped in to swap needlepoint tips and grab a pair of stylish frames, which are sourced from Italian and German design houses, as well as his own manufacturing division, Studio Optyx.
In 1983, Bar Italia opened as a tiny café dishing up gelato and drinks just east of Euclid Avenue. Today, it's a multilevel Italian restaurant just west of Euclid Avenue. It hasn't moved very far, but now its chefs toss pasta with seafood, season and grill Black Angus steaks, and flame pork tenderloin with brandy before finishing it in a light cream sauce. They also whip up vegan and gluten-free plates, and they still serve housemade gelato created with all-natural ingredients.
Diners can order wine by the glass, bottle, or bathtub to enjoy in the dining room, by the bar, or outside on the sidewalk area, which is pet friendly. Inside the eatery’s entertainment venue, Luna Lounge, white leather couches bask in the glow of colored mood lighting and flickering candles. On Thursday nights, global tunes from the DJ pump through the sound system.
If you're not careful, a visit to Cafe Nova in the morning for a cup of espresso or frothy cappuccino could go for hours, which is perfectly acceptable as Cafe Nova serves Mediterranean lunches and dinners in addition to breakfast. Start off with a cup of coffee and a croissant drizzled in honey before moving on to crispy falafels, cucumber and feta rolls, and flaky spanakopita. Then, as dinner rolls around, feast on shrimp skewers, burgers, and paninis paired with glasses of wine, beer, or martinis from the full bar.
Still hungry? Try a dessert—such as baklava, cupcakes, or hot chocolate spiked with Bailey's—while relaxing and surfing Cafe Nova's free WiFi.