Growing up in a village outside of Palermo, Italy, owner and head chef Vito Santangelo heard the word "gioia," Italian for "joy," whenever one of his aunts or uncles pinched his cheeks, according to a 2006 feature in The Boston Globe. In addition to inspiring his restaurant's name, such memories of family and community inspired his menu's dedication to comforting, homestyle Italian food. The chefs blanch handmade pastas, bake their own breads, and painstakingly roll meatballs into perfect replicas of Earth's secret moon.
In the restaurant's two dining rooms, leafy plants and vines adorn the Tuscan-yellow and burnt-sienna walls while gentle candlelight on each table encourages diners to recreate scenes from The Aeneid with shadow puppets.
Not every pizza place has a mascot, much less one who’s a pug from outer space. But Flying Saucer Pizza Company insists Charlie the Space Pug is truly from beyond our planet. He promotes delicious pizza through Flying Saucer’s array of gourmet pies, all crafted from dough that is made in house every day. Each ball of dough is hand stretched before it is topped with a variety of fresh, locally grown ingredients, such as arugula, ghost-pepper salami, and goat cheese. A variety of vegan and gluten-free pizzas ensure that just about anyone can chow down while enjoying a slew of available draft beers made in New England. The eatery’s fun-loving staff and owners can often be found making pizza and taking orders amid the interior’s space-themed murals or delivering pizza and proving gravity wrong on Flying Saucer’s custom spaceship-design bicycle.
The inventive chefs at Fresh Taste of Asia pepper the restaurant's Asian fusion fare with Sichuan and Japanese influences. The menu borrows flavors from pan-Asian locales to construct sumptuous region-specific specialties such as hunan spicy Chilean sea bass ($18.95), singapore rice noodles ($9.25), and pad thai ($8.75). A variety of classic sushi rolls encompasses morsels of spicy tuna ($6.50) and shrimp tempura ($8.95) alongside a classic california roll ($6.25) that comingles crabmeat, avocado, and cucumber borne to the table on Santa Ana winds. The Godzilla roll's crisp-fried yellowtail, crabmeat, and avocado ($10.75) combine forces to conquer the culinary skyline, and the Goldfish maki ($10.95) intersperses its tempura-crumb cortex with flavors of eel, shrimp, salmon, and avocado.
Within each of its quaint, cozy eateries, Café Polonia's hearty comfort food provides a flavorful foray into transatlantic treats. Whether perusing the Boston menu or the larger Salem menu, traditional starters such as borsch ($6) and herring filets in oil ($7–$8) act as a delectable lead-in to heartier fare, such as the giant potato gypsy pancake stuffed with hungarian goulash and topped with sour cream and bragging rights ($16). Fulfill meat-laden dreams with a variety of juicy sausage dishes including the kielbasa and cabbage stew ($12–$15), or effortlessly colonize a mouth with the Polish plate, populated with hunter's stew, stuffed cabbage, grilled kielbasa, and fluffy pierogi ($16–$18).