The youngest of nine children, Luna Rossa’s owner and chef, Raffaele Virgillo, grew up at his mother’s side, studying her every move as she cooked in the kitchen of their small cottage in southern Italy. Emigrating to the United States in the 1970s, Virgillo put the culinary skills and magical Italian incantations he learned from his mother to use here in the States. He settled in the Twin Cities, where he cooked his way through four restaurants before opening the original Buona Sera, and eventually, Luna Rossa. There, he works alongside his daughter, Anna, son-in-law, Jesse, and grandson, Vinny, serving a menu of Italian-inspired cuisine within a rustic eatery near Stillwater’s historic limestone caves.
After modeling their first eatery, ROMA Restaurant, after the Roman Empire, Chef Brent Pilrain and his family opted to try something new, setting their sights on a colonial American theme. So when the family was greeted with the opportunity to open up a new kitchen in Liberty Village, the birth of Patriots Tavern seemed like kismet. Today, Chef Pilrain keeps up the colonial theme in both cuisine and décor, churning out a menu of New England–inspired fare and wood-oven-fired pizzas within a whitewashed mansion. Rich mahogany and stone details create a warm yet spacious interior dabbled with American flags and historical knickknacks, such as lanterns and George Washington’s original set of wooden press-on nails.
Greeting diners with the coziness of a North Woods lodge, Season's Tavern warms bellies with a hearty spread of burgers, steaks, fish, and sandwiches. The rustic eatery showcases fresh Canadian walleye throughout its menu in a variety of preparations. Cooks lightly bread and fry the fish to fill appetizer baskets, blacken fillets to line sandwiches, and fashion walleye into cakes to celebrate sailors' birthdays. Diners can also customize 7-ounce burgers with onion rings, cheese curds, and other toppings, or sample the tavern's monthly specials, such as the Wisconsin beer-cheese burger.
Hudson Optical adorns oculars with a range of budget and high-end eyewear for men, women, and children. Visitors can choose from an extensive selection of brands, such as Kashiyama Japanese eyewear, Dolce & Gabbana, and Ice Cream French Eyewear, as they seek to pair elegant frames with eligible lenses like a Victorian matchmaker. Frames designed by Kennith Cole ($159), BCBG ($189), and Cole Haan ($199) comfortably perch on bridges of noses, while eye-opening bifocals range from the Crizal Avancé bifocals ($290) to the Varilux Progressive Transition lenses ($375). Hudson Optical can perform eye exams on-site but welcomes outside prescriptions as well. Groupon customers will also receive a complimentary deluxe case, cleaner kit, and portable fire hydrant to keep the spectacles spick-and-span.
Riley's Pub & Grill is known for its barbecue ribs, which the chefs cook slowly until the meat falls off the bone alongside piles of cole slaw and seasoned potato wedges. They also pile burgers and pizzas with unusual toppings, such as pulled pork and pickles. The relaxed bar amps up during special events, including live music performances and bingo nights.
Chef Dennis Lewis of Ursula's Wine Bar & Cafe draws from his cornucopia of seasonal produce, sourced from local farmers, to craft his monthly changing menu. It’s a menu that has earned OpenTable Diners' Choice Awards for "Best Food" and "Best Overall" experience. In the kitchen, Chef Lewis chops greens from local producers, including Twin Pine Farm, Grandmas Bakery, and Pine Tree Apple Orchard, to toss with blueberry-balsamic vinaigrettes and curried, creamy coconut dressings. His monthly updated menu has included appetizers such as goat-cheese gratin with sun-dried tomatoes and spicy red-pepper hummus with warm flatbread. The kitchen team also prepares entrees that are seasonally inspired, like reindeer lawn ornaments and air-conditioner window decorations. An example of this seasonal food is the pork loin rubbed with ancho-chipotle chili and served with pumpkin mashed potatoes and bacon brown butter. The dining area accommodates 39 guests, meaning there are more than three times as many varieties of domestic and imported wines—150 to be exact—as there are guests at any given time. There’s also an outdoor patio, where wine flights can be sipped while plane flights sip the sky overhead.