At Michele’s Pies, Michele Stuart whips up award-winning confections that have been recognized by the New York Times for their seasonal ingredients and featured on various cooking programs. Michele’s bakers shun canned or frozen fillings, selecting only the freshest produce from couture fruit hats for their fruit pies. Slices overflow with any of more than 30 fresh, succulent fillings, from traditional apple ($22) to pear cranberry sprinkled with a walnut crumble ($28). Alternatively, cream pies ($26–$28) tempt tongues with fluffy flavors that include banana cream and tiramisu. Patrons can also pair their pie selections with steaming cups of cappuccino or diversify their dessert portfolio with breads and cookies baked from scratch.
Inspired by his upbringing in southern Italy, La Villa Trattoria chef Michael Sornatale crafts a rotating menu of seasonally inspired fare with free-range and organic ingredients. Unexpected combinations of simple ingredients, such as white-wine sauce and hot cherry peppers on the pollo e salsiccia scarpariello, give his traditional Italian dishes a creative verve. Sornatale also strives to incorporate less common tastes, including wild game such as roe deer and rabbit, without diminishing the accessibility of his menu. Chefs also concoct low-fat and heart-healthy items, and provide a list of Italian wines carefully selected to complement each entree.
At lunchtime, La Villa Trattoria’s dining area fills with natural light softly diffused with sheer, white curtains. Artist Kim Salander’s murals of the small Italian fishing village of Portofino combine with ambient fog horns to create a seaside ambiance indoors.
Joe's Pizza & Italian Restaurant quells grumbling bellies with a menu of sumptuous New York–style pizza, gourmet pastas, and traditional Italian dishes. Joe's dedicated pizza artistes concoct the kitchen's sauces, soups, and pizza dough each day, keeping fare fresh and preventing ingredients from getting jaded and bickering about creative control over dishes. Awaken lazy taste buds with classic garlic bread ($2.59+), then have them cartwheeling across your oral gymnasium with a tender veal parmigiana with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese ($15.99). A succulent swine symphony of sausage, pepperoni, ham, bacon, and meatball gets served up atop Gino's special pizza ($14–$18.50), and the margherita pizza features a modest menagerie of mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce ($13–$17). Advocates of shellfish communalism can unite traditionally dissonant helpings of shrimp, clams, calamari, and mussels in the utopian linguine pescatore, which comes bathed in a light marinara sauce ($16.99). Diners looking for carbohydrate alternatives can request whole-wheat pasta and pizza dough or unleavened ice cubes.
Kansas City isn’t in Kansas, and it certainly doesn’t reside on the East Coast. But its cuisine does. Diners only need to step inside the wood-covered confines of Bobby Q’s, a family-friendly barbecue joint known for tender, pit-smoked meats smothered in award-winning sauces and celebrating their 8th year in the business. The eatery’s imported culinary stylings have earned it a spot on the Food Network, as well as the title “Best of the Gold Coast” from readers of Westport Magazine, who were undoubtedly delighted by favored items such as the slow-smoked pulled pork and the grilled Gulf Shrimp. Roasted atop an open beer can for proper moisture, their beer can chicken is far more delicious than proving you are not too chicken to eat a beer can. Their half-pound burger patties, meanwhile, come with zesty toppings such as Smokehouse chili, blue cheese, and frizzled onions. On weekends, the barn-esque dining room and outdoor patio transform into a bustling bar, with live music from local bands and house specialty drinks, such as lemonade infused with huckleberry vodka, or down-home punch, a mix of Jack Daniels, apricot brandy, orange juice and Sierra Mist.
Helmed by Prasad Chirnomula—accomplished owner and executive chef of multiple area restaurants—Oaxaca Kitchen celebrates the nuanced flavors of Mexico. The same flair that Prasad brings to his acclaimed Indian recipes ignites his mole sauces, whose red and yellow variants spice up chicken breast and market-fresh fish, respectively. These sauces are painstakingly traditional, but other meals dabble in experimentation. The ceviche Veracruz, for example, was praised by the New York Times for its touch of sorbet, which "brightened and chilled the seafood" in the tangy starter.
Alternatively, guests can dig into hanger steak one of two ways—marinated and grilled with jalapeño pan juices or cooked with avocado and maguey leaves—before tippling tequilas from a sizable drink menu. Huevos rancheros and bloody marias make appearances at brunch, and live music crops up on Friday nights.
Praised by the New York Times Thali's head chef and owner Prasad Chirnomuola quells cravings for elegant, unexpected flavors. The adventurous menu features a slew of imaginative dishes that twist traditional Indian fare and keep clingy eggplant from smothering the other ingredients with unwanted attention. Begin an edible journey by soaking baked naan ($2–$4), infused with onions, garlic, or chilies, in a bowl of mussels with Portuguese chorizo ($8–$10). Varieties of vindaloos come with a choice of fowl, fish, veggies, or lamb ($10–$24), matched by varieties of kebabs and spicy masalas. Specialty entrees show off the kitchen's creativity and ability to rip through refrigerators, with such artful delicacies as date and walnut grilled chicken breast, smothered with papaya, pineapple, and tomato salsa ($18–$22), and sea bass seared in hot tandoor spices and snuggled next to squash, lentil, and truffle basmati rice ($20–$24). Finally, cap sweet teeth with a bevy of desserts, including the shahi turkra, an Indian–style bread pudding or the prettily presented lemongrass key lime pie (house desserts are $7 each).
Guests at Bhojan⎯Hindi for "homestyle meal"⎯share platters of Gujarati and Punjabi cuisine, famed for its emphasis on vegan and vegetarian dishes. Stuffed with lentil dals and chickpea fritters, the menu has been praised by the Village Voice for its authenticity: "There are several Gujarati snacks here that can be found only at a handful of other New York restaurants," the reviewer noted. Patrons can dip puffy fresh breads into paneer- and eggplant-based entrees, or snack on small plates and chaat—traditional street-cart fare. And besides catering to vegetarian and health-conscious diets, the menu is also completely kosher, bringing together more culinary traditions than a U.N. potluck dinner.
The cuisine may be homestyle, but the decor is anything but. Spherical pendant lamps dangle from a ceiling lined with shiny copper woks, giving the dining room a modern vibe. In keeping with its upscale appearance, Bhojan's 2010 opening was high-profile enough to be noted by the New York Times and Grub Street.