Rather than limit themselves to one particular style, the chefs at BonCaldo Restaurant embrace culinary techniques from all 20 regions of Italy. Braised short ribs with creamy polenta, homemade fettuccine in a beef and veal ragu, and brick-oven-baked pizzas represent traditions that span from the calf to the toe of the boot-like peninsula. Even with all of this variation, certain standards remain sacrosanct. The chefs adhere to Old World traditions by wood-firing their dishes and making everything by hand, from mozzarella to meatballs?earning the approval of Phantom Gourmet. A wine list with more than 250 different bottles accompanies the cuisine, many hailing from Italy's vineyards and natural grape-juice springs.
The grand, mansion-like exterior of BonCaldo Restaurant perfectly complements its elegant ambiance. A distinctly Italian mural adorns one wall, adding a vibrant splash of color to the rustic woodwork and tables draped with crisp white linens. Surrounded by tables on all four sides, an open stone fireplace forms a focal point for the dining area even as it spreads warmth to all corners of the room.
Chef Paul Mancuso, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University's culinary college, curates the restaurant's menu of authentic northern and southern Italian cuisine. An appetizer of arancini, which stitches together English peas, buffalo mozzarella, and ground beef in a fried risotto cake covered in marinara sauce, cordially welcomes palates and their owners to the quaint eatery ($9).
The culinary wizards at Cristelle’s Restaurant use homemade recipes to conjure up entrees from scratch for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Middle Eastern menus. Fuel up for long days of repurposing cubicles into pentacles with morning eats such as the hearty Irish–style breakfast featuring a pair of eggs cooked any style, bangers, bacon, and home fries ($7.50). Or sidestep pasta for the alfredo-chicken-broccoli pizza ($12.29 for a small, $16.79 for a large). Chefs hand-make falafel and forge it into a wrap ($5.79), and a triple-decker cheeseburger club sandwich ($7.99) features three stories of Black Angus beef and a small balcony where a sheltered princess reads forbidden books about mixing condiments. Meanwhile, sides of hummus and salad accompany Middle Eastern dishes such as the lamb shish kebab, which lances hunger with two skewers filled with cubed lamb, onion, and pepper.
Founded by longtime friends Jonathan Schwarz and Christopher Robbins, Stone Hearth Pizza builds its gourmet pies from organic, local, and sustainably produced ingredients. The casual pizzeria has expanded to six locations since opening in 2005?a pace of growth made possible by the popularity of chef and general manager Michael Ehlenfeldt?s Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas. New England craft beers complement the pizzas and pastas with a pleasantly bitter taste that reflects their conflicted attitude toward out-of-towners.
Needham House of Pizza has been spinning Greek-style pies, loading toasty subs, and saucing tender pastas for nearly half a century. The mouthwatering menu features a panoply of pan pizzas, made with homemade dough, sauce, and freshly shredded cheese. Try a simple one-topping gem ($11.79 for a large), or splay jaws for a specialty pie, such as barbecue chicken ($13.29 for a large) or the vitamin-rich veggie, piled with broccoli, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, and peppers ($16.89 for a large). Make your mouth an offer it will find exceedingly difficult to decline with a large Godfather pizza—a doughy don loaded with sliced tomato, olive oil, grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, and enough mozzarella to fuel friends and Fredos through dull cement-shoe fittings ($16.89). Needham House of Pizza also offers toasty subs, such as meatball, pepper and egg, and veal cutlet (all $5.69 for a small), as well as spaghetti and meatballs ($7.79) and cheese ravioli ($6.29) served with garlic bread.
According to a review in the Boston Phoenix, Hedy Jarras opened her own Sweet Tomatoes Pizza after a summer stint working in Cape Cod for Sweet Tomatoes founder Christopher Owens. She became so enamored with the atmosphere and the food that she convinced Owens to allow her to open her own location in her hometown.
Sweet Tomatoes Pizza's recipe forgoes the traditional red sauce in favor of chunky, uncooked tomatoes. Its ingredients create an “unapologetically pungent” pie that can be adorned with more than 31 toppings, including goat cheese, capers, and kalamata olives, and the crust combines a strong backbone of oil-free dough with “the merest hint of flavorful char.” Specialty pizzas such as the Pesto Splash attracts both the olfactory and ocular systems with a thick layer of pesto and chopped fresh garlic. Accompanying the pizzas, tuna-salad, chicken-parmesan, and prosciutto di parma sandwiches round out the Italian-focused menu.