Owners Sarac and Eddie divide up duties at Mermaid Restaurant, as Sarac infuses traditional Italian and French recipes with his signature flair in the kitchen and Eddie dotes on patrons and their imaginary dates in the dining room. Eddie and Sarac's symbiotic relationship mirrors that of their Italian and French dishes, which seamlessly mingle on the menu. Upscale entrees bridge the gap between the two countries: short cavatelli pasta brings the flavors of Italy, while côtelettes d'agneau, grilled baby lamb chops in a rhone red wine demi glace sauce, fills patrons’ mouths with French-born flavors without anyone having to lick the Eiffel Tower.
A hefty list of wines complements both the upscale fare and the ambience, with racks full of bottles surrounding the dining room. Soft light shines down, accenting hardwood floors, and crisp white tablecloths make an elegant landing pad for each dish or drink.
Bobby Carmosino's first memories of cooking and eating are all tied to his mother, whose love of crafting food won competitions held by Macy's and Bloomingdale's. As head chef at Solé, he channels her influences into updated recipes such as the braciola—his father's favorite dish—a pork tenderloin wrapped around mozzarella, prosciutto, and spinach. The shrimp limoncello, one of his proudest creations, blends creamy risotto with tart citrus, demonstrating the fresh flavors that earned Solé's menu an overall rating of extraordinary from Zagat. Served in a comfortable, casual room with walls the color of buttercups, diners enjoy these made-from-scratch meals alongside fish specials so popular, many customers order them sight unseen, according to general manager Dennis Durdaller.
Cinelli's its menu of traditional Italian eats with an assortment of locally and organically grown ingredients. Broccoli rabe and melted fontina cheese ornament an appetizer of grilled beefsteak tomatoes ($7), piquing appetites and inspiring innovative Christmas-tree-decoration ideas. Chefs cover a plethora of 12-inch piada flatbreads with grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella ($8) or breaded and fried eggplant ($8). Black-tiger shrimp, string beans and sun-dried tomatoes tossed in garlic and oil brodetto slumber on a vegetable-infused risotto bed ($16), and 12-inch thin-crusted artisan pizzas topped with a variety of meats, cheeses, and veggies ($10+) nourish feasters in groups of two or three.
Though masters of classic Italian recipes, the Lucky Duck's cooks don't always adhere to boring tradition. Alongside veal picatta and eggplant rigatoni, they also prepare sole fillets stuffed with shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, and spinach or top pizzas with bleu cheese and buffalo chicken. Inside the restaurant's spacious dining room, paintings of Italian landscapes and flat-screen TVs hang on exposed-brick walls, giving patrons something to gaze at besides the hypnotic swirls hidden in their date's eyes.
Family-owned since 1989, the kitchen at Poppy’s Place sends forth steaming plates of pasta and seafood with scents that suggest hours spent simmering tomatoes, chopping garlic, and stirring sauces. Waiters glide across the caramel-hued floorboards, bearing trays to a table cloaked in spotless white linen like a ghost in a job interview. Dishes of pasta, saltimbocca, and catch-of-the-day fish settle there alongside bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The clatter of busy forks drifts past the lengthy bar, where rows of bottles bristle and patrons sip beverages beneath yellow walls, hanging flowers, and an absence of shrill cuckoo clocks.