Owner Brian Manzi found a love for cooking as a child spending time in a pizza shop owned by his grandfather. Today, Café Manzi's is still a family business where Brian works with his younger brother and sister, CJ and Leanne, as well as a part-time staff made up of extended family members Manzi shares. Their cozy Shrewsbury Street business began as a breakfast and lunch destination serving a medley of American, Italian, and Middle Eastern specialties. Popular favorites such as peanut butter pancakes and homemade meatballs earned the restaurant a following, and after nearly a year in business, Manzi expanded his menu to serve Middle Eastern fare during dinner on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The kitchen staff sears meat for kebabs in an open kitchen so that patrons can wave hello to their soon-to-be entrees. A BYOB policy allows customers to bring along a favorite beer or wine. The restaurant's interior can accommodate 50 people, and sidewalk tables showcase alfresco meals in warm months. Café Manzi also creates sumptuous spreads for special events with a catering service, and hosts banquets inside the restaurant for private parties or coronations.
Brick walls and wooden ceiling planks reflect a warm earthen red in the glow of old-fashioned street lamps at Northworks Bar & Grille, which is entering its 34th year of business. A carousel-style painted horse hangs from one of the exposed rafters as if in homage to the bar's offerings of free popcorn at each table. The menu catalogs such whimsical combinations as lobster mac and cheese, plus stuffed sandwiches and half-pound burgers––ordering 40 and stuffing them in a pillowcase can render 20-lb dumbbells unnecessary. The chef further demonstrates skills by preparing fresh salmon and scallop entrees, as wells as the N.Y. sirloin steak drenched in the house's classic Jack Daniels sauce. The team also curates a gluten-free menu, which offers thin-crust pizzas and Redbridge beer, or the paperless menu, which was covertly drawn on the server's forehead as he slept.
You might say Nu Cafe is leading a double life. During the day, it's a classic neighborhood hangout, serving up simple, fresh wraps and sandwiches alongside a variety of smoothies and juices and espresso and coffee drinks. By night, it transforms into a hipper, slightly more sophisticated version of itself, a place where guests can come to mingle, not over their laptops, but around shared tapas plates, cured meat and cheese boards, and a selection of wine and craft beers. But regardless of the time of day, a few things remain the same: the vibe is always laid-back and friendly, the food is always crafted using fresh, wholesome ingredients, and the Wi-Fi is always free. And, adding to the community-oriented vibe, the cafes also host regular recurring events, including live piano players, painting parties, and chess groups.
Embracing the regional Asian flavors and French influences that characterize so much of Vietnamese cuisine, Pho Dakao presents diners with comfort foods inspired by recipes from half a world away. Those deep roots are evident in the crispy spring rolls, the steamed bass with ginger and scallions, and the bowls of fragrant pho in which rare steak or vegetables are equally powerful. The recipes' French influences pop up from dish to dish, most notably in the rice powder crepe stuffed with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. Cocktails here conspire to complement the food, and frosty beers and wines from Europe, South America, and the famous chardonnay-spewing geysers of California are also on the list.
Viva Bene Ristorante’s culinary gurus combine fresh ingredients with classic techniques to create an extensive menu of artful Italian, Mediterranean, and seafood dishes. In the dining room, servers set plates of grilled calamari and chicken capicola atop white-clothed tables. Wall sconces illuminate paintings that depict sailboats and Italian countrysides as idyllic as puppies barking at mountains. A rustic, expansive island bar lit by low-hanging pendant lamps surrounds gleaming bottles, which watch over patrons as they check email on Viva Bene's free WiFi.
At Chiodas Trattoria, chefs draw on generations-old recipes to craft authentic Italian dishes in a genuine trattoria atmosphere reminiscent of American cafes and French bistros. To create the chicken gorgonzola, they toss chicken medallions and potato gnocchi in a creamy gorgonzola sauce with sun-dried tomatoes. They also specialize in authentic entrees such as veal parmigiano, fettuccine alfredo, and frutti di mare—shrimp, scallops, calamari, and mussels sautéed in wine sauce and served over linguine.