One of the great simple pleasures of traveling abroad is stumbling across a restaurant frequented by locals, followed closely by bathing in gelato and loudly explaining why everything in America is better. Replicate that feeling with today’s Groupon: for $5, you get $10 worth of Italian fare and drinks at Mel & Mars in Algonquin.
Using fresh ingredients, chef Mario Arevalo scratch-crafts a menu of Italian-American fare with Spanish and Mediterranean influences. Quickly quiet talkative tummies with a black-olive tapenade, kalamata olives puréed with garlic, fresh herbs, imported cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil, and served with herb crostini ($3.25). The pasta aglio olio—angel-hair pasta tossed with sautéed garlic, herbs, spicy red-pepper flakes, white wine, and butter—is cooked al dente and doubles as dental floss ($7.50). The herb-breaded Sicilian pork sandwich warms finger docks and bellies with a cloak of marinara sauce and baked cheeses ($8.75), and the pollo vesuvio keeps forks fit with a plated obstacle course featuring a pan-seared chicken-breast mountain, a shallow pool of garlic-and-white-wine sauce, green peas for juggling, and fried potato wedges for balancing on the nose ($11.25).