Having already earned back-to-back spots on Connecticut Magazine's Best of Connecticut in 2009 and 2010, Liquid Lunch keeps bellies full and spoons out of the unemployment line with a slurp-worthy twist on midday meals. Culinary Institute of America graduate and owner Fred Bialek and his wife, Michele, were inspired to open the first Liquid Lunch in 2004, when they'd grown tired of lunchtime standards such as pizza, burgers, and lightly salted printouts of old PowerPoint presentations.
Today, at Liquid Lunch's still-growing roster of locations, a rotating lineup of gourmet soups cascades across the menu alongside six staple soups, including vegetarian lentil and split pea with ham. For an extra crunch, diners can plunge fork-first into salads, or explore healthy Sammiches, which escort taste buds around the globe with names influenced by their ingredients and spear-pickles engraved with necessary passport information.
Stockbridge's Gourmet Cheesecakes & Café's more than 45 varieties of cheesecake have won Connecticut Magazine's Best Cheesecake in Connecticut award for nine consecutive years and been featured in The New York Times. But even though its vast number of cheesecake and its selection of scones, cookies, and pastries would suggest otherwise, Stockbridge's is not just a bakery. The eatery also offers dishes to sate appetites for every meal, such as omelets, sandwiches, salads, and burgers. And unlike traditional bakeries and DMVs, Stockbridge's has a BYOB policy.
Lanza Restaurant's chefs plate a menu of authentic, upscale Italian dishes as guests drink in live entertainment. Taking inspiration from matryoshka dolls, diners can fill bellies with stuffed selections such as the ricotta-stuffed ravioli ($11.95) and the eggplant rollatini, in which a trio of ricotta, provolone, and prosciutto crowd into a golden eggplant topped with mozzarella and marinara ($13.95). In the veal piccata, a sautéed veal cutlet bathes in herbs, capers, and a luxurious lemon-butter sauce ($17.95), and the swordfish oreganto pairs a sautéed swordfish steak drizzled in roasted-garlic butter sauce with potatoes—Italy's most famous carbohydrate ($18.95). As diners captivate taste buds with savory sauces and pastas, live music and comedy acts thrill eardrums on Lanza’s stage, and a dance area lets couples practice for upcoming line-dancing marathons.
Christian and Antonio Setaro’s parents immigrated to the United States from Salerno, Italy, in the 1970s and opened Antonio’s Twin Oaks, an Italian eatery known for its homestyle cooking. Growing up around the kitchen, the brothers developed a liking for cooking that ultimately led to the opening of their own Italian eatery, The Original Antonio’s in Woodbridge. Later, they added locations in Beacon Falls and Ansonia.
At each restaurant, pasta headlines the menu. Shreds of romano cheese dust orders of homemade cheese ravioli, pappardelle with duck ragu, and rigatoni with plum tomatoes and italian sausage. Cheese also bubbles atop specialty pizzas and accentuates entrees built around shrimp, salmon, chicken, veal, or pork chops. The drink menu lists a bevy of dessert drinks, beer, martinis, and wine, nine of which are available by glass or cupped hands.
Draft House entertains patrons with 10 beers on tap, 10 H-D TVs bedecking a spacious dining room, and a full menu of bar favorites. Perk up palates with a basket of jalapeño poppers stuffed with gooey mozzarella ($9), or purposefully slip and fall into an order of pulled-pork or cheeseburger sliders, which are cushioned with fries for safety ($9). A Cajun-spiced tilapia sandwich with mango ketchup and mixed greens unveils one of the millions of sophisticated tastes the world’s oceans contain beyond saltwater cider and kelp fritters ($11). For meatier-minded appetites, the Draft House burger delivers a gut-gratifying helping of caramelized onions, mushrooms, and mozzarella ($10), and chicken marsala with mashed potatoes sends tongues into reveries of delicious meals of yore ($14). Accent your rib stickers with one of Draft House’s brews, a candy-flavored martini, or a glass of wine.
Mike Rocco’s love for pizza started in the Bronx, where he worked at his father’s pizzerias from a young age. Now, with the help of his brothers, Joe and Frank, he continues his family's tradition at 10 locations of his own invention—all flaunting the Planet Pizza name tag.
A man can't build such a pizza universe without some serious pies. But inspiration isn't a problem for Mike and his chefs, who've molded more than 30 toppings into about 25 specialty circles, all available on gluten-free and whole-wheat crusts. In addition to specialty pizzas, the cooks concoct other Italian-American fare such as shrimp parmigiana and mini pizza rolls that are more convincing than Pluto as a mature planet.