New York City: It isn't always easy to find good Italian food in Little Italy. Rubirosa is a great new exception. Angelo Pappalardo learned to make pizza at Joe & Pat's, his family's Staten Island place; here, he serves pies as well as dishes like gnocchi with mini meatballs and crispy brick chicken stuffed with ham and cheese.
Nashville: In East Nashville, it's hard to say what's better at Holland House: the cocktails from Jeremiah Blake or the New Southern dishes. I missed Monday's bourbon-and-burger night (each one is half price). Still, I was perfectly happy with a Kelso Cola #2 (apricot bourbon and cola with coffee-Guinness foam) and Kentucky fried catfish with a side of field pea hoppin' john.
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Pizza Before Noon
Birmingham, AL: Friends told me the pepperoni and Three Cheeser pizzas were dynamite at chef-owners Geoff Lockert and Brian Somershield's new Trattoria Centrale. Still, I had doubts about the breakfast pizza (so gimmicky, I thought). I was wrongtopped with potatoes, bacon, sausage and a fried-to-order egg, it's excellent.
Recipe Picks Inspired by Kate Krader's Finds:
June Restaurant Tip Sheet
Kate Krader shares new discoveries from the chef trail: Manhattan Mexican, Alabama comfort food and more.
Pago, Salt Lake City
A good wine list in Utah? My colleague Kristin Donnelly was very happy with the one she found at Pago; the 2008 K Vintners Viognier she ordered was one of 20 wines by the glass. "The place feels very Brooklyn," she says about chef Michael Richey's market-driven recipes, like roast quail with huckleberry sauce.
Local Three Kitchen & Bar; Atlanta, GA
With pig-themed art and velvet Elvises on the walls, this Southern comfort food spot has a fun vibe. The charcuterie section of the menu is labeled "Notorious P.I.G.," and at brunch, I got to walk into the kitchen and help myself to biscuits and gravy.
Ham and High; Montgomery, AL
Located in an idyllic, sustainable planned community, this lovely restaurant is so close to a farm that chef Joe Wolfson can walk down the block to pick arugula for topping his house-made sausage pizza.
Empellón; New York City
"Here's the story," Alex Stupak told me. "A pastry chef likes Mexican food, has never cooked it, but decides to do it anyway." I know Stupak for his avant-garde desserts at NYC's WD-50; now he's offering fantastic savory dishes like smoked plantain sopes (masa tarts) and tongue tacos.