Comfort food (with a twist) finds a home in Melbourne….
Upscale Italian in Napa
Azzurro Pizzeria Enoteca. Families, tourists, and locals in search of upscale pizza and Italian food flock to Azzurro in downtown Napa. After years in a dark and cramped space around the corner, chef/owner Michael Gyetvan (formerly of Tra Vigne) opened these more spacious digs in February 2008. Highlights of the menu include “Little Ear” pasta with spinach, garlic, and chilies; and the pollo pizza with chicken sausage, sherry-roasted onions, mozzarella, and arugula. Try the homemade salumi, which changes every week. Ask for a table near the oven; on cold nights, the door can let in a draft. 1260 Main St. Napa. 707/255-5552. www.azzurropizzeria.com. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $20.
In Baltimore, A Restaurant Worth the Wait
Woodberry Kitchen. This restaurant is in such high demand that it books up weeks in advance. Swathed in wood and aged brick, Woodberry Kitchen has a down-home atmosphere, and the menu harks back to a simpler era. The best items are often the most basic: Eastern Shore popcorn, cheddar potato gratin, and cast-iron rib-eye are standouts. Diners range in age from twenty- and thirty-somethings to senior citizens. Ask for a table on the mezzanine, where you can peer down to the floor below and people-watch between courses. 2010 Clipper Park Rd. Hampden. 410/464-8000. www.woodberrykitchen.com. Reservations essential. AE, MC, V. No lunch. Median entrée price: $22.
Bold and Basque in Paris
Afaria. Chef Julien Duboué worked with fellow Basque Alain Dutournier at Le Carré des Feuillants and Daniel Boulud in New York before settling into this high-ceilinged space near Porte de Versailles, in the 15th arrondissement. Basque cooking is known for bold flavors, and the choices at Afaria are no exception: crisp-skinned duck breast with balsamic-fig vinegar (for two) is served with potato gratin perched on a bed of twigs, while big chunks of slow-cooked pork from Gascony come in an earthenware dish with cubes of roasted celery root. It hasn’t been open long, but Afaria already has a signature dish — blood sausage layered with apples and topped with grainy mustard. Tapas is served at a high table near the entrance, and there is a large screen TV for watching rugby matches. 15 rue Desnouettes. Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel. 01-48-56-15-36. Closed Sun. and Aug. No lunch Mon. MC, V. Median entrée price: €20.
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Comfort Food in Melbourne
The Commoner. The dining room here is packed with young couples enjoying some of the town’s best and most eclectic food. Chef Matt Donnelly’s menu includes taste sensations like quail marinated in pomegranate molasses and a “Middle Eastern platter” with a lamb-stuffed potato pancake. The wine list has depth in both Aussie selections as well as interesting international wines, and the restaurant itself is cozy, featuring a mix of art that co-owner Jo Corrigan put together from her humble Outback upbringing (hence the restaurant’s name). The restaurant recently revamped its menu and added a charming enclosed garden in the back. 122 Johnston St. Fitzroy. 03/9415-6876. www.thecommoner.com.au/. AE, MC, V, DC. Closed Mon. & Tues. Median entrée price: $28 AUD (approximately $26 USD).
In London, A Home Away From Home
The Sumner. This elegant Georgian town house on a quiet residential street is the kind of place where you can feel yourself relaxing the minute you enter. Guest rooms are painted in neutral tones with splashes of rich color, and the interior design has a modern flair — even the fruit bowl is arranged creatively. There’s plenty here for the gadget lover, including flat-screen TVs and free broadband. If the weather is good, relax in the small garden; in winter, warm your feet by the fire. In the morning, take breakfast in the sunny conservatory. Pros: small enough that the staff knows your name. Cons: services are limited but prices are high. Sumner Pl. South Kensington. 020/7584-7586 (ph). 020/7823-9962 (fax). www.thesumner.com/ 20 rooms. In-room: refrigerator, Ethernet (free). In-hotel: room service, parking (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, MC. Rooms start at £170 (approximately $346 USD).
The New Face of Atlantis
The Cove Atlantis & The Reef Atlantis. Physically part of Atlantis, but worlds apart in terms of overall look, experience, and sophistication, The Cove and The Reef are the newest (and classiest) additions to the mega resort we’ve all come to love or hate. The 600-suite Cove opened in March 2007 with no-little fanfare. From the spectacular open-air lobby to Bobby Flay’s new Southwestern/Caribbean Mesa Grill, it’s no wonder this beach haven is already “in” with the cool kids. Although families are welcome (there’s a separate family pool), most would rather stay in one of Atlantis’ main towers, so little ones can be closer to Aquaventure, the resort’s water park. The name of the game at the Cove is exclusivity, from the private poolside cabanas stocked with gourmet treats to spa treatments from Mandara Spa en suite. Both are available only to Cove guests. The Reef, brand-spankin’ new for December 2007, is a 497-suite beachside condo/hotel right next door to the Cove. Each unit is decked out with a stainless steel kitchen or kitchenette (some have in-suite washers and dryers), which makes this set-up perfect for self-sufficient families or those trying to stretch their dollar. There’s a “guests-only” pool, but guests also have access to everything at the Cove, excluding the Cain nightclub. Pros: the ultimate in luxury; uncrowded pools; incredible ocean and harbor views. Cons: quite a hike from the casino/restaurant/club scene that is Atlantis; onsite entertainment and dining are expensive. Casino Dr. Paradise Island. New Providence Island. 242/363-3000 or 800/285-2684. www.atlantis.com. Cove: 600 suites. Reef: 497 suites. In-room: Cove: safe, Wi-Fi Reef: safe, kitchen, refrigerator, Wi-Fi In-hotel: Cove: 2 restaurants, room service, bars, pools, gym, spa, beachfront, water sports, laundry service, public Wi-Fi. Reef: pool, gym, spa, beachfront, water sports, laundry facilities, laundry service, public Wi-Fi. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at: Reef : $745. Cove $875.
Contributors: Christie Daugherty, Rosa Jackson, Jessica Robertson, Sam Sessa, Matt Villano, Liza Zimmerman