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Some recent stops on our reviewers’ dining travels

Via Emilia

24 West Main St., Mystic

Find them on the Web at viaemiliamystic.com or on Facebook and Instagram by searching on their name.

What does it mean if you keep thinking about the food that you ate at a restaurant? In this case, it means that the food was very, very good.

Via Emilia is a must-visit for those who enjoy innovative Italian dishes, perfectly prepared and presented, in an establishment that offers exceptional hospitality and service.

We have been several times now and have not once been disappointed. The Melanzane ($18) is a hearty portion of baked eggplant rolls with mozzarella, ricotta and tomato. Caponata Di Zucca ($13) is a squash and zucchini salad with ricotta and almonds.

All the pastas are made in-house, and the Mezzaluna ($28) combines porcini and ricotta filling with butter, sage and high-quality balsamic vinegar. The Gnocchi Al Forno ($27) blends the potato gnocchi with fontina and prosciutto.

There is every attention to detail at Via Emilia, from taking your reservation, to greeting you at the door, to the food, service, and even a follow-up inquiry later to hear your thoughts.

The menu is not extensive, but there are many wonderful choices, seasonal updates and occasional specials. Order one of the cheese and meat platters and enjoy from their selection of wine and spirits. There are multiple options, from starters, to pastas, seasonal vegetables, or poultry, meat or fish. Everything we have tried has been terrific; that’s why I keep thinking about it.

— Ann Baldelli 

Moravela's

139 Middlesex Ave., Chester

(860) 526-3633

https://moravelaspizzact.com

Moravela’s had me at French-fry Pizza, an intriguing item on the Italian eatery’s gourmet pizza menu ($10.95 for a small). Who knew crispy fries, cheese, Ranch, and crumbled bacon would work so well a a pizza? I assure you it does.

As for the more traditional pizzas at Moravela’s, we found them enjoyable and distinct — a sweeter tomato sauce and garlic-dusted crust offered a unique flavor profile (in a good way).

It could take a person some time to work through the voluminous pizza menu, and good luck if that’s your plan. But, for those who might be pizza-ed out on a given day, Moravela’s offers many more meal options — from grinders, sandwiches, and stromboli to salads, pasta, and other entrees.

As a quickie recommendation, we enjoyed the Philly Chicken Cheesesteak ($6.95 for a small) and the stuffed shells dinner ($16.25).

And take note: Moravela’s has a second store in Oakdale, so if you’re not Chester adjacent, you’ve got an option on the other side of the river. How accommodating is that?

— Marisa Nadolny

Oven-On Bakery

227 Jefferson Ave., New London

(860) 446-6136

When is the oven off?!

This small family spot is open seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the array of baked pastries and home-style Latin food is not only vast but painstakingly and wonderfully prepared. Who knows when they rest?

Given the pan dulce tradition of sweet goods, frequently featuring tropical fruits for fillings, the temptation for a visitor to simply point daily at a different item in the display case is pretty much a no-lose strategy. And the elephant ears and cinnamon rolls — both gigantic and $3.50 each — should probably carry an addictive-substance warning from the DEA.

As for the a la carte Latin offerings or daily lunch specials, everything we tried was exceptional. The large tamales, either chicken or pork, are as authentic and tasty as you'll find in the region, and the tacos and burritos are stunning in flavor and preparation. Also take the time to investigate breakfast specialites like La Canoa ($5.50), which is half of a fried plantain stuffed with spiced ground beef and sharp melted cheese.

It's worth noting that Oven-On serves a primarily Hispanic clientele — another indication of the indigenous nature of the food — but your hosts speak English and can answer questions or point you in the right direction.

Prices are very reasonably, particularly for the amount of food you get, and Oven-On is one of the true treasures of the southeastern Connecticut culinary scene.

— Rick Koster

 

 

 

 

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