Silvia Marani, chef at Melo on Merlo, has done her homework. Forty years ago, Silvia began recording all the kitchen wisdom and recipes she learned from family, friends and neighbors in Bologna. Today, these recipes (still in their original red notebook) are put to good use in the Gold Coast, where Marani's Merlo Ristorante sits in a three-story brick and stone townhouse. The interior is an elegant display of polished wood and white linen tablecloths encased in yellow ochre walls, "the color of Bologna," says Silvia.
The Merlo experience is an invitation to stop and smell the roses. With an emphasis on taking the time to savor a meal, the restaurant falls into the "European Slow Food" category. You "enter the restaurant with a friend, order a nice bottle of wine and start talking. In the meantime, the food will come little by little and you will enjoy," says Giampaolo Sassi, Silvia's husband and the restaurant's host.
For an appetizer, try the artichoke torte prepared with parsley, garlic and parmesan. The beef tenderloin is a popular entree that comes roasted in pink, white, green and black pepper. Standout dessert options include an ice cream parfait drizzled in warm chocolate sauce, which sounds all the more delicious when the waiter refers to it as a semifreddo di zabaione con cioccolato calco.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg