Tasi and the Refectory tout budget-priced lineup.
Tasi, 680 N. Pearl St. (one block east of High Street)
Go for the comfort, stay for the comfort food. The restaurant's notti di trattoria menu, offered from 4 to 9 p.m. each Friday and Saturday, has a few intriguing bites.
The peppercorn-laced sopressata, a type of salami, is paired with crunchy fennel and shavings of Parmesan in a very simple but very good salad ($8). Pizzas are a big part of the scene, using house-tossed crust.
Incorrectly described as a flatbread over the phone, the crust is of medium thickness with a thick rim of dough. It's a good base for the pie topped with caramelized onions, a light covering of sauce, quality fennel sausage and mozzarella ($11). Don't miss the cannelloni ($12): two spinach pasta logs stuffed with ricotta and beef and topped with a thick Bolognese sauce.
Aside from the Italian delights, we ran across a delicious special: scrambled eggs tossed with house-cured salmon, onions and spinach, sided with toast ($8). The best part: It's served all day.
The Refectory, 1092 Bethel Road
Once available only on weekdays, the restaurant's bistro menu is now offered from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday and 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The three-course menu ($23.95) features a choice of a starter (soup, salad or appetizer), main course and dessert. It will be offered through March, with the exception of Valentine's Day weekend.
On a recent visit (actually on a weekday night), we debated which was the better dish of the evening:
Smoked salmon rillette or confit of pheasant leg?
Pan-seared barramundi accented with a citrusy butter sauce and topped with a house-made osso bucco raviolo or pork tenderloin nestled in a vigorous whole-grain mustard and horseradish sauce, and plated with three potato beignets?
Winner? Too close to call.
Apple tart tatin or chocolate bread pudding, each served with a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream?
Winner? Again, very close, but chocolate-lovers would revel in the latter, with a texture close to a brownie.
Few menus offer this kind of value, whether it's a weekday or weekend visit.