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HOLA FLATBREADS AND TAPAS 1849 Ocean St., Unit 10, Library Plaza, Marshfield. 781-837-2900. LOCO TAPAS & WINE BAR 520 Foundry St. (Route 106), South Easton. 508-230-5626. Two restaurants are bringing an exceedingly welcome alternative to the suburbs, where a night out often means a beer and a burger at the Ninety Nine or Chili's. That's a fun way to spend an evening, but it's nice to have more sophisticated options. Hola's tapas are its strength, with its flatbreads coming in a less interesting but tasty enough second. The surprise, unbilled in its name, is a selection of Mexican-influenced dishes. It's run by the folks who used to own Saporito's in Hull, and they're pros here too. Loco offers larger plates such as paella in addition to its tapas, plus a selection of grilled items. A lounge area makes this South Easton's most happening spot by a mile.
HUNGRY MOTHER 233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge. 617-499-0090. When Rachel Miller Munzer and Alon Munzer ran Rachel's Kitchen in Bay Village, they made everyone feel at home. If you'd been there once, they knew your face. Twice, they knew your order. Now they've partnered with chef Barry Maiden and former Sel de la Terre manager John Kessen to open Hungry Mother, a not-quite-as-small marvel of a restaurant that expertly brings together Southern dishes and French technique. The restaurant is refined, in a hip way, but it's also comfortable. Maiden's food, too, is refined yet comfortable. His skills are straight out of the kitchens of L'Espalier, Sel de la Terre, and Lumiere, where he's worked. But his menu is straight out of Virginia, where he's from. It's a heartfelt salute to peanuts and sorghum, cornmeal and grits.
CENTRAL 37 21 Broad St., Boston. 617-263-0037. Chef Rene Michelena has been a force in many a fine kitchen, from La Bettola to Galleria Italiana to Centro - he is famously peripatetic. Now he's cooking at Central 37, a new restaurant in the Financial District, as well as the adjoining lounge, MKT. Central 37's menu sounds interesting, featuring the likes of sandalwood brined squab and lamb kebab with cauliflower falafel. But on each visit, with the exception of a few dishes, the food was mostly mediocre and occasionally poor. If Central 37 were just another Financial District stop for the after-work drinker, well, that's what it would be. But with a known talent in the kitchen, it becomes something more, or less: a disappointment.
BENATTI 1128 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-492-6300. Benatti brings upscale Italian food to an area known for Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants. Things could get ugly during soccer season, but it's worth it for perfect porcini risotto, tortelloni in a sauce of walnuts and heady aged balsamic from Modena, well-turned entrees, and desserts that are far better than anyone disillusioned by the average Italian-restaurant dolci has hope to expect. (Try the Negroni terrine.)
GREZZO 69 Prince St., Boston. 857-362-7288. Grezzo has an Italian name - it means "raw" - and its menu includes pasta of a sort: papaya pappardelle; gnocchi made from nuts and dressed with "creamy rawmesan," a faux cheese sauce made from more nuts. But that's about all Grezzo has in common with its North End surroundings. This raw food restaurant (it's also vegan and largely organic) serves dishes that center on fruits, vegetables, nuts, sprouts, and seaweed, a diet adherents claim brings substantial benefits for health and well-being. Grezzo appealingly and sophisticatedly packages a lifestyle.