Ciao, Marcella's

Walking down High Street, you may suddenly be drawn in by Marcella's open-air seating. Unlike the usual patio, at Marcella's the huge windows just open up to let the restaurant and the sidewalk seemingly become one. Someone passing by might just be able to reach in and steel a glass of wine right off your table.

Inside is a fun, casual, comfortable atmosphere, enhanced by exposed brick on one wall coupled with wood on the back bar. Then there's the Italian flavor in the decor. The fresh fruit hanging in baskets at the bar provides more than just an excellent ingredient for cocktails; it helps give Marcella's an Italian mercato feel.

In front of the kitchen is the salumeria, where the Berkel fly wheel slicer provides patrons with paper-thin slices of Italian meats. A large party table is situated right in front so guests can feel like part of the action. One final touch is the cappuccino machine, a must-have for any Italian-style bar.
"Our bartenders are not just mixologists, they are baristas," assistant general manager Jenn Rossi said.

The booze

Marcella's all-Italian wine list has around 50 labels, organized by body. Everything is available in three carafe sizes: Quartino, a little more than a glass; mezzolitro, a half bottle; or litro, a full bottle. Purists, no worries; all the wines are still presented. Many regions are represented and several of the quartini are only $5. Some of the country's finest wines also make the list, including Barbaresco, Bolgheri, Barolo and Brunelo di Montalcino. In true Italian countryside style, all wines are served in a tumbler.

For the cocktail lover, Marcella's has many unique concoctions, as well as a few standards. The most popular drink is the citrus white sangria ($5/glass, $20/litro), but they also offer a Primitivo red variety.

Fun twists on classic cocktails are another option, such as the bittersweet Grapefruit Negroni ($9) made with Bombay gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, fresh grapefruit juice and tonic. If you are in the mood for something a little more contemporary, the Kiwi Crush ($9) should do the trick, with Belvedere Cytrus vodka, Cointreau, Midori and fresh kiwi puree.

The Food

Marcella's offers a few larger items, but its menu is heavier with small plates, pizzas and pastas, which are great for sharing as a meal or a bar snack. The Sicilian pizza ($9) with capacola, salami, meatballs and Asiago is, as Rossi described it, "a meat eater's delight. The veal meatball with ricotta cheese melts in your mouth."

The meatball is also available by itself ($7) or served with fettucine ($10). Another popular dish is the pesto shrimp pizza ($10), made with roasted tomatoes and goat cheese.

A large selection of olives ($3), formaggi (3 for $10, 5 for $14) and salumi ($4) is a good place to start your small-plate adventure (the last two are cheese and deli meat, if you don't speak Italian). Several cold and hot small plates ($4 to $7) are also offered. The fritto misto with calamari, roasted garlic aioli and lemon is quite popular and the melted pecorino cheese is shipped in from Italy just for Marcella's.