> Giulia

Set along the bustle of Mass Ave. in Cambridge, Giulia combines Italian charm with modern American elegance. Sit at the massive bar or the dining room's communal table and you may feel like you're part of a huge Italian family meal; the café tables provide just enough privacy for date night. Chef-owner Michael Pagliarini (formerly of Via Matta) turns out rich and earthy dishes and exceptional house-made pastas that provide plenty of excuses to delve into beverage manager Megan Cormier's Italian wine list. Start the evening with The Sexy Americano (an Aperol cocktail) and sweet and savory duck heart spiedini with pickled onions; then delve into the list for gems like the 2011 Scacciodiavoli Grechetto, built to bring out the salty depth of the tiny clams in brodetto. —Mark DiMatt
—Mark DiMatt

Giulia, 1682 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA; 617-441-2800, (reviewed W&S, 06/13)

 Leawood, KS
> Rye

Building on the success of bluestem, the Kansas City restaurant that chef Colby Garrelts and his wife and pastry chef, Megan, launched in 2004, the duo has opened Rye, a more casual place in Leawood, just outside the city. They've traded in their white tablecloths and china for iron-and-leather chandeliers, wooden tables and gingham napkins, and crafted a menu that highlights Midwest ingredients. Starters of crispy fried chicken livers and gizzards segue to entrées such as double-cut pork chops drizzled with a honey and sorghum sauce with a side of cheddar-laden white corn grits. General manager Jeremy Lamb keeps the wine options wide open, offering more than 20 choices by the glass and highlighting another 40 wines off his bottle list that run $40 or less; the selection ranges from classics like Trimbach's Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling to Savage Juliet, a pinot noir made by Missouri native David Dain Smith from Anderson Valley fruit.
—Jen Cossey

Rye, 10551 Mission Rd., Leawood, KS; 913-642-5800, (reviewed W&S, 06/13)