Cafe Martorano is a picture of Staten Island meets New Jersey cool. A black, horseshoe-shaped bar is the focal point of the room, flanked by an open kitchen on one side and a DJ booth on the other. Both booth and stove are the domain of owner Steve Martorano, who likes to spin tunes as much as he likes to make Sunday gravy. The burly cook (he doesn't like to be called "chef") specializes in Italian-American classics: eggplant stack ($23), chicken cacciatore ($34), and bucatini carbonara ($26), all served in oversized portions. The food is tasty and the portions generous, and if you're a transplant from New York or New Jersey, it tastes like home. But it's Martorano who sets this restaurant apart from other Italian joints. The chef's personality is as big as his biceps, and when he's in the room, all eyes are on him. As the evening progresses, so does the decibel level, until you're not sure whether you're in a restaurant or a club in Bensonhurst. You might even get a glimpse of some of Martorano's celebrity friends like Mario Lopez, Tom Jones, and Shaq, who drive and fly in to see the king of the meatball.
Readers' Choice: Casa D' Angelo