82 S. 4th St., 718-384-8282, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The welcome here is as warm as a sunny day in Mexico. No wonder it took locals about five minutes to embrace this handsome cantina, especially since the quartet running it (Sergio Garcia, Abraham Jimenez, Ricardo Escobar and Yecenia Santibanez) had an avid following at vanished Williamsburg favorite Bonita. Cariño, which means "sweetheart," is a date-night destination for its soft lighting and beautiful wood detail. Their liquor license is pending, but should arrive in time to make the frozen drinks here a summer hit, made with fresh fruit and freshly squeezed lime juice. Two ladies from Puebla and Oaxaca turn out authentic fish tacos, carne asada and gorditas topped with chorizo, crema and salsa verde.
Fornino Park Slope
256 Fifth Ave., 718-399-8600, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Three storefronts have been joined together to create a sprawling, 165-seat pizza palace whose vintage decor pays homage to 1930s-era Brooklyn. This is chef/owner Michael Ayoub's second Fornino location, housed in the same space where, 20 years ago, he opened the pioneering Cucina. In addition to an extensive selection of thin, grilled pizza is a spread of antipasti including locally cured salumi, an eggplant–and–roasted pepper terrine and an onion–and–goat cheese tart. An on-premise store is opening soon, with plans to sell fresh pasta, house-made sauces and cheese as well as fully cooked takeaway meals.
85 W. Broadway, 212-204-5555, TriBeCa, Manhattan
A French Riviera–accented brasserie, whose name roughly translates to "facing south," has debuted in TriBeCa's posh Smyth Hotel. The debonair Frederick Lesort (Opia, Matisse) oversees the front of the house while executive chef Ed Cotton (ex–BLT Market, Veritas) is in the kitchen. Gallic fare is offered continuously from 7am to 11pm, from freshly baked pastries in the morning to croque monsieur and tartines, steak au poivre, escargots and sautéed skate later in the day. AvroKO performed design duties, creating a rustic space with weathered wood paneling, plant-lined windows and a smattering of garden tools.
229 S. 4th St., 347-844-9578, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Do you like pork in everything? Step right up to Traif, a sweet little café with a great patio in back where you'll find dishes like crispy pork belly with artichokes, braised pork rillettes and hot smoked salmon with warm bacon-potato salad on the menu, which changes daily. And how about bacon doughnuts with dulce de leche for dessert? By naming his restaurant Traif, which essentially means "non-kosher," chef Jason Marcus acknowledges that he's going against Jewish dietary law. Besides the bacon, the restaurant will also feature forbidden shellfish, such as scallops with snap and English pea risotto. Marcus has worked at Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin, and this is his first outing as an owner, partnering with girlfriend Heather Heuser, who charmingly sees to the guests.
V Bar St. Marks
132 First Ave., 212-473-7200, East Village, Manhattan
Talk about a happy happy hour for wine and beer connoisseurs: V Bar's two-for-one weekday deals include fine Italian wines by the glass and imported beers. This larger offshoot of a SoHo wine bar by the same name has a comfortable front lounge, a classic wooden bar and big windows open to the street, giving it an indoor-outdoor feel. The Italian menu features tasty meatballs, lobster-and-pancetta sliders and panzarotti pockets stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella. Catering to neighborhood night owls, it's open until 4am on weekends. It's also an ideal spot for a casual brunch.