See you later, Pottery Barn: Essentia is the perfect place to find a hostess, shower, or birthday gift. Accessories from this boutique have that handmade quality without smacking of hokey, homespun earnestness. Instead, the wares are stylish. On offer are one-of-a-kind pottery pieces from the UK, Europe, and local areas, an array of linens and cushions, and a smattering of handmade jewelry pieces and other fashion accessories, including handbags and silk-printed scarves from RISD. The Mall at Chestnut Hill, Chestnut Hill, MA essentialifestyle.com.
Forget the perfunctory décor and out-of-the-way address, Santarpio's pies are the zenith of 'za, delivered dangerously hot from the depths of a loud and steamy backroom. Some say the secret is the sauce. Others swear by the cheese. Whatever the magic ingredient, one thing is obvious: This is soul pizza. The doughy, oven-charred crust blisters with bubbles and is smothered beneath a voluptuous helping of cheese. Santarpio's is so addictive, it's got devotees cheerfully volunteering to make pickups at nearby Logan so they can stop on the way for a slice. Or three. 113 Chelsea St., East Boston, MA santarpiospizza.com/.
The years-long influx of challengers has ebbed, the smoke has cleared, and the winner and still champion is...Redbones. This is barbecue the way it's meant to be: noisy, messy, and crowded, with a selection of thick, meaty ribs that reads like a geography lesson—Texas, Memphis, Arkansas, St. Louis. Not in the mood? Try the fried Louisiana catfish or grilled sausage sandwich, or skip straight to the pecan pie. And don't forget to wash it all down with one of the 24 beers on tap. It's enough to make even a southerner all weepy. 55 Chester St., Somerville, MA redbones.com/.
It's fascinating to watch owner/ chef Paul Booras slave over the stove in the small kitchen here. It's even more rewarding to taste what he does with wood grilled salmon and monkfish, hanger steak, and thick racks of pork. Located next to the Needham Center MBTA station, the stone-walled hideaway is not easy to find but definitely worth the effort. Booras— a veteran of Pomodoro and Olives— also opened the new Mediterranean spot Sweet Basil down the street. How lucky can one town be? 1027 Great Plains Ave., Needham, MA .
Want to experience a European café without the jet lag? Head to Burdick. The true test of chocoholism is actually finishing the iced hot chocolate—a deeply decadent concoction poured over ice, and crowned with a veil of whipped cream. If the craving persists, move on to the signature (and adorable) chocolate mice, filled with cinnamon, mocha, or orange. Or snag a spot at one of the café's tables by the window, and survey the march of humanity in Harvard Square as you linger over any of the 13 truffle varieties and slip into a Proustian peace. 52D Brattle St., Cambridge, MA burdickchocolate.com/.
This little cafe offers a welcome respite from Starbucks culture, offering everything from your standard Assam to more exotic blends, from scented and flavored teas to herbal infusions. For summer, try the iced ginger-and-lemongrass tea with one of Tea Tray's sandwiches or desserts. Complimentary tea tastings Tuesdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. 1796 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA .
The problem with most birthday cakes is that the better they look— all flowers and scrolls— the worse they taste. May, bless her heart, has solved the dilemma. She compliments her delicate batters with light mousses and whipped creams, then trims with finely sliced fruits. The cakes she creates are beautiful and delicious. And you can afford one— even after the ticket you'll probably get for double-parking on the south edge of Chinatown. 223 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA .
If you live in fear of the ubiquitous Starbucks turning up on every street corner, head to the recently opened, one-of-a-kind Roasters. It's professional enough to be a chain (it's not), but personal enough to be an original (it is). The coffee tastes better and costs less than that of the usual suspects. The wood-and-chrome interior is beautifully designed, and the glass cases display an exquisite variety of pastries. 85 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
This bistro doesn't dub its sandwich selection "The Great Ones" for nothing. Some of the city's best chefs have contributed recipes for lavishly layered concoctions sure to make your mouth water. Steer clear of the calzone, and instead sink your teeth into the Capital Grille's Smoked Salmon on brioche, the Pudding Portobello with onion marmalade, or Norma's Zuni Roll with cranberry chipotle. The latter ensures you'll never look at a turkey sandwich the same way again. 361 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
Cannoli should never be filled until you enter the bakery and say, "Four cannoli, please." At which point the white-smocked helper at Modern will slip into the back of the shop, return with four freshly filled pastries, give them a light dusting of powdered sugar, and warp them in one of those classic boxes tied with red-and-white string. 257 Hanover St., Boston, MA .
The right necklace makes an outfit. No one knows this better than the staff at Pagéo, who navigate display cases of diverse, modern pieces, from magnificent gold necklaces dripping with colorful gems to lustworthy diamond pendants and delicate platinum drop earrings. It's enough to drive even the most directed buyer to distraction. But the knowledgeable personnel will help you focus. 843 Beacon St., Newton Centre, MA pageo.com/.
In a one-week period in September 1985, Florence then CEO of Towle Manufacturing, sold 43,600 shares of the East Boston silverware manufacturer at prices ranging from $8.37 to $9 a share. Two months later, the 54-year-old Florence was asked to resign. Last March the 296-year-old company filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. The company's stock is currently hovering around $3.50 a share.
The owners here specialize in wines produced in small quantities (fewer than 10 cases). Bottles from all over the world line the shelves, designed to appeal to every budget and palate. Not only that, a quarter of the stock changes every month, so there's always something new to try. While you're at it, pick up some freshly baked breads and pastries, check out the mouth-watering selection of gourmet cheeses and pâtes, and make plans to attend one of the weekly tastings. 25 Central Ave., Milton, MA espritduvinusa.com.
With 26 styling stations, Makeovers is one of the largest salon/spas in the state—which means you just may be able to snag a last-minute Saturday appointment (amazing!). Co-owner Edward Blum uses his magic scissorhands to cut your hair based on the architecture of your face, and his team of talented stylists all follow suit. There's also a fully stocked snack bar and a separate wing devoted to inviting spa treatments. 574 Washington St., South Easton, MA makeoverssalon.com.
Escape the pickled beach-bar crowd at this sexy subterranean spot, with its smart mix of single malts and blends, local beers, and a carefully cultivated wine selection. Order from upstairs restaurant Atria's menu—a dozen different juicy burgers are available—or simply cap off the night by raising a glass to your good taste with one of Brick Cellar's inspired cocktails (we dig the Edgartown Harbor Breeze). 137 Main St., Edgartown, MA 2539, atriamv.com.