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INDIAN COPPER

www.copperrestaurant.com

HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 A.M.-10 P.M., Fri.

11:30 A.M.-10:30 P.M., Sat. 5-10:30 P.M., Sun. 5-9:30 P.M.

Charlotte isn’t known for its Indian restaurants; the few that do exist tend to be unremarkable eateries where traditional curries, tikka masala, and tandoori chicken are served on a buffet. But Copper takes a more upscale approach to Far East cuisine. Owner Pannu Singh mixes traditional and modern in dishes that have caught the attention of local foodies. And the presentation is as modern as the cuisine: For example, each of the selections in the dessert samplerâ”rice pudding, ice cream, honey donuts, and halwaâ”is plated on its own plate and the four are served on top of one large plate. The restaurant is in the Mayer House, a turn-of-the-century bungalow that is on the National Register of Historic Places and filled with traditional Indian art.

ITALIAN DOLCE 0©1710 Kenilworth Ave., 704/332-7525, www.dolceristorante.net

HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 11:30 A.M.-2 P.M. and 5-9:30 P.M., Sat. 5-10 P.M.

Dolce could be described as small, but regulars prefer to think of it as intimate. The uber-helpful staff at the cozy ristorante serve up Italian favorites like gnocchi and spaghetti Bolognese nightly. The best time to dine at Dolce is during the first two weeks of the month for one of the Festas Regionales, when a special menu features dishes from different regions in Italy. Each month a different region is highlighted and authentic dishes are served alongside wines from the same region; check the website for the schedule. Passports are offered to diners; get a stamp from each of the 12 regions and earn a free bottle of wine. The patio overlooks the parking lot and is just a block from Dilworth’s main street; it’s a good option if the restaurant is fullâ”which it often is. In the winter, the heated tent and regular offers to refill your wine glass help keep you warm

FLAMMA OG2418 Park Rd., 704/333-3062

HOURS: Daily 11:30 A.M.-3:30 P.M. and 5-11 P.M.

It’s hard to imagine that food this good comes from a strip mall. Don’t let the locationâ”or the fact that chef Fernando Campoverde is Ecuadorian, not Italianâ”deter you. The pizza and pasta served in this neighborhood hot spot are top-notch. All of the pasta is made fresh in the Dilworth kitchen. The most popular dishes at the traditional Italian restaurant are not staples like orecchiette, tagliatelle, and gnocchi. Here, pizza is the standout. There is nothing unique about toppings like mushrooms, mozzarella, and tomatoes, but co-owner and master pizza maker Kerwin Astudillo makes the thin crusts by hand and cooks the pizzas to perfection. Ask the staff about their favorites and prepare to be amazed at the different combinations of ingredients.

This upscale Indian restaurant is located in a historic house in the Dilworth neighborhood.

MEXICAN CANTINA 1511 OO1511 East Blvd., 704/331-9222, www.cantina1511restaurant.com

HOURS: Sun.-Wed. 11 A.M.-10 P.M., Thurs.-Sat. 11 A.M.-11 P.M.

Even in the dead of winter, the atmosphere inside Cantina 1511 is pure Cinco de Mayo. It’s common to see groups of margarita-drinking revelers squeezed together at tables, laughing loudly and shouting to be heard over the crowds at other tables. Here, dinner is a party. Start with the fresh guacamole made tableside, and save room for dessertâ”the Nutella pie, a sinful concoction of hazelnuts and cream in a wafer crust, is not to be missed. Between the appetizers and desserts, the menu is filled with Mexican dishes like barbacoa de puerco, pescado Yucatan, and chicken Milanese tacos. Owner Frank Scibelli has spent countless hours in Mexico, learning traditional recipes from local chefs and scouring markets for the freshest and most authentic ingredients. Like the guacamole, the tortillas, salsas, and cheeses are also made in-house. Order one of 40 different tequilas to sip alongside the camarones mojo y ajo. If there’s a line for a tableâ”and there often is, especially if you’re clamoring for one of the coveted patio seatsâ”wait it out in the bar with a margarita and a bowl of homemade tortilla chips and fresh salsa. Reservations are recommended, but be warned that it’s common for diners to order extra rounds and linger, so you may have to wait for a table even if your name is in the book.

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