Monteverde gets all the big things and all the little things right. It’s buzzy but not braying, easy on the eyes but not design-y, always busy but never a madhouse. We love the way the servers are comfily dressed and totally knowledgeable, and we love the ways around the always-filled reservation book, like by going for lunch or via the first-come, first-serve bar at dinner. We love the way the bill comes as a pleasant surprise, always less than expected. More than anything we love chef-owner Sarah Grueneberg’s (pictured) distinctive cooking, which is Italian by way of her native Texas. Time and again we simultaneously recognize and thrill to her flavors, like trying comfort food for the first time. Her bucatini with ricotta whey cacio e pepe is such a marvel — so sharp and peppery it slaps, so creamy you scrape the plate. We want anything bathed in her tomato sauce, from her soppressata meatballs, to a fantastic new dish of singed, wok-seared spaghetti with ground shrimp Bolognese and chile-garlic oil. Some afternoons we dream of sitting at the bar with gushy-hot ’nduja arancini and a bitter orange spritz. And in our dreams, we always stay for dinner.

Photograph: Courtesy of Monteverde