The Greater Merrimack Valley has a rich, centuries-long immigrant tradition. As such, the culinary landscape of the area is a vivid, varied one, with pastoral New England favorites like lobster roll just as readily available as Szechuan tofu and baklava. The Greater Merrimack Valley Restaurant Showcase Week will celebrate this diversity, offering food lovers an opportunity to sample the Valley's full flavor profile without taking too heavy a toll on their wallets.
The showcase, presented by the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, will run Aug. 17-31 and feature 18 local restaurants. Diners can order from a prix fixe, two-course lunch and three-course dinner menus, priced from $9.14 and $23.14, respectively.
We caught up with a few of the participating chefs and asked them which dishes they were most excited to serve up for the showcase.
- Tiffani Natinsky, Moonstones
185 Chelmsford St., Chelmsford
"We're a globally themed, fine-dining tapas made-for-sharing kind of restaurant... We've decided to go with the tasting menu. So we'll do a four-course tasting menu, and that'll range from our frozen grapes, which were a family favorite in my house growing up, to our Asian barbecue short rib, which is pretty amazing, Szechuan tofu and eggplant -- all kinds of stuff."
- Charles Belanger, Cobblestones
91 Dutton St., Lowell
"We like to give them a little mix, some of the highlights of the menu. There's really no outstanding one. We like to think of them as all outstanding."
- Jayson DeMarco, Sora
At DoubleTree By Hilton Boston - Bedford Glen, 44 Middlesex Turnpike, Bedford
"We've got a lot of great seafood dishes, but our tuna branzino that we bring in is one of our signature seafood dishes at the restaurant... We say 'peasant style,' but it's served fully dressed, head-on -- cleaned, of course, but grilled skin-on with garlic, olive oil, and served whole."
- Frank Hurley, 50 Warren Restaurant & Lounge
At UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St., Lowell
"We're pushing more local, sustainable, regional fare. We have a lot of the old standbys -- lobster roll -- and a lot of in-house-made burgers. So it's very well-rounded."
- Joe Novello, Angelina's Italian Restaurant
1866 Main St., Tewksbury
"The Scrod alla Cenzo is the newest one we're going with. It's a healthier version of one of our other dishes. It's a panko-crusted scrod topped with garlic, tomatoes, spinach and olive oil, and it's served with fresh vegetable."
- Beni Kurti, Four Oaks Country Club & Grazie
1 Clubhouse Lane, Dracut
"I come from Italy and we know how to do pasta. Ravioli is my favorite dish because you can fill the pasta with everything creamy, but when you taste the pasta, it's going to be an explosion in your mouth."
- Ethan Kramer, Merchants Row at the Colonial Inn
48 Monument Square, Concord
"We're serving traditional, Colonial Inn era stuff: chicken pot pies, pot roast, New England comfort food... That pot roast is in the oven five hours. The chicken pot pies come off whole roasted birds. It's pretty tasty."
- Colin Rourke, Ricardo's Cafe Trattoria
110 Gorham St., Lowell
"I'm a big fan of the schnitzel... It's as fun to say as it is to eat. It's a lightly breaded pork cutlet, and we fry it up, top it with baby spinach and aged provolone cheese, a little bit of demiglaze on those mashed potatoes. Snack-a-doodle-doo."
- Raymond Horton, Athenian Corner Restaurant
207 Market St., Lowell
"We've been here for 40 years. We serve authentic food. Our favorite dishes are mousaka, pastitsio, baked lamb, lamb shish, chicken shish..."
For information on the Greater Merrimack Valley Restaurant Showcase Week, including menus, visit merrimackvalley.org/restaurant-showcase-week.Other participating restaurants
- 189 Prime at Wyndham Boston Andover, 123 Old River Road, Andover
- Devens Grill, 4 Ryans Way, Devens
- El Potro Mexican Grill, 124 Merrimack St., Lowell
- Glenview Pub and Grill, 248 Princeton St., N. Chelmsford
- La Boniche, 143 Merrimack St., Lowell
- Lexx Restaurant, 1666 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington
- Minute Man Grille at Holiday Inn Boxborough, 242 Adams Place, Boxborough
- Owen and Ollie's Restaurant, 91 Mill St. No. 1, Dracut
- Victoria's Restaurant at Holiday Inn, 4 Highwood Drive, Tewksbury
Follow Kyle Clauss on Twitter @KyleClauss and on Tout @kclauss.