Tired of shabby roti joints, Trinidadian expat Charmaine Gumbs left her career as a law-firm account supervisor to open Sugarcane, an upscale pan-Caribbean restaurant of her own. Besides arranging live entertainment like the calypso-jazz Sunday brunch, she and her partner Gaspa Rodriguez bring delicacies like steamed-codfish salad, rum-and-thyme-marinated stew chicken, and soursop flan to Park Slope. And rotisTrinidad's most renowned culinary contribution and the best example of the island's considerable East Indian influencefinally get the stylish setting Gumbs always thought they deserved.
238 Flatbrush Avenue, at Bergen Street, Brooklyn
· Cuisine: Caribbean
Umberto Arpaia's parents owned La Tavernetta in Woodmere, his sister Donatella runs the Neapolitan-flavored Bellini, and he occupies himself as executive chef and owner of Cellini nearby. So his impulse to open Acqua Pazza in the old Artusi space might be congenital. Why let a perfectly good location (in the AOL Time Warner Building at Rockefeller Center) go to waste, when he could turn it into a restaurant devoted to coastal Italian cuisine? Smartly refurbished with slate tiles, dark wood, and an espresso-and-milk color scheme, Acqua Pazza offers a small menu supplemented by market-dependent seafood specials. The name means "crazy water," and refers to the traditional southern-Italian practice of cooking a whole fish in seawater. Arpaia bakes his instead, sanely, in a broth of cherry tomatoes, chili flakes, and white wine.
36 West 52nd Street
· Cuisine: Italian
Calling all thin-crust-pizza aficionados: The margherita pies that emerge from the coal-fired brick oven at this new Queens trattoria are worth a detour to or from MoMA. The rest
of the menu covers familiar Italian-American territory (fried calamari, penne alla vodka, veal scallopini), and for now it's byob.
47-46 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City
· Cuisine: Italian