Not just for rocket scientists, Huntsville
attracts diners looking for international flavor.
When three different readers wrote me to praise this new Italian restaurant, I thought something must be molto bene in "Huntsvegas." Sure enough, this place wows. Proof lies in the singularly delicious cuisine and very friendly waitstaff. Also, much attention goes into an authentic Italian atmosphere: Bottles of Chianti grace each table, and homemade focaccia bread and olive oil start your meal off right. Best of all, the meal won't vacuum out your dining budget―a good dinner costs just $15 or less. The fried zucchini and mozzarella appetizers are impossible not to devour. If you enjoy pasta, the classics on the menu taste just as they do in the Old Country. I especially loved the house-made baked ravioli, stuffed with ricotta and topped with a rich meat sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Take our waiter's advice on dessert: "Order the giant Mount Vesuvius (chocolate brownies and ice cream) to share. Then roll out, and mow a yard, paint a house, do whatever you have to do!" 1420 Paramount Drive, Suite 1; 489-8883. Dinner entrées: $8.49-$18.99.
Local Favorite: Ol' Heidelberg
Say you're a German rocket scientist working on America's space program in Huntsville. Where do you get a good schnitzel in North Alabama? Ol' Heidelberg has some of the most authentic German food in the U.S. and remains a culinary legacy of Huntsville's space history. Fantastic sausages, pastries, and schnitzels (meats that have been fried) fill the menu. The Jäger Schnitzel, a sautéed pork loin doused in a dark, rich brown mushroom-and-onion gravy, will send you to the moon, with or without a rocket. 6125 University Drive;  922-0556. Entrées: $7.50-$18.95.
Sporting weathered wood, lots of red vinyl, and colorful Christmas lights, this casual eatery makes the perfect place to enjoy a tangy Rosie Margarita in a frosty mug, even if it's 30 degrees out. The extraordinarily popular restaurant beckons with authentic Mexican flavors. A tremendous beef-filled chile relleno made my favorite dish list for this year. Thick pork-filled tamales, cheesy enchiladas, and a robustly spiced selection of burritos round out the menu. I recommend ending any meal here with the sweet, creamy tres leches cake (got PET milk?). 6196 University Drive;  922-1001. Entrées: $8-$14.95.
"Food Finds: Huntsville, Alabama" is from the November 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.