By Vanessa Formato

It’s hard not to notice the general malaise that has swept over the city over the last two months. As the snow banks rose, morale plummeted. Narrow roads and icy sidewalks made everything a little slower and more treacherous: needless to say, staying home to cook dinner and think upon better times seemed like the only option. Perhaps Worcester Restaurant Week is the kind of divine intervention this city needs to make it through our winter of despair.

This winter marks Worcester’s third foray into the wide world of restaurant weeks. Nearby Boston and Providence had been at it for years before Worcester caught on, but that’s not to say our version of the event is any less polished. Pagio Inc.—the media company that owns Pulse Magazine and Taste Worcester—has been producing the event since the start. The presenters have kept Worcester’s event true to the spirit of restaurant weeks before them, gathering some of the city’s best-loved restaurants, along with some hidden gems, to offer unbeatable deals on quality meals.

Now, you might be thinking that if you went to Worcester Restaurant Week last summer there’s no reason to go again, and that’s where you’d be wrong. Many of the restaurants featured this winter have done the event at least once before, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on trying to impress you. Restaurant owners see seasons differently than the rest of us: for many of them, the snowier months mean slower business.

“This has been a cabin-fever winter,” says Brendan O’Connor of O’Connor’s Restaurant & Bar. “We’re happy to do this and get people out and about.”

“The event brings light to an otherwise dreary winter,” adds Robin Paradis, general manager of Amici’s Trattoria and Willy’s Steakhouse & Sushi Bar.

What many restaurant owners and staff are most looking forward to is the influx of fresh faces that events like these usually bring. “Day after day I walk through the bar and I know who will be there,” says John Piccolo of Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant. “I know a lot of them by name. Restaurant Weeks brings in new customers.”

Even in the current economy, it’s hard to argue with the deals Restaurant Week offers: diners select dishes from special three-course menus, all for a supremely reasonable $22.11. With deals like these, customers feel more comfortable trying a new venue or cuisine.

“We want to give you a sense of how extensive our menu is,” Joseph Cancelmo of Squire’s says. Even though the Restaurant Week menus are “limited,” chefs can use this opportunity to show off their culinary capabilities and reel in hungry clientele. “We’re hoping for a lot of people this will seal the deal.”

“This gives customers an opportunity to try different things,” says Maria Zona of La Scala. “People were really excited, too, that they were able to give input for our menu this year.”

A theme running through this year’s Restaurant Week is that of giving back. For Restaurant Week participants, old customers are just as important as new ones. Discounts are a way of showing the regulars that they’re appreciated at the same time as encouraging newcomers to take off their coats and stay awhile. For others, giving back also means sharing the wealth with establishments that aren’t as easily able to take part in the festivities. Piccolo says that he didn’t include a dessert course in this year’s menu because he wants customers to take advantage of Shrewsbury Street’s dessert bars and bakeries.

“We don’t think we should isolate people,” Piccolo says. There’s nothing like good food to bring a city together.

SIDEBAR:

Now that you know a little bit more about why you should sample everything Worcester Restaurant Week has to offer, you’re probably wondering where you can go to enjoy it. Take a look and map out your dining road trip for the week!

AJ Tomaiolo’s Restaurant

411 West Main St., Northborough

508-393-5262

Amici’s Trattoria

582 Main St., Shrewsbury

508-842-7800

amicitrattoria.com

Bocado Tapas Wine Bar

82 Winter St., Worcester

508-797-1011

bocadotapasbar.com

Biagio’s Grille

257 Park Ave., Worcester

508-756-7995

biagiosgrille.com

Bistro Limoncello

290 West Main St., Northborough

508-393-5440

bistrolimoncello.com

The Boynton

117 Highland St., Worcester

508-756-5432

boyntonrestaurant.com

Brew City Grill & Brew House

104 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-752-3862

brew-city.com

Byblos Lounge

2 Washington Sq., Worcester

Find them on Facebook: Byblos Lounge Worcester

The Castle Restaurant

1230 Main St., Leicester

508-892-9090

castlerestaurant.com

Celtic Tavern

45 Belmont St., Northborough

508-366-6277

celtictav.com

Ceres Bistro

363 Plantation St., Worcester

508-754-2000

ceresbistro.com

Chioda’s Trattoria

631 Franklin St., Worcester

508-459-6035

chiodastrattoria.com

Chuck’s Steakhouse

10 Prospect St., Auburn

508-832-2553

chucks.com

Coral Seafood

225 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-755-8331

coralseafood.com

El Basha

258 Park Ave., Worcester

508-795-0222

2 Connector Rd., Westboro

508-366-2455

424 Belmont St., Worcester

508-797-0884

elbasharestaurant.com

EVO

234 Chandler St., Worcester

508-459-4240

evodining.com

Flying Rhino Café & Watering Hole

278 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-757-1450

flyingrhinocafe.com

Haiku

258 Park Ave., Worcester

508-459-3033

haikusushi.com

Il Forno

65 West Boylston St., West Boylston

508-835-3700

il-forno.com

Joey’s Bar & Grill

242 Mill St., Worcester

508-797-3800

La Scala

183 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-753-9912

lascalashrewsburystreet.com

Le Mirage

120 June St., Worcester

508-793-8558

lemiragerestaurant.com

Leo’s Ristorante

11 Brackett Court, Worcester

508-753-9490

leosristorante.net

Mezcal

166 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-926-8308

mexcalcantina.com

Northworks Bar & Grille

106 Grove St., Worcester

508-755-9657

northworks.com

O’Connor’s Restaurant & Bar

1160 West Boylston St., Worcester

508-853-0789

oconnorsrestaurant.com

The People’s Kitchen/The Citizen

1 Exchange Place, Worcester

508-459-9090

thecitizenwinebar.com

Piccolo’s

157 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-754-1057

piccolos157.com

Porto Bello

156 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-753-9865

portobellorestaurant156.com

Smokestack Urban Barbeque

90 Harding St., Worcester

508-363-1111

bbqstack.com

The Sole Proprietor

118 Highland St., Worcester

508-798-3474

thesole.com

Squire’s

347 Greenwood St., Worcester

508-752-7544

squirewhites.com

The Registry

264 Park Ave., Worcester

508-752-2211

Tweed’s Pub

229 Grove St., Worcester

508-755-8047

tweedspub.com

VIA

89 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-754-4842

viaitaliantable.com

Via Alto

27 High St., Clinton

508-598-7002

ristoranteviaalto27.com

Willy’s Steakhouse Grill & Sushi Bar

2 Grafton St., Shrewsbury

508-842-7220

willyssteakhouse.com

Ziti’s Italian Trattoria

192 Harding St., Worcester

508-754-2212

290 Turnpike Rd., Westborough

508-898-2282

zitisitaliantrattoria.com

86 Winter

65 Water St., Worcester

508-459-5400

86winter.com

111 Chophouse

111 Shrewsbury St., Worcester

508-799-4111

111chophouse.com

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