Shells and Sauce in Congress Park offers everything you expect from a neighborhood Italian restaurant. Genuinely friendly waiters, a come-as-you-are attitude, and heaping plates of comforting pasta. The stuffed shells, a creamy, cheesy blend of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and ricotta baked in a rich pesto-Alfredo sauce, is a house favorite. (To retain the dish’s ideal texture, ask for your pasta shells cooked al dente.)

On a recent visit, however, I found the pasta-free grigliata a welcome change from traditional Italian. The generous platter includes a mixed grill of marinated chicken breast, zucchini, endive, red pepper, and hunks of portobello, all served atop a square of layered scalloped potatoes and drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. It’s one of those dishes in which each bite carries its own distinctly delicious flavor.

Tip: If it’s on the specials board, give the Mela Alla Gorgonzola appetizer a go. The dish arrives as half a grilled green apple topped with melted Gorgonzola and streaks of honey. The blend of tart, tangy, and sweet will definitely rev up your taste buds.

2600 E.12th Ave., 303-377-2091