Summer is typically a bit slower than the rest of the year for New Orleans restaurants, and many respond with creative specials to entice local diners.
One program is underway at RioMar (800 S. Peters St., 525-3474; www.-riomarseafood.com), where chef Miles Prescott has taken the helm in the kitchen (Adolfo Garcia, RioMar's founding chef and co-owner, recently sold his share in the restaurant to focus on his other projects). These dinners mostly explore Spanish regions, and Prescott says the focus is on the contemporary style of restaurant cooking in these areas rather than strictly traditional dishes. The Basque region is in the spotlight Aug. 5-11. For the week of Aug. 13-18, the menu will be based around sherry and the region south of Madrid, and during Aug. 20-25, Prescott will offer a Peruvian-themed menu, bringing in the Japanese influence in that country's contemporary cuisine. These five-course meals vary in price, but generally are around $40 and increase to $70 with wine and cocktail pairings.
Meanwhile, a Mano (870 Tchoupitoulas St., 208-9280; www.amanonola.com) normally focuses on the cooking of southern Italy, but for its own summer series the restaurant picks a specific region and offers its specialties for one night.
Campania is featured Wednesday, Aug. 1, and the series concludes Aug. 8 with Sardinia. These are four-course meals, served "family style." The cost is $35.
Vega Tapas Cafe (2051 Metairie Road, Metairie, 836-2007; www.vegatapascafe.com) features Mediterranean nations each week. Turkey is highlighted through Aug. 4, then it's on to Greece (Aug. 6-11), Italy (Aug. 13-18), France (Aug. 20-25) and Spain (Aug. 27-Sept. 1). Each menu includes five to nine small plates and costs $27, with optional wine pairings for an additional $15.
Bayona (430 Dauphine St., 525-4455; www.bayona.com) hosts internationally themed summer dinners less frequently but stretches them through September. They feature four courses with wine pairings for $88. The remaining dinners feature China's Szechuan province (Aug. 29), Turkey (Sept. 12) and Argentina (Sept. 26).