Ring in 2012 in the Square!

When it comes to First Night, our first thought is "What's going on in Market Square on New Year's Eve?" You see, while tens of thousands of revelers ring out 2011 during Downtown's annual year-ending street party, there plenty of space where you can reflect on the past 365 days with family and friends in the cozy comfort of one of the Square's many dining hot spots that are offering special party packages of food, beverages and entertainment. With choices from fine Italian and homestyle Mexican to nouveau Creole accented cuisine and good old American burgers, here's a quick look at what's on the menu for the final countdown to 2012.

You can say "Ciao!" to 2011 at Bella Sera with three seating times for a special five-course, year-ending sendoff with starters like a caviar crepe or roasted corn and grilled shrimp chowder, entrees featuring delicacies from the land, air and sea, and tasty desserts that will have you singing "Auld Lang Syne" to your diet just before you resolve to start a new one on January 1, 2012. Seating times are at 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., which means you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities all over Downtown. To save seating for any number from two to eight people, call Bella Sera at 412-281-6363.

Of course, the good times will roll at NOLA, where the tastes, sounds and joie de vivre of The Big Easy put the Crescent City of New Orleans on the Market Square map. To usher in 2012, diners can feast on a choice of three- or five-course meals on a prix fixe menu — including a Champagne toast — or four-course a la carte selection that covers all the bases from appetizers to desserts. And for a feast for your ears, the John Gresh Gris Gris Band will serve up a hefty dose of New Orleans-infused blues and rock tunes. For reservations, call 412-471-9100.

Things will get hot, hot, hot at Las Velas as the Square's Mexican cantina provides diners with a bird's eye view of the outdoor fun and a double dose of fun that starts with a special New Year's dinner that features ahi tuna and a spicy surf and turf that features shrimp and steak cooked in tequila. Then, the party really gets started with a Latin dance party emceed by one of New York City's top DJs.  Whether you choose the dinner, the party or both, call 412-251-0031 for reservations.

For a taste of Italia, La Cucina Flegrea promises to serve a traditional multi-course feast of meats, cheeses and seafood from its spacious Graeme Street loft accommodations. Fans of owner Anna Fevola, who recently became a Downtown resident, will attest to the authentic touch she adds to every dish. Save a space at the table by calling 412-521-2082.

Around the Square, just about every eatery will be open beyond normal hours for the First Night Bash, including Primanti's, Moe's, Winghart's, the Diamond Market Bar & Grill, the Oyster House and many others. Even if all you want is a snack, you can grab a large beverage at Dunkin Donuts and get a free donut (before those resolutions kick in!).  So whether you're looking for a leisurely sit-down celebration to cap off the old year or a less formal bite to eat between First Night happenings, there's something on the menu for everyone in the Square.

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