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Bites Nearby: Gracie's Kitchen

Tucked on a side street off Lexington Street in Waltham is an award-winning Italian caterer with an extensive take-out menu in their kitchen.

There's no eat-in option at just takeout and catering. It's like dropping into an Italian kitchen and picking up a freshly prepared sandwich, meal, or salad.You don't need to order in advance, although it can make it faster during busy periods. On the other hand, hanging out in an Italian kitchen isn't all that bothersome. The place is just off Lexington Street in Waltham, at 39 Emerson Road, which is just across from the police station.

What to eat: Surprisingly, there are many choices such as gourmet hot and cold sandwiches, homemade pastas with sauces, salads, a la carte items and specialty meals, such as eggplant Parmesan fillets and pasta with choice of tomato sauce; lemon alfredo with spinach and cheese; and chicken, broccoli and penne. The pasta sauces are complex and subtle and the meatballs are moist, succulent and huge.

The vibe: Ultra-friendly and pleasant, with the owners, Paul and Grace, working on the premises.

Cool factor No. 1: As you watch the food being prepared with fresh ingredients, you absorb the aromas of Italian herbs, spices and sauces.

Cool factor No. 2: Free samples of homemade cookies are available on the counter.

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