Xenia Bistro's chefs slide modern American updates and fresh, seasonal ingredients into time-tested family recipes. Inspired by culinary customs of Eastern Europe, they enlist burning wood to grill their pizzas and animated golems to prepare their pasta, steaks, and seafood. Their bartending brethren station themselves behind a granite bar, where they mix specialty cocktails with an arsenal of spirits that includes premium liquors and wines from near and far.
A rich, earth-tone color palette swathes nearly every surface of the bistro's interior, from lustrous table tops to wooden pillars to antique-looking window shutters. Just beyond a full wall of windows, a roomy patio encloses diners in foliage and sunlight.
Linger at one of The New Ristorante Forli's tables long enough, and owners Gabriele Davanzante or Russ Belleci might sidle up to the table to tell a joke or spontaneously burst into an Old Italian song. Flourishes like these imbue The New Ristorante Forli with the aura of a traditional Italian trattoria. In addition to a pair of jovial Italian hosts, The New Ristorante Forli cements its status as a cultural bastion by plating classic dishes such as osso bucco and braised lamb shank. Tuscan chianti and California pinot grigio punctuate the restaurant’s extensive wine list. Additionally, dining companions can cast aside games of napkin peek-a-boo and dance to live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
A Sweet Affair’s family-based bakers pull handmade baked goods straight from the oven to fill bags with fresh pastries and café treats and frame café sandwiches with preservative-free breads. Each hot or cold sandwich is built upon a solid foundation of hand-baked breads. The steamy roast beef’s layers of meat are slathered with perfect proportions of mayonnaise, golden spicy mustard, and horseradish ($6.95), and house-roasted chicken breast forms a delectable chicken salad topped with cream cheese, avocado, cashews, and sprouts ($6.95).
Sid Fanarof, inspired by the artists around him, sought to do something creative in the kitchen. ZPizza, which started in Laguna Beach and now has locations across the globe, fills with bustling chefs experimenting with ingredients traditionally associated with Indian, Californian, and Mexican cuisine. A parade of organic vegetables and skim-milk mozzarella from Wisconsin leads into the eateries, and organic wheat flour bakes over open flame to a crisp finish. “If you don’t hear the crunch, it’s not a ZPizza,” Fanarof says of the crusts on his website.
Chefs first slather the crusts with sweet basil pesto, roasted-garlic sauce, or organic tomato sauce. Their hands flutter across, sprinkling on fistfuls of toppings such as MSG-free pepperoni, additive-free sausage, three types of mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and pine nuts. Vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts allow everyone to enjoy the pizzas except for those trying to hide the fact that they superglued their mouths closed.
Tower Grille was created with an atmosphere that invites diners to linger over their burgers, pastas, and salads in open-air patio seating or in front of ample TVs equipped with a variety of sports packages. The comfortable atmosphere and hearty meals earned Danville Weekly's readers' choice award for best burger, take-out, and place for business lunches in 2009. The dishes of comfort food include classic deli fare such as reuben and french-dip sandwiches alongside bistro items such as penne pasta with fresh vegetables and farmers'-market-inspired salads that toss together greens and anything from marcona almonds to gold beets. Diners can also dig into pizzas topped with a choice of 19 toppings along with draft brews and specialty cocktails that chase meals down to the stomach's secure holding cell. Ten HD televisions show sports games, and live entertainment abounds, including regular live-music performances and weekly beer-pong tournaments.