Head Chef Ray brings more than 20 years of culinary expertise to the kitchen of Papa Pilo’s, where he champions a menu of Italian recipes that won CityVoter's Best Italian prize in 2011 and 2012. Thin-crust, New York–style pizzas don toppings such as fresh tomatoes and meatballs, and specialty pies include the breakfast pizza with eggs, bacon bits, onions, canadian bacon, and a snooze button. Papa Pilo’s also whips up dishes such as chicken parmesan, fettuccine in spicy fra diavolo sauce, and meat lasagna with ricotta, romano, and mozzarella.
Chef Luigi and the kitchen magicians at Luigis D Italia import Italian flavors to tongues with a menu of pastas, pizzas, and authentic entrees. Culinary compadres can savor the meeting of meat and grapes in the chianti-braised short ribs ($17) or hoist their forks into orecchiette pasta with house-made italian sausage ($12). When held to anxious ears, stuffed shells fill auditory canals with sounds of the Mediterranean sea and trickles of sauce ($14). White clam pizzas ($14 for small; $17 for large) motivate guests to dive for edible pearls, and meatball sandwiches ($9) cradle succulent spheres in a bready embrace. Diners can accompany meals with a bottled brew or glass of CK Mondavi white zinfandel ($5.95), and desserts (all $5) such as cannoli, tiramisu, and ice-cream tartufos encourage patrons to tap into their second stomachs.
From founder Bill Larson’s first quaint pizza parlor, which he opened in 1959, Round Table has grown to more than 500 stores, which sprinkle across seven states like pepperonis across a sizzling pie. Self-proclaimed purveyors of “the last honest pizza,” Round Table cooks make dough from wheat grown on family farms in Idaho. That dough is rolled from scratch every day, in every restaurant, to pair with premium meats and fresh-cut veggie toppings.
Wood-paneled walls give the Fullerton location an old-school feel, which contrasts with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and robot chefs to replace the outdated steam-powered ones. The dining room’s ceiling fans whirl the steam from oven-baked pizzas in sizes from single-person smalls to 16-slice extra-larges that feed up to five. Besides create-your-own options, Round Table dishes up specialty pies named for medieval court characters such as King Arthur, Guinevere, and Frank, the little-known castle custodian.
Brooklyn Pizza Works is a two-time recipient of Orange County Register's Best Pizza award, and its staff has adorned hand-shaped dough with fresh toppings since 1979. More than a dozen specialty pizzas sprawl across texture-imparting stainless-steel screens within a convection oven, which can cook up to 25 pizzas in six minutes, the same number of pies a hot laptop can cook in six years. Signature circles arrive loaded with toppings such as crushed garlic, canadian bacon, and marcella wine. The kitchen team concocts each slice with whole-milk mozzarella sprinkled atop house-made crust and sauce. In addition to pizza, 12 varieties of stuffed calzones and classic Italian entrees such as eggplant parm, lasagna, ravioli, and a plentitude of pastas satiate palates. Brooklyn Pizza Works can also supply picnics, graduation parties, and going-back-to-law-school celebrations with eats from the catering menu.
Linguini, penne, spaghetti, and fettuccini—the chefs at Carolina’s Italian Restaurant have been preparing pasta in its many incarnations for more than three decades. But their time-tested cooking techniques aren't the only reason for the robust flavors in their classic Italian cuisine. Ingredients are delivered five times a week, ensuring that each tomato is as fresh as the day its life coach finally coaxed it off the stem. Quality seafood and meats such as Atlantic salmon and new york steak put a finishing touch on many entrees.
After diners polish off their meals, they can indulge in a dessert such as housemade tiramisu or cannoli drizzled with chocolate syrup. Then, they can lean back and admire the wall murals of Italian countryside and verandas, or watch confused airplanes circle the ceiling's painted blue sky.
So successful were the three original Lamppost Pizza establishments that the eatery has grown to 37 locations since its inception in 1976. Friendliness and fun unite with the pizzeria's penchant for sports to make visits memorable. But as nice as big-screen TVs can be, the real magnetism of this haven for sauce and cheese lies in the pies spun in the kitchen. Beer and wine complement the menu, which also includes pastas, sandwiches, and grill fare.