It's the 1980s. Marc Hill is a personal trainer in NYC, and alas, his favorite restaurant is closed for lunch. So he does what few hungry men would dare in this situation. He knocks on the glass, tells the chef he'll open the store himself—and strangely, the chef obliges. Marc is no stranger to hard work, of course; he helped out at his grandfather's store from the age of 8, and he was running it by 16. So under the tutelage of the general manager, Armando, Marc can finally channel his ethic into something lasting, something to honor his Sicilian mother: the art of pizza making.
More than 20 years later, Marc Hill still celebrates Armando, and his mother, Rosalie Roppolo, by crafting Italian pies at Roppolo's Pizza. With a swing of the kitchen door, tables populate with 22-inch pizzas that weigh more than six pounds each and strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest pizza cutters. On the Mediterranean patio and deck, paninis and calzones descend in the glow of a 73-inch television as colorful parasols look on in admiration.
Today’s marinara-smothered Groupon gets you $40 worth of the boot-shaped country’s best dinner bites for $20 at Taverna by Lombardi. The Austin outpost of this favored eatery serves up authentic, contemporary Italian cuisine in a casual atmosphere that, unlike most of Austin, has not been overrun by vicious gangs of troublemaking sheep. The Scenario: You are eating a rich bowl of marinara-smothered raviolis. Are You Eating Italian?: No. You are eating an unheated Chef Microwave child’s meal straight from the can because you spent all your money on black-market salamanders.
Founded by a posse of Kentucky-area natives, Trifecta On 3rd distinguishes itself with an enormous bourbon selection and a gourmet bar menu heavy on specialty pizzas. These house pies include the Southwestern chorizo, made with fresh, golden corn and cilantro, and the Fireball, which scalds mouths with jalapeños, serranos, habaneros, and, when in season, the notoriously nuclear Ghost Chili. Between bites, patrons can escape to Trifecta's expansive patio lest their ear-steam obstruct others' view of the interior's seven flat-screen TVs.
Hoboken Pie gets its name from the city in New Jersey where its style of pizza originates, but every other piece of the pizza puzzle is locally owned and operated. Each pie is a 14" blank canvas of dough, sauce, and cheese, all anxiously awaiting the topping of your choosing. Keep it classic with add-ons such as pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, or green bell pepper. Or explore some toppings as bold as a mouse vacationing in a snake pit, such as shallot, prosciutto, fig, pear, gorgonzola, and the ethereal "extra cheese." Veggie lovers can make the pie vegan with "tease" cheese for just $3 more. Although this deal is only for one pizza, check out the whole menu for a tantalizing preview of Hoboken Pie's specialty pizzas, subs, salads, and desserts.
In Italy, a "sagra" is a festival where a community comes together in celebration of a local ingredient or dish—a tradition that fits Gabriel Pellegrini's enoteca and trattoria in both spirit and practice. Classic, bistro-style Italian cuisine joins local, Texan ingredients and flavors to create an entire menu worthy of commemoration. But that isn't to say all the ingredients are local. Imported Mediterranean cheeses and cured meats join house-made mozzarella atop hand-stretched neapolitan pizzas before bubbling gold in a wood-burning stove.
Such dedication to craft and quality carries over into the bar. Shelves brim with liqueurs, grappas, and wines imported from Italy, but the bartenders grow their own herbs, make their own bitters, and infuse syrups and spirits in-house for cocktails that are inimitable in freshness and flavor.
Located in the heart of Austin, the building's custard-yellow and sunset-orange walls complement the warm earth tones of well-trodden floorboards. Black banquettes and chairs surround white linen-draped tables. During the day, natural light streams in through the windows, but at night the soft glow of flickering wall sconces and pendant lamps suffuses the dining area—a suitable atmosphere for a romantic evening or shadow-puppet reenactment of the Battle of Philippi.