When owner Frank White took over this Downey eatery—then called Granata's Italian Restaurant—in 2011, the Granata family had already been serving Italian cuisine there for more than 54 years, according to the Downey Patriot. Today, White still plucks recipes from the family cookbook but has also added his own touch with a new menu of hot and cold Spanish-style tapas. Made with gourmet ingredients such as fresh clams, spanish piquillo peppers, and rich serrano ham, the new plates are small enough to be shared with friends or slingshotted spitefully at enemies. The chefs also use locally sourced ingredients for classic Italian meals whenever possible, festooning linguine carbonara with fresh sweet peas and veal parmigiana with rich tomato sauce.
In the renovated dining area, blue pendant lamps light the full bar and surrounding cherry-wood tables and chairs. Flat-screen TVs share wall space with murals of the Venetian canals where Leonardo da Vinci first learned to jet ski.
When it came time for the team at Johnny Carino?s to come up with some new recipes, they began rifling through their personal cooking histories. Executive chef Chris Peitersen took his first kitchen job at a barbecue joint when he was 14, so he was primed to create Italian baby back ribs. By infusing brown sugar barbecue sauce with balsamic vinegar imported from Modena, he?s given the marinade a more acidic bite than typical barbecue sauces. As the ribs slowly roast and char on an oak grill, he bastes on his creation before finishing the dish with a dusting of parmesan.
The ribs are one of Carino?s many menu items that follow the restaurants? approach of classic Italian preparations modified by forward-thinking flavor combinations. Diners will find a crispy pepperoni burger capped with mozzarella and fried pepperoni, or saut?ed tilapia spiced with garlic and jalape?o. Other signature dishes include the 16-layer lasagna, Skilletinis that sizzle with spaghetti and a choice of meat, and tiramisu made from scratch.
The chefs at FalconesPizza can cater to any pizza palate. Depending on a customer's personal tastes, they toss crusts that are hearty and thick or as thin as the parchment from which Leonardo da Vinci placed his first take-out order. Toppings, too, range from traditional flavors, such as the pesto, garlic, tomatoes, and fresh basil that make up the Napoli, to the inventive combination atop the shrimp pizza, which pairs succulent seafood with chorizo, pepperoni, and onions. Italian meats such as mortadella and capacolla join fresh mozzarella on salads and sandwiches, and family-style trays of baked ziti or lasagna keep large groups from taking over a grocery store.
Hot wings, New York-style pizza, and Philly steak sandwiches may be the signature foods of the east coast, but it's hard to imagine any restaurant treating them with more reverence than west-coast franchise Alondra Hot Wings. The eponymous wings are the house specialty, hot and slathered in one of 18 sauces. Ranked on a scale from mild to atomic?which requires a waiver to order?the sauces also include flavors such as lemon pepper, spicy barbecue, maple syrup, and thai chili.
Alondra's other major influence is written all over the menu?and the walls. Mug shots of famous mafiosi hang throughout the dining room, and the owners are so fascinated by the subject that their website even offers tutorials in mob history. Also from that old Italian-American milieu: pizzas built on from-scratch dough, bearing names such as The Godfather?a hearty amalgam of four meats?and the Little Italy, which flecks chicken breast with basil. Draft beer and wine help mouths cool down after biting into a hot wing or almost insulting the ghost of Al Capone.
Corleone Italian Restaurant's cooks transport the rich culinary landscape of Sicily to the United States through mouthwatering Italian pizzas, pastas, and desserts served in a warmly lit space. Head Chef Salvatore dazzles taste buds with a menu of seafood, veal, and flavorful sauces made from seasonal ingredients. Inside, pictures of old Italy pepper the walls and tables frame house-made pizzas and elegant desserts with a dressy-casual atmosphere. In addition to enrapturing palates with plates of fresh Sicilian fare, Corleone keeps eardrums entertained with live music from Mark Carter and Tony Millot, who delight audiences on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Amalfi Ristorante's ties to the entertainment industry are almost as strong as its ties to traditional Italian fine dining. The restaurant sits next door to the famed ACME Comedy Theatre and beneath Room 5 Lounge, which hosts shows by up-and-coming local musicians and comics. The entertainment at Room 5 comes with a side of history: jazz legend Nathaniel ?Nat? Cole's band assembled there in 1937, when the building was still known as Swanee Inn.
Even with these connections to comedy and music present, Amalfi Ristorante's chefs remain solely focused on the refined Old World cooking that they prepare for diners. Homemade pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas topped with everything from prosciutto and mixed mushrooms to shrimp and spinach exemplify this commitment to Italian culinary traditions. However, the chefs also feature a small number of contemporary American dishes, such as Cajun-style seared tuna and a half-pound burger on a brioche bun.
The simple elegance of Amalfi Ristorante's dining room mirrors the chefs' willingness to incorporate rustic influences into a refined atmosphere. Exposed wooden ceiling beams complement the warm earth tones of the tan banquettes as well as the cream-hued linens that adorn each table. Thanks to its scattered candles and flickering fireplace, the space maintains a soft and intimate glow long after sunset.