The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to 100 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location's being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, chefs assemble grilled and deli-style hoagies and bake calzones and pizzas in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 100 microbrewed and imported beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.
After nearly 20 years spent working on the docks with his five younger brothers, Greek immigrant William Fotopoulos opened the first ABC Pizza in Connecticut in 1966. Today, each of its dozen central-Florida locations tosses dough with skill that suits the Fotopoulos mantra of "Always Better Crust." Custom specialty pizzas mingle feta and greek peppers with pepperoni and pineapple, and thin slices of gyro meat fill sandwiches. ABC Pizza also caters special events such as birthday parties, luncheons, and retrospectives of Bill Paxton's film career.
Chefs at La Casa Della Pasta embellish pastas, gnocchi, and desserts made in-house with handfuls of imported Italian ingredients, including eggplant and mozzarella. As owner Enrique Tangari told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011, "I import everything, flour, water, tomatoes, cheeses … to make any kind of pasta dish you want, on the menu or not." His commitment to imported flavor also extends to the restaurant's drink menu, which features wines made from such traditional Italian varietals as pinot grigio, sangiovese, and nebbiolo, as well as beers with suspiciously small amounts of fermented grape juice.
Drawing on culinary insights gleaned over 20 years of refining family recipes, the cooks at Antonio's Pasta Grille fill plates with sauce-draped pasta dishes and pizzas built on homemade dough. As they dip freshly baked bread into herb-infused oil, diners can stare wistfully at a mural depicting rolling hills, stone bridges, and wars between groups of talking animals from young-adult novels.
Chefs slather linguine noodles with house-made pesto sauce, toss salmon filets atop the grill, and simmer veal scaloppini in a white wine and lemon sauce in the kitchen at Da Giuseppe Ristorante & Bar. Out in the dining room, exposed red rafters and tangerine walls surround linen-topped tables populated with towering plates of pasta and traditional Italian desserts built from scratch.