Though they're both made from scratch daily, the two house sauces at Notini's are quite different. One is a plain tomato sauce, rich and ready for pouring over meatballs and Italian sausage. The other is a white alfredo sauce, meant to be mixed with fettuccine and meats such as chicken and shrimp. These family recipes define many of the dishes on the menu—a compilation of classic Italian foods that was created as an homage to the original Notini, Antonio.
Originally from Barga, Italy, Antonio Notini worked in the restaurant industry from the time he immigrated in 1909 until his retirement in 1960. Today, his son and grandsons manage Notini's with a deference to family tradition. They prepare po' boy sandwiches, pastas, and specialty pizzas to go with their signature sauces, and they serve up mint-spiced tea both by the glass and the take-home gallon. Weekly specials reward returning visitors with deals such as all-you-can-eat spaghetti on Wednesdays, which is otherwise only available if you hide out in their kitchen until after closing time.
Making cupcakes from scratch with recipes you developed yourself doesn’t just attract swarms of hungry customers—it can also attract the attention of the Food Network. Kim Wood’s batches of artistic and decadent desserts landed her a spot on Cupcake Wars, where she competed with three other confection experts for the chance to be named the kitchen victor. Back in her shop, she crafts the same sweets she made on TV as well as dozens of other cupcake flavors, using only fresh, whole ingredients such as sweet-cream butter, fresh fruit, and cupcake wrappers just plucked from the garden. Her signature flavors—which include key-lime pie, italian cream cake, and chocolate mint—vary by the day, and gluten-free and vegan options are available once per week. Beyond the signature sweets, Wood keeps things interesting by modifying her cupcakes into cake balls, cake pops, and cream-filled whoopee pies.
Started by two personal trainers, The Perfect Blend maintains a focus on health as its staffers sell nutritional supplements, teach diet and exercise strategies, and serve healthy low-fat, no-sugar-added smoothies and frozen yogurt. Flat-screen televisions display sporting events and “Hans and Franz” sketches to inspire in-store athletes perusing walls of protein powders, vitamins, and meal-replacement shakes. Meanwhile, self-serve frozen yogurt machines quietly whir as they mix their creamy contents, including no-sugar-added vanilla and cake batter flavors, into frozen swirls. Customers can also rev up their snacks with toppings from a self-serve bar stocked with healthy fresh fruit, honey, and crunchy maple pecan granola, perfect for camouflaging the gummy bears, sprinkles, and M&Ms also available.
Pietro’s has baked hand-tossed New York–style pizza, calzones, and hot sandwiches in a stone gas oven for more than 30 years, each hand-crafted from secret Sicilian family recipes. Oven-baked steak and cheese sandwiches taunt tasteless rulers with 12 inches of deliciousness ($7.99), and three-cheese spinach calzones turn and fold the doughtables on regular pizzas ($6.49). The eatery employs 100 percent whole milk mozzarella in the construction of each specialty pie, such as the Hawaiian luau pizza, a festive mouth mingler with juicy pineapple and baked ham in a bubbling blanket of mozzarella cheese ($15.99 for a 14”; $19.99 for an 18”). Patrons are also free to itemize pizza by the slice, minimizing leftovers and risk of marinara audits.
Rated among the top fast-food chains by Zagat in 2010, the crust contractors at Papa Murphy's assemble every ingredient of a pizza before the customer's eyes and pass the uncooked creation on for firing in a home oven. Fashion a custom pie ($9+ for a large) from a palette of 23 fresh toppings, or test the design acumen and hand aerodynamics of Papa Murphy's in-house tastemakers by going with a discus from the signature, stuffed, or delite menus. The Chicago-style stuffed pizza ($14 large; $16 family) smuggles layers of pepperoni and italian sausage under the cover of roma tomatoes, onions, and a mozzarella trench coat, and the hawaiian ($11 large; $13 family), from the signature lineage, comes topped with an archipelago of canadian bacon, Dole pineapple, and mozzarella cheese on a beach of tomato sauce.
Cascio's Market Bistro fuses Italian ingredients with American-culinary tastes, combining dining and catering services with a market of fresh goods. Dine-in guests peruse a menu of delectable, panini-style sandwiches, such as the panini with seared-chicken breast balanced atop roma tomatoes, feta and provolone cheese ($7.99), or the grilled eggplant smothered in fresh mozzarella, basil pesto, tomatoes, and marinated artichokes ($7.99). Market-fresh ingredients like the parmigiano reggiano ($14.99/lb.) and piccolo prosciutto ($8.99/lb.) allow gourmands to recreate the eats at home or lure epicurean friends over for a surprise food fight. Mass-feeding catering dishes sate the stomachs of 16–20 people, including the penne with Cascio's italian sausage ($40) and the homemade lasagna ($59.95), while a dessert platter of cannoli ($25/dozen) rewards sweet teeth.