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.
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.
Grab a stool at the long counter inside Cascio's Market Bistro, then close your eyes. In that moment, you're no longer in Bossier City, Louisiana. The casual restaurant's dining room fills with aromas that can't be pinned to a map: a fusion of Italian ingredients, cajun spices, and down-home American cooking.
Take the Reuben panini for example, which comes with sweet potato fries and a shaker of cajun seasonings. The meatball po' boy, on the other hand, combines the best of Louisiana and Italy. For more traditional flavors, try the homemade lasagna, plus some cannoli or gelato for dessert. Diners can even learn recipes for themselves without hiding a tape recorder in the soup?the bistro has its own supply of communal cookbooks.
To make sweet and sour chicken, the chef first cuts the poultry into bite-size pieces to marinate. Then the chicken is coated with flour, blanketed in a housemade batter, and tossed into a wok of sizzling hot vegetable oil to create a flavorful, crispy shell. The resulting dish is only one of many made-from-scratch meals at China Inn Restaurant, served in a dining room bedecked with decorative dragon drawings and framed Chinese art.
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.
The All-You-Care-to-Eat buffet at Gatti’s Pizza packs bellies with a smorgasbord of classic pizzeria eats. After gaining entrance to the buffet ($3.99–$6.99 depending on age), patrons can refuel with slices of Gatti's signature pie, heaps of hot pasta, and stacks of cheese sticks. Those with stomach vacancies left for dessert can grab a piece of the dutch apple treat pizza, or encourage a friend to hastily get it for them by passing them a cinnamon stick like a relay runner's baton. Patrons can rhythmically graze on veggies from the expansive salad bar, loaded with more than 40 items, as their eyes exchange glances with friends or dreamily gaze into the pixilated pupils of the dining room's big-screen TVs.