After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
With multiple varieties at each location, there are enough options to pleasantly coat any mozzarella-covered tongue in tasty toppings. Veggie fans will appreciate the veggie supreme, dotted with mushrooms, green peppers, onions, black olives, and tomatoes. For feasters who can't decide between this or that, the super combo comes stocked from crust to crust with Canadian bacon, pepperoni, mushrooms, onion, black olives, and extra cheese. Offerings vary by location, so consult the menu at your nearest location before ordering.
Using fresh seasonal ingredients from local sources, Via Toscana's menu of traditional, upscale Italian dishes preps palates for a sensory serenade with a starter of mussels la spezia ($8) in a lemon white-wine preparation. The pollo marsala ($14) provides a dance floor for a multicultural cast of sautéed chicken, woodland mushrooms, sage butter, and marsala wine with roasted new potatoes. And the penne vodka di mare's sautéed scallops and shrimp in a crema-rosa vodka sauce ($18) mix alcohol and the ocean in a lifeguard-approved manner. Otherwise, sharpen your toothy band saw on the succulent vitello saltimbocca (sautéed veal scallopini, $18), or feast eye-mouths and mouth-eyes on the Colorado lamb chops ($25) with provencal herb marinade and potato gratin. Via Toscana's extensive wine selection can matchmake any meal with more than 600 varieties of fermented fruit, and a gluten-free menu is also available.
Marco's Pizza founder Pasquale "Pat" Giammarco began helping out at his family’s pizzeria when he was just a boy. The eatery provided a taste of home to the Gianmarco clan, who moved to the United States from Italy when Pat was 9 years old. Together with his father, young Pat learned the secrets to creating exceptional pizza sauce: three different types of vine-ripened tomatoes and spices that can only be imported from Italy or the moon.
The perfected sauce recipe continues to guide Pat’s kitchen operations, although these days he has considerably more help. Marco's Pizza has 350 locations in more than half the states as well as in the Bahamas, each store tossing fresh pizza dough daily before sprinkling on a trio of fresh cheeses.