Mellow Mushroom, in the Tinseltown shopping Center on Jacksonville’s south side, is a psychedelic wonder that overflows with twisty overhead pipes, murals of colorful mushrooms, oak flooring, deep burgundy booths and giant mushroom sculptures. Specialty pizzas are the order of the day here, with options like the Magical Mystery Tour and the Kosmic Karma, served with sun-dried tomatoes, feta and a pesto swirl. Customers can also build their own pizzas, or opt for salads, calzones and hoagies, while fungi favorites like mushroom soup and a stuffed Portobello stay true to theme. Mellow Mushroom even caters to the vegetarian and vegan with vegan cheese, tempeh and tofu pizzas and salads, plus a gluten-free option by request.
Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza, on Jacksonville’s south side, is a quintessential local spot. With its butcher block counter, black bar stools and exhibition brick oven, patrons can even watch the chef make their pie, which might be the Veggie Heaven (tomatoes, arugula, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, shredded carrots, onion, bell pepper, olive oil) one night or The Brumos (pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, bacon, ham) the next. Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza also has a wide variety of salads, appetizers, calzones and hot sandwiches, and offers pizza by the slice for fast-casual lunchers on the go. Plain flooring and black tables lend to a casual pizzeria vibe, while staff is equally laid back.
When diners at Vinny's Italian Restaurant and NY Pizzeria bite into a slice of hot, cheesy pizza, they can rest assured that they are noshing on the genuine article. That's because the pies here are crafted by former Big Apple residents who know how to calibrate the crust, sauce, and toppings just so. And for those who prefer to sample the entrees of the old country, there are plenty of pasta, veal, and seafood dishes on the menu as well. Deli subs come cold or hot, and 12-inch stromboli get baked over the Statue of Liberty's torch.
Inside Giuliano's Italian Restaurant, George Gjergj and Leonard Gjergji's family recipes guide them as they stuff shells with ricotta cheese, sauté shrimp in homemade marinara sauce, and drizzle merlot reduction onto char-grilled filet mignon. Specialty pizzas marry ingredients such as grilled chicken and pesto or sliced steak and sautéed onions. A bottomless lunch buffet brims with slices of pizza like the description of a third grader’s dream job, and calzones slice open to reveal ricotta and ham.
Owners Bruno and Jimmy fill Mamma Lucia’s kitchen with housemade Italian family recipes. At each of the eight locations, chefs mix and match myriad pastas and sauces such as penne in pink sauce or chicken pesto ravioli in a creamy pesto sauce. Chicken and veal can be dipped in egg and sautéed in a lemon-and-wine sauce or prepared in any of 15 other ways. In the dining room, servers happily deliver New York–style pizzas to tables or to passing taxicabs full of lost Brooklyn residents.
The savory pie slingers at Bella Napoli serve a hearty menu stuffed with circular comestibles, such as calzones, garlic knots, meatballs, and a wide selection of specialty pizzas. Pies start with a solid foundation of fresh-baked dough, available in regular, gluten-free, or whole-wheat varieties, expertly tossed and twirled on the premises with the care of a Faberge-egg juggler. Next, a layer of red or white sauce nestles an array of more than 25 delectable and electable toppings, including such offbeat choices as hot wings, eggplant, and hot cherry peppers ($1.60–$4.25 each). Hearty calzones come stuffed with cheeses, meats, and veggies ($4.26–$12.73), and sides include classic coleslaw ($1.75), fried ravioli ($5.25 for small), and garlic bites–a dietary staple used to drive New England’s most fearsome vampires back to their Harvard classrooms ($4.50 for small).