Four minutes. That's about how long it takes the 1,000 degree ovens at Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza to perfectly crisp each pie’s house-made crust without overcooking the sauce or toppings. To reach this volcanic temperature, the ovens are powered by pure anthracite coal from Pennsylvania, which burns hotter and cleaner than wood or old rags while lending a distinctive flavor to the pies.
The chefs add to this flavor by making fresh sauce daily from batches of Italian plum tomatoes and a closely guarded blend of extra virgin olive oil and spices. Every batch of dough is made using filtered water, and none of the menus' pizzas or sandwiches—made with wraps and flatbreads baked in the same ovens—is ever cooked with a microwave or fryer. Before any pie gets hit with heat, the chefs add as many as 19 different toppings, including bacon, roasted garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes.
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 are poured from 16 craft-beer taps.
Glowing neon against the horizon, Greenbriar Cinema Grill is a hybrid house that combines a movie theater and restaurant in one experience. From the outside, the destination looks like a retro diner—inside, patrons can sink into cushy maroon chairs at tables set up throughout the theater for family bonding and comfy noshing. Greenbriar Cinema Grill offers family-friendly picks that parents can enjoy, with recent options including The Other Guys, a blank screen between showtimes, and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. As you and a guest marvel at the audio-visual spectacle displayed in front of you during your choice of a matinee or evening show, you can relax with a classic tub of corn kernels that have been heated into fluffy nubs with a bucket of Monsters Popcorn ($3.99), freshly popped with your choice of no butter, butter, or hold-the-popcorn butter. Though food is not included with today's Groupon, pull up a menu and take advantage of the latter half of Greenbriar's namesake with a 12-inch pizza ($9.99–$14.50), sandwiches ($6.99–$10.50), or a giant root beer float ($4.50).
Arturo Di Rosa's experience spans both sides of the Atlantic, as well as on the waters in between. After spending a decade working hospitality aboard a cruise ship, he came to America and entered the restaurant business.
At Capri Italian Restaurant, Arturo has assembled a menu of housemade pastas, traditional meats, and seafood dishes. Chefs prepare housemade pappardelle cooked in red wine and topped with sausage and tomato sauce, and saute jumbo shrimp in white wine flavored with lemon juice and garlic. Outdoors, a patio runs the length of the building, big enough to host a large party or an impromptu soccer game.
At Jet's Pizza, the pies pile gooey cheeses, sauces, and delicious toppings atop thin, hand-tossed, and rectangular deep-dish crusts. Customers will also find the ability to "flavorize" their crusts, adding ingredients such as parmesan, garlic, and sesame seeds to them. And glancing at the menu, they'll also find hot sandwiches, wings, and salads, in addition to specialty pies coated in toppings such as pepperoni, veggies, and feta cheese.
The ovens at Mancino's Pizza & Grinders work overtime. They burn each day, turning out batches of the Lyell family's signature breadsticks, hot meat-and-cheese-covered grinders on freshly baked bread, and, of course, specialty or build-your-own pizzas. The ovens' interiors breathe thermal life into concoctions whose histories stretch far back in time. Their grinders were born—according to Mancino's menu—on the East Coast during World War I, when Italian immigrants served hearty sandwiches to shipyard workers who were grinding off rivets for warships. Near the ovens, cooks cover spaghetti and lasagna in handcrafted marinara sauce using an old family recipe known only to Grandma Lyell and her hairdresser. In addition to hardworking ovens, the restaurant's new location boasts four large-screen TVs and an ice-cream bar to cool down well-heated palates.
Matteo DiRosa grew up in Sarleno, Italy. In 1999, he moved to Indianapolis, where his two brothers had already started restaurants of their own. To get his foot in the door of the restaurant industry, Matteo worked as a waiter under his brother, Arturo. During that time, he met Emily Herner, who also worked at Arturo's restaurant. Romance between the two bloomed like a freshly planted spaghetti tree, but so did a business partnership—in 2003, Matteo and Emily decided they wanted to forge their own legacy, and Matteo's Ristorante Italiano was born.
With its high ceilings, pumpkin-colored walls, and thick, forest-green columns, Matteo's Ristorante Italiano exudes elegance and charm. Matching music, such as the smooth voice and beatboxing savvy of Dean Martin, trickles from the speakers, and artwork and awards dangle from the walls. Amid the restaurant's inviting ambiance, diners gather around tables piled with authentic Italian dishes, such as pollo amore and linguine puttanesca.