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.
Bella Pizzeria spins its New York–style dough discs from more than 27 different topping options, including five types of cheese. Cast your vote for thin crust or deep dish by the slice ($2.85–$5), or gear up for heated fan-club presidential campaigns by sharing the spoils of a whole pizza ($11.99–$25.99). Bella Pizzeria's menu also furnishes plates with calzones ($5.79), subs ($5.89), and a selection of pastas ($5.89). Indulge in the cheese-swathed excellence of the ham, ricotta, and mozzarella calzone, a slab of baked ground-beef lasagna topped with homemade marinara sauce, or bask in the flat-screens' glowing athletic combat as the Bella sub's team of prosciutto, capicola, salami, ham, provolone, and veggie conquer your hunger.
Papa Murphy’s serves up a tasty menu of handmade "take ‘n’ bake" pizzas created using dough, cheeses, meats, and veggies that are freshly prepared every day (prices listed below are average; actual prices vary by location). After customers choose their pie, Papa Murphy's personable pizza fashioners will build the pizza in-store and then package it for customers to bake at home in the oven. Customers can select one of Papa Murphy's signature pizzas or customize their pie to a more specific taste, culling from the four sauces, three crusts, and more than 20 toppings available. Watch as Papa Murphy’s pizza professionals corral the ingredients of a signature pizza such as the cowboy ($14.99 for the 16” family size), complete with pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, and black olives. Or request a Chicago-style stuffed pizza ($16.99 for the family size), packed with onions, mozzarella, four kinds of meat, and one of the most efficient public-transit systems in America. Thin-crust fans can opt for an herb chicken Mediterranean deLITE ($11.99 for a large), smothered with feta cheese, olive oil, and spinach. And veggievores can avail themselves of Papa Murphy’s gourmet vegetarian option ($15.99 for the family size), which comes saturated with a creamy garlic sauce. Side your pizza with an order of cheesy bread ($3.99) or a two-liter soda ($2.09).
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.
Every day, the chefs at Cool River Pizza whip up a fresh batch of dough and bake it into pizzas, with gluten-free options available, topped with Real California Cheese and house-made sauce infused with more than seven herbs and spices. Freshly sliced vegetables and gourmet meats also crown specialty pies such as the Cool Ranch chicken, which plays hooky behind the oven to show off its ranch sauce and garlic chicken. To wash down the pies, pasta dishes, and salads, bartenders pour pints and pitchers of brews such as Coors Light, Sam Adams, and Blue Moon as diners watch sports games on large-screen TVs, play Wii on a 100-in. TV screen, hang out on the open patio, or live out fantasies of ancient gladiators' quiet evenings at home with a collection of board games.