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.
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.
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.