Though Serritella's Italian Restaurant has tripled in size since opening in 1965, its chefs are still serving many of the same original dinner recipes—including veal and chicken marsalas and cheese-laden parmigianas. Tomato-red walls preview baked lasagna and marinara-ladled pizzas strewn with inventive topping options such as clams, artichoke hearts, and fresh anchovies. A wine menu at the polished wooden bar quenches thirst, and vintage framed artwork can be searched for the artist's secretly imbedded ATM pin.
In 1968, a decade after moving from Carlantino, Italy, to the United States, the Guerrera family opened its first restaurant. Today, all three Roma's Pizza and Pasta locations boast family members behind the counter and Old-World recipes on the menu. Tony Guerrera can still be found in the kitchen tossing the dough used to build Roma's specialty pizzas, which range in intensity from the elegant Bianca made with oil, garlic, and cheese up to the mega meat-combo pie piled with seven types of meat. A slate of hearty pastas hewn from similarly traditional ingredients gives diners an opportunity to show off the retractable forks scientists implanted in their hands.
The aroma of beef and veggie patties, frankfurters, and sliced steak sizzling on the grill fills the kitchen at Mr. Pickles Sandwich & Burger Shop. where chefs busily craft no-nonsense burgers and sandwiches. They keep more fixings at hand for build-your-own sandwiches, which incorporate classic deli ingredients from sweet rolls and cream cheese to tuna salad and pastrami. Specialty sandwiches include the salami and ham combo of the Big Tony and the teriyaki-soaked chicken of the St. Francis, whose namesake became famous for introducing the concept of marination to Rome. Though a cozy dining area accommodates guests feasting in-house, chefs also cook meals for pickup and catered events.
When Jim Knudson bit into his first taco during dinner at a friend's house in 1949, he knew he had tasted something special. He added the item—which many diners were pronouncing "tay-co"—to the menu at his restaurant in Grass Valley, California. Determined to introduce the food to as many people as possible, Jim and his wife, Margaret, converted a 16-foot trailer into a kitchen on wheels. They adopted the nickname Jim had earned from one of his longtime customers and drove up to Lake Tahoe, where Jimboy's Tacos found its first permanent home.
Locals, tourists, and even members of the Rat Pack flocked to the tiny taco stand for the uniquely seasoned, parmesan-dusted ground-beef taco, the anchor of a growing menu. The family eventually relocated to Roseville, California, where they set up a small taco stand and began branching out to other locations in and around Sacramento.
Today, Jim Knudson’s daughter Karen, the current president of the company, carries on the legacy of taco obsession at more than 40 locations in northern California and Nevada. Guests who arrive early for breakfast might glimpse the cooks slowly simmering beans, mashing avocados into guacamole, and preparing their signature ground beef with trans-fat-free oil. In addition to classic corn-tortilla tacos, the menu holds the mega-size flour-tortilla El Gordo, golden-fried taquitos, and even a taco burger that fuses Mexican and American culinary traditions.
Crazy for Yogurt lives up to its name by offering 10 flavors of self-serve yogurt that customers jazz up with more than 70 fruit, candy, and nut toppings. They also offer a selection of fresh-fruit smoothies and creamy gelatos that chefs whip up onsite, rather than outsourcing the task to a generic food-production factory or unreliable polar bears.
Willie's classic diner-style menus serve up hot, fresh-cooked meatiness without compromise. Dig into one of its signature Slammer chiliburgers, such as the Slammer TCC ($5.35), boasting triple patties with cheese, Slammer chili sauce, thick-cut tomato, mustard, pickles, and onions, or bang on the anvil of your appetite with a Hammer 1 ($2.90), a single-patty burger bedecked with thousand-island dressing, lettuce, tomato, and fresh or grilled onions. A side of fries or garlic fries complement any menu item ($1.90–$2.50), while a spiced-up order of chili rings ($4.85) aptly accompanies a grilled chili dog ($4.40). Willie's also serves up malt-shop-style desserts, with classic hand-scooped ice-cream milkshakes ($3.45) available in mocha, coffee, strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavors to soothe inner fury arising from rain-ruined backyard ballet recitals.