Paisano’s is unstoppable. In the 40 years since opening its first Virginia pizzeria, the chain has grown to more than 15 Virginia and Maryland locations, with more cropping up each year. The pizza mecca was voted 2012 Best Pizza by WTOP Virginia listeners and credits its success to freshness of ingredients, pizza dough, and its universal motto: "We have something for everyone." The Washington Post reports that the owners drew on their Lebanese and Italian parentage in creating the expansive menu, which includes hearty calzones, subs, and stuffed wraps, and of course, Paisano’s signature pizzas with more than 30 available toppings.
Executive chef Gian Piero Mazzi fell in love with food at a young age, when he was growing up in the Liguria region of Italy. His mother’s passion for cuisine planted the seeds for his infatuation, which he cultivated during formal culinary schooling in Florence as well as an internship in France. After honing his skills in the kitchen, Mazzi ventured across the pond, earning new fans stateside when he showcased his recipes at an event at the James Beard House in 2002.
But that was just the beginning. Today, at two locations of Piero's Corner, he and his team hand make an assortment of authentic pastas, including ravioli stuffed with Maine lobster or a blend of spinach and portobello mushrooms. The menu highlights Chef Mazzi's hometown cuisine, with a focus on fresh seafood. Entrees include blackened tilapia and shrimp served with fruit salsa as well as scallops wrapped in prosciutto and arranged on a bed of spaghetti carbonara. Pizzas are made to order and baked in a brick oven, as are calzones stuffed with ingredients such as ricotta, ham, spinach, and tomato sauce. A gluten-free menu features pastas and doughs imported from Italy, whose climate doesn’t support gluten.
Both of Piero's Corner’s locations facilitate mini European getaways, with brick arches framing murals of Italian landscapes, and columns reminiscent of classical architecture supporting their ceilings. In Fairfax, diners can eat or sip wine al fresco beneath red and white umbrellas.
The chefs at Bella Vita Italian Eatery support the restaurant’s name—which translates to “the good life” in Italian—by gathering friends and families around hand-tossed specialty pizzas and plates of rich pasta. The lobster-and-crab ravioli, which, according to staff, earned the title of Best Entree at the Cuisine de Commerce 2012, comes coated in a velvety sherry cream sauce. Other dishes include meat lasagna and the veal gorgonzola with creamy butter sauce, although the eatery scores recognition for more than just its food. In 2012, Bella Vita Italian Eatery won the reader's choice award for “friendliest restaurant in Prince William County” from InsideNova Network. Patrons can unwind even further while ipping a glass of wine from the full bar or participating in a postmeal shoulder-massage line.
During a massive late ’70s blizzard, then-waiter Generous George opened his namesake eatery with the guidance of his mentor and friend, Nick Latsios. Dishes here live up to their promise, and diners should arrive prepared to gorge. Indulgent cheese-filled pockets become even more of a guilty pleasure when breaded, fried, and sided with a marinara dipping sauce and sprinkling of parmesan cheese ($6). Sea-meat fans will also appreciate the mammoth mountain of shrimp, scallops, sausage, tomatoes, and peppers sautéed in garlic white-wine sauce atop toasty wedges of pizza bread in the seafood Georgie ($13). Those looking for a lighter bite can order one of George's salads, like the veggie-packed tossed ($8) or the Greek farmer's salad ($10). Create your own pizza ($7 for personal, $12 for regular, and $15 for a large), or order one of George's specialty pies ($10–$26). And for those who can't ever get enough carbs, the gluttonous pasta pies ($13–$18) combine the best of both worlds with layers of noodles loaded up on a pizza shell.
Joe set sail from Agrigento, Italy with his family in 1970 to land in New York, eventually leaving for Virginia to seek his version of the American dream and opening Joe’s Place. The eatery has been family-run for 34 years, which is long enough to see the art of fashion transform countless times and the art of reading a book stay suspiciously the same. Ovens spill out piles of crispy, thin-crust pizzas adorned with fresh toppings and cheeses—such as the white pizza with fontina and garlic and the seafood pizza with fresh shrimp and clams—and thick layers of dough support sicilian deep-dish pies. Cooks prepare pots of steaming pastas and build specialty subs with stacks of prosciutto, provolone, and capicollo. Members of Joe’s family work in both his restaurants, keeping the authentic Italian recipes in constant use, like the sun, a small percentage of which is also pasta sauce.