Julie Yanni-Cannataro spent much of her childhood working alongside her parents in their Italian restaurant, mastering the recipes from her family's ancestral home of Calabria in Italy. After years of practicing her craft at home, her family pushed her to realize her dream of opening up a restaurant of her very own. At Cannataro's Italian Restaurant, Julie now shares her culinary expertise and beloved home-cooked meals with the general public, dishing out wholesome, hearty feasts of roasted salmon, rib-eye steaks, and tender baked chicken drizzled with creamy lemon and marsala sauces. Her pizza chefs create fresh dough each day, firing pies topped with bacon, chicken, pesto, and fresh tomatoes in a stone deck oven. An accessible progressive wine list arranges wines by taste characteristics rather than vintage or region, letting diners know which full-bodied red would pair well with a spicy pasta, or which dry white would be perfect for blowing bubbles.
A rustic, adobe-colored building with a roof of clay tiles welcomes visitors to the restaurant, whose white garden latticework intertwined with vines and tucked-away alcoves roofed with cozy arches host romantic interludes and boisterous family gatherings alike.
When it came time for the team at Johnny Carino’s to come up with some new recipes, they began rifling through their personal cooking histories. Executive chef Chris Peitersen took his first kitchen job at a barbecue joint when he was 14, so he was primed to create italian baby back ribs. By infusing brown sugar barbecue sauce with balsamic vinegar imported from Modena, he’s given the marinade a more acidic bite than typical barbecue sauces. As the ribs slowly roast and char on an oak grill, he bastes on his creation before finishing the dish with a dusting of parmesan.
The ribs are one of Carino’s many menu items that follow the restaurants’ approach of classic Italian preparations modified by forward-thinking flavor combinations. Diners will find a Black Angus burger capped with mozzarella and fried pepperoni, or sautéed tilapia spiced with garlic and jalapeño. Other signature dishes include the 16-layer lasagna, Skilletinis that sizzle with spaghetti and a choice of meat, and tiramisu made from scratch.
The chefs at Arianno’s Pizza craft Italian fare from fresh ingredients and house-made recipes. They hand-toss dough and bedeck it with house-made sauce and layers of real mozzarella cheese before personalizing the pizza, whether by slathering it with any of the restaurant’s 15+ toppings or by naming it "Steve." The pizzeria’s lengthy menu also showcases pasta dishes, each of which is accompanied by a side of garlic bread as well as platters of baby back ribs and hot subs packing fresh proteins and cheese.
Bonafede-family matriarch Anita started JoJo's Pizza Kitchen more than four decades ago, and her discerning taste for ingredients is still identifiable in the menu. Though her son Joe, who napped on flour sacks in the back of the restaurant as a child, now runs the eatery, fresh basil and plum tomatoes grown in Stanislaus County still release aromas that hint at sun-soaked furrows. Through a dining room window, guests catch glimpses of chefs tossing freshly risen dough for pizzas or smaller chefs for their adorable giggles. They grate fresh parmesan cheese as wine cooks slowly down with mushrooms on the stovetop and chicken marinates in lemon and garlic. Servers bustle past, filling glasses with house wines or draft beers.
The dough wizards at Papa John's Pizza hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
It's often said that people have many different layers. In the most literal sense possible, the same applies to the Northern Italian cuisine at Mustazzoli Ristorante Italiano. Just look at the restaurant's signature appetizer: bruschetta crescenza. It starts with three pieces of crispy, homemade baguette, onto which is piled crescenza cheese, asparagus, prosciutto ham, and a drizzling of white truffle sauce. If complexity is what these chefs are going for, consider their goal achieved.
But the chefs bring this same attention to detail to every aspect of their menu, from pastas tossed with clams and New Zealand mussels to desserts of homemade white-chocolate cannolis. Once they've put on the finishing touches, they send these dishes off to two different dining rooms, in which guests trade bites with sips of wine and beer.
If you're curious about how to get the most out of your Mustazzoli experience, here are three of our favorite pro tips: