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.
Using cake as their canvas, the creative bakers at Kelley's Bakery turn treats into sculpted works of art. Whether building three-tiered wedding cakes or other special-occasion desserts, they spread on colorful layers of frosting in nearly a dozen flavors, including mango, chestnut, mocha-royale cream, and passion-fruit. Not content with a flat dessert landscape, they also add rolled fondant sculpted into designs ranging from flowers and leaves to seashells and ribbons. Children's birthday cakes, meanwhile, get an air-brush treatment—complete with figurines of popular characters to distract kids from the fact that they once again didn't get a cartoon dog this year.
It's safe to say that Darlene Swain has outgrown her Easy-Bake Oven. She and co-owner Briana Ainsworth have whisked their way into the spotlight as fierce competitors on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, and now craft their famous creations for the masses in the comfort of Darla’s Cake Designs Kitchen. Clients can request a dozen cupcakes in flavors such a 24 Carrot and peanut butter cup, or commission the duo for a 3-D cake complete with stars and edible flowers.
Capers, cilantro pesto, barbecue chicken: these ingredients, along with more than 30 others, can top pizzas at Villaggio Pizzeria. Dough handlers craft build-your-own pies as well as California-style ones, which come crowned with West Coast–inspired toppings such as chipotle pesto and olive tapenade. The pies share a menu with other classic pizzeria treats, including buffalo wings, jumbo cheese ravioli, and oven-baked subs with housemade meatballs.
When Ronn Teitelbaum opened the first Johnny Rockets location on June 6, 1986—on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles—his goal was to create a restaurant where people could escape the postmodern blues of everyday life and experience a taste of timeless Americana. The name itself is a nod to this ideal—it combines the star of a classic American fable, Johnny Appleseed, and a classic car, Oldsmobile’s beefy Rocket 88. The chain now makes itself at home in America's cultural landmarks, including Yankee Stadium and the Flamingo Hotel.
During meals at one of the 300 worldwide locations, you’ll see signs of simpler times. Cooks and servers hand-dip shakes and cook up a selection of classic American comfort foods, including hamburgers, sandwiches, and American fries served with ketchup smiley faces. Riding sidecar to each meal is a selection of starters that include sourdough-battered onion rings, sweet potato fries, and seasoned Rocket Wings.
A true gastropub, The Pub at Chino Hills sits at the intersection of friendly watering hole and upscale restaurant. A crowd often forms around its wooden bar, where the staff pours 20 draft brews and well over that number in bottles and cans—including European-style dark ales. Flat-screen TVs give other patrons something to look at between sips of craft cocktails and wines from around the world. And on special nights, a musician might even show up to perform and then disappear into a puff of rum-scented smoke.
As for food, co-owners and chefs Andrew Faour and Mathew Carpenter rely on ingredients including USDA Prime meat, market-fresh fish, and cheese sourced from around the world. With those edible tools, they create lunch and dinner menus that start with small plates such as fried pork-belly bites. From there, the tour de taste can move on to meatloaf and steak entrees, or perhaps burgers with house-made pickles and patties that can take the form of beef, buffalo, or salmon. There's just one thing missing to complete the meal: one of the pub's signature desserts, such as gelato or homemade cookies.