After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
"The freshest pizza you'll ever eat." That's the motto of Live Basil Pizza, and just one visit turns that seemingly bold claim into a simple statement of truth. The sauce is made from organic San Marzano tomatoes that wouldn't give the time of day to canned tomato paste. The produce is typically sourced from local farmers and lacks that deep-freeze mush of franchise veggies. The meats are all natural, and the cheeses?including shredded mozzarella, aged provolone, goat cheese, and ricotta cheese?are milked from likable cows. And the basil that adorns LBP's picturesque pizza is grown right there in the restaurant.
Like picking a lobster from a tank, patrons can fully observe the freshness of their Neapolitan pie's journey from dough to plate. Hand-tossed and lovingly adorned with organic toppings, they're placed in a hearth oven until the flames have licked them to a perfect crisp, and arrive looking like they were just plucked from a pizza tree.
Flavorsome ingredients and fresh, handmade dough marry in gourmet specialty pizzas such as Mr. C's Meat Lover's Stuffed Pizza Pie (pepperoni, salami, sausage, meatballs, beef, ham, and five cheeses, $18.49 for a 12-inch pie), the hot and spicy barbecue chicken ($12.49 for a 12-inch), and the vegetarian Pizza Bianca (Alfredo sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, romano, fresh basil, black pepper, and black olives, $11.49 for a 12-inch). Indulge in a plate of impeccably prepared pasta such as baked ziti ($10.99), or use this Groupon toward a family-sized portion of meat tortellini ($32.99 for four servings). Italian entree specialties include fettuccini Alfredo with shrimp ($9.99), spaghetti with clams tossed in either a light garlic-butter sauce or classic marinara ($10.99), and eggplant parmesan served with a side of spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad ($9.49). Subs, spicy wings, salads, and desserts round out the menu into a nicely round circle tastier than a traffic circle or rutabaga crop circle.
With a signature pizza size called the Monster, you’d expect Pudge Brothers Pizza to be more focused on quantity than quality. But in fact, the chefs create their signature varieties of hand-tossed pies by blending together the flavors of three sauces, a range of meats, and fresh veggies. From within sizzling ovens, chefs pull out creations such as the Jersey Girl—a pizza featuring italian sausage and green peppers—or the White Delight—a ham, chicken, and garlic-sauce combination. Pies range in size from 10 inches to 18 inches, with a range of garlic bread, wings, and cinnamon bread to fill in a meal. The shop also offers delivery service, ensuring clients can have a hot, hearty meal when time is short or when the paparazzi won’t leave their front yard.
The United States isn't the only place where Italian immigrants have made an indelible mark on the local cuisine. But while American pizza generally errs on the side of thin crust, notes USA Today, Argentinian pizza starts with "thick, bready crust" crowned with heaps of onions and cheese. The Carrera family's Buenos Aires Pizzeria, the newspaper continues, walks "a middle ground" with a hand-tossed, medium-sized crust. Flavored with housemade tomato sauce or olive oil, these pies arrive topped with everything from spinach and prosciutto to chorizo and mint leaves, an ideal ingredient for pizza you'd rather kiss than eat. In addition to nearly 40 specialty pizzas, the eatery accommodates diners of all stripes with customizable pies and gluten-free crust.
Pizza isn't the only thing the Carrera clan crafts by hand. Made from scratch, traditional and open-faced empanadas sport nearly 30 fillings, from butternut squash and carrot to a medley of bacon, cheese, and fig. For dessert, try over 35 gelato flavors?such as chocolate almond and mango?made in-house daily. While cooks work tirelessly in the open kitchen, bartenders serve wines hailing exclusively from Argentina, including four varieties of malbec.
Nonna's Chicago Bistro, named Best Italian in 2011 on Denver's 7 A-List, lures hungry passersby with a menu of Windy City–style Italian fare, more than 20 wines by the glass, and complimentary ciabatta bread with saucy marinara. The owners, a family of Chicago natives, dedicated Nonna's to their grandmother, whose passion for hearty, homestyle fare inspired their chefs to perfect such classics as chicken parmigiana, lasagna, and slow-cooked, Chicago-style ribs. Dinners pair with a glass of Italian Da Vinci chianti or a Californian 181 merlot, or assorted well drinks and domestic brews from the exposed-brick bar.
Nonna's Chicago Bistro's dining room provides guests with an elegant eating coliseum, boasting walls painted with grapevine designs and windows that welcome a breathtaking view of the Leaning Tower of Willis. The quaint eatery also fills ear canals with live music performed by jazz trios, classical guitarists, and country crooners on weekend evenings.