With parents hailing from Sicily and Naples, Anthony Russo enjoyed an Italian upbringing. By age 12, he spent much of his time in the kitchen, learning to prepare Old World recipes with his family and family friends. And from the flurry of Italian phrases and conversation, one quote of his father's stuck with him most: "If you can't make it fresh, don't serve it!" Several decades later, Anthony has hand-tossed his own Italian restaurant franchise and, true to his father's words, employs fresh ingredients in the same family recipes that were passed down to him. Amid exposed brick and walls the warm hue of marinara, skilled chefs craft New York–style brick-oven pizzas with toppings such as spinach, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Servers stand ready to answer questions about the restaurant’s wine lists, letting guests know which wines pair best with the pizzotto sandwich or whether pinot noir can really turn dogs invisible.
Homemade dough soars from the hands of the pizza gurus at DoubleDave's Pizzaworks before it bathes in from-scratch sauce and dresses in gourmet toppings. The menu collects more than 15 toppings to shower over pies, from sliced meatball and smoked ham to crushed garlic. Specialty disk, The Works ($15.99), plays a medley of locally sourced cured meats, mushrooms, and smoked provolone cheese, and the classic veggie ($15.99) takes a stand for sustainable eating and cows' valuable roles as attentive listeners with a hailstorm of black olives, italian sweet peppers, and honey whole-wheat crust. Guests can also craft a salad from the salad bar, where 16 toppings graze freely.
Pizza Milano's kitchen team concocts flavorful casual fare, including inventive pizza pies made with New York–style pesto dough and a red-wine-based marinara sauce. In the Milano cheese sticks, a trio of cheeses infiltrates the New York–style dough, along with their allies, bacon and jalapenos, softening the ground for a coup by marinara or garlic-butter sauce ($8.99). Like rival twins, cheese-stuffed italian meatballs appear in two iterations—ensconced in a parmesan-encrusted hoagie with garlic butter and marinara ($4.99) or nestled atop a bed of pasta and immersed in sauce ($8.99). Specialty pizzas surprise stomachs with creative combinations, such as the refreshing Caribbean pizza, a circular island with flaky-crust shores and an inner terrain of fajita chicken, sweet mango, and fresh pineapple, where a conga line of red onions traipses across a three-cheese blend ($11.99–$15.49). Pizza Milano also decorates plates with pasta creations such as the chicken alfredo, which unites a four-cheese, white-wine-reduced alfredo sauce with parmesan-festooned chicken ($8.99).
The pie purveyors at Guido's Pizza Pies command a menu anchored in fresh, New York–style circular cuisine that augments hot sandwiches ($7.69), calzones ($9.99), and other classic Italian entrees. Each day, kitchen artisans knead a fresh, doughy canvas on which they paint edible portraits with made-from-scratch sauce speckled with herbs and spices. Before the discs bake in an authentic NYC-style stone deck oven, patrons pick their toppings or leave the decision up to dice, tarot cards, or the never-indecisive Hulk Hogan. Proven favorites, the signature pizza pies twirl spaghetti and meatballs on the Mama Mia or cater to carnivores with My Cousin Guido's hamburger and bacon bits ($17.99 for a large). Create-your-own pie ($18.36 for three toppings) beckons architectural diners to embellish large, 16-inch traditional or wheat-crust foundations with pineapple, sausage links, or eggplant toppings.
Papa Murphy's Take 'n' Bake Pizza was born out of the owner's frustration with bad pizza from chains, which often tasted as if every ingredient was canned or frozen. Deciding to change the industry, Papa Murphy's tosses every ingredient, all of which are never frozen, onto the crust in front of the customer's eyes and sends them home to bake in a home oven. This dedication to fresh flavor earned Papa Murphy's the top spot on Zagat's National Chain survey.
Visitors can create their own take on the pizza pie or chomp into one of their signature pizzas, which range from meat-filled stuffed crust to calorie-conscious lite varieties covered in vegetables. Their appetizers and desserts follow the same pattern. Customers order raw cookie dough or cheesy bread ripe for the baking, resulting in every course being fresh from the oven.
At the heart of every dish on Candelari's menu—including its signature thin- ($17–$22), thick- ($18–$23), and deep-dish-style ($19–$24) pizzas—are the famous Italian-sausage recipes of Alberto Candelari, all of which are made with choice meat, natural spices, and hints of liqueur. The T-Rex's spread of pepperoni, ground sirloin, useless forearms, Canadian bacon, and Candelari’s andouille and original Italian sausages lets you sample all of the finest meat-fruits of Candelari Sausage Company founders Greg Wheeler and “King of Sausages” Michael May (Alberto’s grandson). Build up to its bounty beforehand with a plate of sausage misto ($7), which features grilled Italian, turkey-jalapeño, and chicken-apple sausages piled atop provolone polenta. Diners that look suspiciously like flocks of seagulls inside a trench coat can find out what a grilled salmon ($14) tastes like when complemented by gulf shrimp, lemon-caper butter sauce, and veggies. Otherwise, avoid all the menu botheration and opt for the daily lunch buffet ($9–$9.50), which includes unlimited pizza, pasta, salad, and a drink.
Offering an array of specialty-pizza choices and a plethora of additional toppings, Gambino's Pizza bakes crispy, edible plates brimming with elaborate orchestrations of ingredients. With a sweet and spicy foundation of traditional home-style sauce, each pizza balances a blend of 100% real mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Suppress angry, pitchfork-wielding appetites with a large Mobster pizza that buttresses pork and italian sausage, beef, mushrooms, pepperoni, green peppers, onions, black olives, canadian bacon, and extra cheese ($17.49). Celebrate all five food groups with an 18-inch hawaiian pie sporting canadian bacon, pineapple, and mozzarella ($15.49), or ease noshing anticipation with appetizers such as boneless buffalo blasters ($5.29 for five) and jalapeño cheese raviolis ($7.09). Afterwards, order a dutch apple, cinnamon streusel, or very cherry dessert pizza ($7.49–$9.99) to fool finicky children into actually eating dinner without preparing an asparagus-filled piñata.