Hungry Howie’s grew into a nation-spanning franchise from a humble start in Taylor, Michigan in 1973, when founder Jim Hearn converted a hamburger stand into a pizzeria. With the help of business partner Steve Jackson––who started as a delivery man at the original location––the two men franchised a decade later and began expanding their delicious operation, resulting in nearly 600 locations spread across 24 states in the 3rd dimension alone. Almost 40 years after its start, Hungry Howie’s continues to earn the most attention for its specialty flavored crust pizzas––which infuse dough with a choice of eight seasonings such as ranch or garlic herb––as well as zesty pizza accompaniments such as oven-baked meatball and chicken parm subs.
Owner Jeff Cohen can still be found manning The Pizza Loft’s line more than 30 years after its inception, dishing up a menu of made-to-order Italian cuisine in an ultramodern kitchen wholly devoid of deep fryers and microwaves. Crafted by hand and topped with a robust homemade tomato sauce, the Loft’s piping panoply of pizzas is doughy shores bedecked with 100% real dairy mozzarella, fresh veggies, and hearty servings of sliced meatballs, ham, and sausage ($10.95+). Diners can scale the lasagna’s precarious layers, fixing pickaxes into its meat-packed peaks while scooping up the aromatic avalanche of a rich mushroom sauce ($11.95+). Plates of eggplant parmigiana, like Italy's organically grown supermodels, tastefully swathe themselves in stylish shrouds of spaghetti noodles ($13.95), and penne pasta dishes come sautéed-to-order in fragrant lochs of garlic butter or alfredo sauce ($9.95+).
Although best known for its hand-tossed pizzas made from dough baked fresh daily, Esposito's Pizza complements its marinara-doused mandalas with a delectable array of Italianate appetizers and entrees. The Four Seasons pizza (14", $17.49) arranges a baroque quartet of artichoke, mushrooms, ham, and onion atop a stage of cheese, and the meat-combo pizza (14", $17.49) packs in enough animal flesh to legally be considered livestock. Otherwise, put an artist's signature on your own pizza ($8+) by pairing pepperoni, spinach, and mushrooms with more adventurous flavors such as pineapple, jalapeños, and moon rock. Esposito's accommodates boot-shaped appetites as well as circular ones with the Taste of Italy's tour of chicken-cutlet parmigiana, meatballs, and baked ziti ($15.95).
In 1993, the basement of a Minneapolis apartment building was transformed into an Italian restaurant, becoming the first Buca di Beppo. The owners soon found themselves riding a wave of popularity and marinara sauce as they opened new restaurants across the nation. Today, the eatery occupies 97 locations nationwide, from San Francisco to Times Square.
At each location, chefs maintain the northern and southern Italian flavors that made the original so popular, with a few American twists. Then they serve it up in massive, family-style portions, making Buca di Beppo a favorite place for hungry families and groups of friends.
For starters, the chefs bake up batches of Cheesy Bread Florentine, a colorful combo of spinach, roma tomatoes, and garlic sprinkled over Italian bread and sealed in place with fresh, melted cheeses. Entr?es are prepared with an eye toward quality and quantity, both of size and selection, complete with Veal Parmigiana, Baked Ziti, and classic Italian-American staples like Ravioli and Lasagna. And in keeping with the convivial atmosphere, they also serve truly decadent desserts. The Mt. Vesuvius Dark Chocolate Cake erupts with melted chocolate, and the Colossal Brownie Sundae towers above other sweets with six scoops of ice cream and tiers of sundae trimmings.
Though born in Sicily, Gianpiero Cangelosi moved throughout Europe, developing his skills as a restaurateur. In 1987, he finally landed by parachute in Pembroke Pines and opened Capriccio's Ristorante with the help of his wife Karen. Their traditional take on Italian cuisine quickly earned them a loyal legion of followers, and eventually the demand was too great to fit into one dinning room. They expanded their space with a second dining room and a lounge where a 6’5” chandelier shimmers above an octagonal granite bar. But as much as its surroundings have changed, the quality and authenticity of the food—which has earned the eatery multiple OpenTable Diner’s Choice awards—has not. The restaurant’s waiters ferry dishes of salmon and pine nuts, rack of lamb, and Black Angus filet mignon to tables of quietly salivating guests. Bites of braised veal shank or calamari pair with a dizzying array of wines from Italy, California, and Chile.
The restaurant’s decor reflects the origins of its cuisine–white Corinthian pillars flank sunny yellow walls marked by brick accents, arches, and ornately framed paintings. Diners lounge in wrought iron chairs as they listen to the standup routines of local violinists and pianists.
Anthony Russo's parents came to the U.S. from Sicily and Naples with a mind to preserve their family traditions. So, it's no wonder that their son picked up their love for cooking. He studied at their side, learning to craft Italian food and what came to be known as New York?style pizza, though first he had to invent New York. When Anthony left New York to move to Texas, he decided to keep the tradition of his family's pizza alive by opening his own pizza joint, Russo's New York Pizzeria. Houstanians took to the pie, and the business took off. Now, people enjoy Anthony's family recipes in 16 Texas cities, six states, five countries, and multiple realities.