Native North Enders Vinnie Amato and Steve Costa opened Cafe Porto Bello to revisit the Italian cuisine of their childhoods and re-create the atmosphere of dinners with family. For more than a decade, the café's chefs have prioritized freshness by preparing every dish to order with spices blended in-house and by garnishing gourmet, hand-tossed pizzas with their own roasted red peppers. The dining room is warm and softly lit, with sturdy wooden tables and seating for up to 100. In the adjacent lounge, bartenders pour Italian and American varietals in syncopation or ragtime with live jazz sets.
Olly's Pizza, which maintains a vibe reminiscent of the 1950s, appeases grumbling tummies through a diverse menu rich in user-friendly fare. Hungry patrons can construct their own pizzas on thick, thin, or Sicilian crust foundations or choose a specialty pie, such as the shrimp scampi alfredo ($15.29 for a large) or bacon cheeseburger ($13.79 for a large). Beyond the circular realm, Olly's also paints culinary flare across plates stacked with anything from burgers to chicken to seafood to subs. Ice cream cones (small for $2.50) and brownie sundaes ($4.50) are also available, and can be served cold, cool, or cooler than a varsity quarterback with a pool house and a sense of humility.
At Aglia Ristorante, chef Sal's old-world Sicilian culinary roots trellis into a menu of traditional Italian cuisine. Diners wade into five-course waters with basil- and garlic-accented mozzarella slices and handmade chips tossed in rosemary-truffle, barbecue, or sea-salt seasonings. The third-course garden salad temporarily diverts monstrous appetites as they await the main event, presented with deliciously difficult choices including delectable chicken, pork, fish, and steak dishes. Succulent chicken thighs slow-cooked in an herb-infused oil bolster the chicken confit, and a rolled pork loin stuffed with caramelized onions, spinach, and prosciutto fortifies the pork roulade more effectively than shredded polyester. As the meal winds down, guests can savor the final act of the edible libretto with cannoli pastries and espresso.
Nature is responsible for stimulating all the senses at Cresta Bar & Ristorante, where diners savor fresh ingredients as they bask in the shade on an outdoor patio. Fresh flourishes such as foraged mushrooms and homemade pasta embellish the entrees, which include panko-encrusted cuts of veal and chicken. More than 60 wines pair with the meals so that guests don’t have to determine complementary flavors by licking a color wheel. Diners can eat either inside or on the terrace, where marble-topped tables reflect the leafy branches that criss-cross overhead, leaving matte wrought-iron bistro chairs to lounge on the flagstone patio.
Pauly Penta's Gourmet Italian Deli feeds hordes of hungry houseguests with a fresh menu of soups, sandwiches, grilled specialties, and bakery items forged with signature ingredient combinations and filler-free meats. Chefs adorn individual meals, party platters, and public sculptures with Boar's Head deli meats and natural, additive-free flavor. Italian-style cold-cut platters ($70) provide 15–20 couch referees with artfully arranged game-day fuel, and 12-inch stuffed calzones keep cheese hidden in warm, flaky crust ($40+). Chicken parmesan ($65) and baked penne ($50) simmer in 13"x9" entree platters, and stuffed mushrooms ($18.50/dozen) help to keep stomachs from interrupting broadcasts.
At The Fire Brick Oven Pizza & Bar, chefs fling dough high into the air, spinning it into discs that will later transform into flatbreads and pizza in the kitchen's signature brick oven. Though pizzas are the chefs' specialty, they also create seafood dishes and prepare gluten-free pasta and desserts. Oven-fresh pizzas, grill-squeezed paninis, pasta, and family-style dining options are savored while diners lounge in black-leather chairs and admire the dining room's modern interior.
Visitors of the daily "Appy Hour" can sidle up to the glossy, gray-marble bar and munch on mussels paired with tuscan bread, sausage-stuffed mushrooms, and pizzas such as the Wildfire Original, which is assembled from mozzarella and fresh basil. Lunch and dinner menus attack hunger with burgers, herb-crusted Atlantic salmon salad, pesto-chicken pizzas, and roasted filet mignon. Adventurous diners can tackle the signature "One Pound" meatball, which is smothered with mozzarella and baked in the oven.
Owner Tony Lanni's mother Maria oversees all of the chopping, grilling, sautéing, and baking that unfolds inside of Il Fornello's kitchen to ensure that each Italian dish gets seasoned with adequate amounts of homey comfort. Piles of pasta, sizzling steaks doused in a variety of sauces, fresh seafood, and juicy chicken dishes adorn golden tablecloths inside the ruby-hued dining room, where rollaway dividers offer increased privacy and can be configured into barricades for impromptu food fights. Il Fornello also hosts private parties for up to 80 people and offers comprehensive catering services for soirees at other locations in the solar system.