Sugo chef Louis Prpich famously traded the vowels in his last name for the supernatural ability to reshape authentic Italian dishes using modern twists and flourishes. The seasonal dinner menu has been known to harbor the chef's specialty, ahi tuna ribs, seasoned and served with gorgonzola for dipping or pronouncing gutturally ($9). Sugo Bistro also forms its gnocchi by hand before tossing them with a creamy tomato sauce and giving them an extravagant Kentucky Derby hat of shaved romano cheese, cracked pepper, and fresh herb ($16).
At age 14, Michael Kidd and Cristopher Malita worked side-by-side at a local pizzeria and dreamed about what they might do differently if they owned one themselves. Today, more than 10 years later, they put their ideas into practice at Pudgies Eatery. The pair builds each pizza on a handmade crust rendered more flavorful by a special blend of rosemary and spices. Their roster of specialty pies includes the Pulled Pudgie pizza with barbecue sauce, pulled pork, cheddar, and onion, as well as the chicken bacon ranch pizza with white sauce and tomatoes. Instead of pitching them into a catcher's glove, the cooks toss chicken wings into housemade sauces ranging in flavor from Mississippi mustard and garlic parmesan to hot teriyaki. The kitchen team rounds out the menu with sub sandwiches stuffed with philly steak or meatballs and soft, fresh baked cinnamon rolls.
The dedicated pizza professionals at Athena's transform heaps of handmade dough, savory sauce, and freshly prepared toppings into joy-inducing pies. Commission a customized Italian treat ($4.49–$9.59) by priming the crust canvas with red or white garlic sauce, then pick your favorite proteins and produce ($0.89–$1.99 per topping) to layer on top of cheese. An enticing list of pre-designed specialty pies ($9.49–$19.99) also satisfies creative cravings. Fulfill any empty stomach's fantasies with the bucket list pie, which is loaded with pepperoni, bacon, and sausage and sprinkled with Morgan Freeman's tears. Pastas, subs, gyros, and salads are also available.
Founded in the 1950s as a single carry-out shop, Your Pizza Shop quickly expanded into a multi-state franchise, with locations popping up like pepperoni toppings all over Ohio and Florida. Today, stores range from carryout-and-delivery joints to full-service restaurants with buffets, booze, and sports entertainment. After noshing on a piece of pressure-fried chicken, guests can two-hand a hot sub, or scrawl a love letter to their stromboli in marinara sauce.
To reach their table at Spaghetti Warehouse, guests commonly have to step through two doors: the front door of the restaurant and the door of the antique trolley parked inside. Since its inception in 1972, the Italian eatery has merged the functions of kitchen and museum. Artifacts such as grandfather clocks, factory flywheels, and circus billboards surround diners as they delve into signature plates of 15-Layer Lasagna or hand-rolled meatballs. Apart from the items they've amassed, each of the buildings also has a particular history, from the one-time ice-manufacturing plant in Columbus to Memphis's Civil War munitions depot. Given their storied pasts, it's no surprise that several of these venues house their own ghosts—at Houston's warehouse, for example, elevator lights have been known to flicker, objects are mysteriously found in new locations, and a lady in a white gown is said to roam the restaurant.
Yet the main attraction of the place is the delicious food. Like any great Italian meal, made-from-scratch dishes are created from family recipes passed down for generations via email. Guests devour the perfectly al dente pasta, crispy calamari, bottomless soups, and 12-layer chocolate cakes while dining with family and friends. It’s that feeling of togetherness that people love about Spaghetti Warehouse, a feeling that is only enhanced when the drinks start flowing and the air is punctuated by the sounds of laughter as kids play retro games, such as The Claw prize-grabbing machine.
Fat Billy's pizza-crafting professionals sate hungry hoards with an extensive menu of saucy spheres, meaty entrees, and dough-swaddled sandwiches. Muffle the moans of stomach-dwelling teenaged turtles with a starter of breaded mushrooms ($2.99) before tongue diving into a cheese pizza ($5.99 small, $11.99 extra large)—customizable with an array of toppings ($.99–$2.99 each)—or one of the many specialty pies ($9.99 small, $15.99 extra large), such as the philly cheesesteak or the barbecue-soused baja chicken.