When the cooks at Brick Oven Pizzeria pull their specialty pizzas out of their eponymous ovens, the smell of sizzling sauce, crispy crust, and flavorful toppings pervades the entire restaurant. Guests sitting at tables turn heads expectantly toward the kitchen as waiters bring out orders, carrying plates piled with meatball grinders, baked spaghetti marinara, or chicken bacon ranch pizza. Cooks can sprinkle the crispy crust with toppings ranging from four styles of pork to chicken, spinach, and mozzarella. They also offer gluten-free options for customers who have food allergies or who are abstaining from bread out of respect for their brother-in-law, who is half gingerbread man.
Roosters is both a popular stop for Kentucky sports fans and its players—it’s not unusual to spy one of the university’s basketball players perched at a table, wiping his hands after downing a large basket of wings. It's these wings, fried in soy oil with no trans fat and doused with 1 of 11 sauces, that command the most attention on a menu full of hand-breaded chicken fingers, thick burgers, and oven-baked subs. Their sauces run the gamut of heat, from mild teriyaki to medium-hot sweet thai chili to the Super Killer, the sauce that delivers more kick than a Rockette on a caffeine buzz.
Walls paneled in blond wood to match the tables and floors recall a modern-day Old West saloon, with a stone fireplace standing tall at one wall. After seeing a big win on one of the flat-screen televisions lining the walls, diners can take advantage of the lofted ceilings to create a victory pyramid.
Papa Murphy's low-fat, low-calorie thin-crust pizzas come in four enticing styles designed for cooking at home and tailored to each customer’s unique tastes. While proto-diners look on, Papa Murphy’s doughsmiths pave crisp, thin crusts with an array of fresh ingredients and specialty sauces. A traditional gourmet vegetarian pizza holds back its garlic-sauce flood with spinach, mushroom, and tomatoes, and the chicken bacon artichoke pie presses spinach, parmesan, and zesty herbs between meat pages like an epicurean botanist. The herb chicken Mediterranean pizza dons mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta, and the straightforward meat pizza sports a no-nonsense three-piece of pepperoni, sausage, and ground beef. Diners can also design custom pizzas to load crusts with peppers fashioned into portraits of their favorite cable repairmen.
Casanova Restaurant & Lounge slings traditional italian veal, beef, seafood, and pasta, hosting famished foodies in an elegant indoor space and lighted outdoor patio. Launch ingestion sequences with appetizers including bruschetta ($8/lunch, $10/dinner), caprese ($14/dinner), and antipasto misto, a panoply of imported meats and cheeses ($14/dinner). Chatty mouths pause to savor Casanova Restaurant & Lounge’s entrees, such as the ravioli d’aragosta, five housemade pasta pieces stuffed with lobster meat, chaperoned by shrimp, scallops, tomato sauce, and cream ($25/dinner). The scaloppina piccata, thinly sliced veal in a lemon-butter sauce ($14/lunch, $20/dinner), lays a delicious foundation inside stomachs or beneath all-linguini models of the Tower of Pisa.
Situated amid neon signs and flat-screen TVs, Goodfellas Pizzeria in Two Keys satisfies belly rumblings with its distinctive New York–style pizzas every day until 3 a.m. While chefs deck seven different specialty pies with myriad meat and veggie combinations, classic tavern trappings of wood paneling and exposed brick and a well-concealed dungeon buttress good conversation and midnight revelry. An outdoor deck offers breezy seating with plenty of space to celebrate Italian staples, such as calzones and cannoli.
Even among Lexington's other historic buildings, Bellini's Italianette-style architecture stands out; perhaps because the building has been a city fixture for close to 150 years. This was a large draw for long-time friends Giancarlo Marletta and Nader Iweimrin when they started the restaurant some 10 years ago. But Bellini's has been a shared success. Chef Craig Devilliers deftly helms the kitchen and insures quality with a strict sustainability pledge: organic and locally sourced seasonal ingredients whenever possible. The result is a dynamic menu pairing rack of lamb and diver scallops with modern accents of basil relish, blackberry compote, and sweet candied fennel.
Though their italian sausage and pepperoni carry robust, traditional flavors, the chefs at Mancinos Pizza & Grinders aren't afraid to get creative. On their zesty-ranch pizza, for example, they sprinkle bacon over a ranch base, and on their chicken-alfredo pizza they spread mozzarella and chicken atop creamy dollops of the familiar pasta sauce. Diners who seek three-dimensional meals but don't want to wrap their pizzas around soccer balls can bite into their choice of more than 20 types of grinders—subs filled with such treasures as barbecue pork, tuna, and salami. The family-owned business has honed its roster of italian sandwiches and pizzas throughout its 15-year history, preceding its dishes with hot wings and gooey bacon cheese fries.