In the kitchen at Fat Molly’s, the hands of chefs flutter above sheets of marinara-cloaked dough, scattering inventive toppings such as gulf shrimp, artichokes, and boudin. Athletic events broadcast on four flat-screen TVs, augmenting the clatter of silverware with the sounds of cracking bats and mascots with their tails under rocking chairs. Drawing upon a selection of meats including fried chicken and smoked sausage, patrons design their own poor boys. Tearing into the sandwiches despite their warmth, they take swigs from 30 beer options, including Abita Purple Haze and Lazy Magnolia’s brown ale crafted from roasted pecans, which bestow the mash with earthy caramel flavors. The eatery's walls are festooned with works by local artists, ranging from a triptych of a jazz musician to an abstract of a stacked sandwich and a poignant deconstrionist piece by the back door, which reads, simply "Exit."
Guided by the experience of head chef Vincent Manguno, Nuccio’s Seafood & Italian Restaurant pleases palates of all types with a menu stocked full of seafood entrées, savory Italian dishes, and daily chef specials. Coronate a meal with friends or accentuate a debate about the existence of giraffes with an appetizer, such as Nuccio’s eggplant sticks ($6.95) or artichoke and spinach dip ($7.95). Italian meatball sandwiches ($8.95) satiate stomachs with the meaty harmony of an edible Kenny G, while fettucini alfredo ($10.95) beguiles taste buds and forks. Nuccio’s Seafood & Italian Restaurant maintains an inviting, family atmosphere, ideal for a romantic first date or meeting your blind date’s parents.
Affable waiters emerge from Caffe Fresca's kitchen toting bowls of piping hot soup du jour, homemade desserts, and gourmet entrees. Ten specialty sandwiches tempt guests with fillings such as grilled portobello mushrooms, Genoa salami, and smoked turkey. Fresh seafood platters, steaks and chops, and pasta entrees round out the menu and pair palatably with homemade desserts. A recently remodeled dining area with three-toned tiled flooring, wood tables, and chandeliers encourages diners to linger and sip a libation from the bar or discuss the latest in drinking straw innovations.
These purveyors of premium Italian eats buy local ingredients and prepare all dishes from scratch daily, from the sauce to the dough. Baked in a brick oven, the Who-Dat pizza ($12.95 for 14") comes loaded with apple-smoked bacon, meatballs, pepperoni, black olives, and a quizzical expression. Blossoming pie artisans can draw from a rich palette of toppings ($1 each for 14") such as anchovies, sundried tomatoes, and Italian sausage to paint personal masterpieces on plain-pizza canvases ($10.99 for 14"). Meanwhile, the crab-cake linguini ($14.95) is served with your choice of red or white sauce, allowing easy color coordination with wedding dresses and Mountie uniforms. Ensconced in the restaurant’s relaxing, rustic interior, wash down your meal with a cold domestic brew ($2.50), refreshing import or microbrew ($3.50¬–$4), or choice of house wine ($6 per glass, $20 for a bottle).
Coco Bamboo takes the traditional concept of Italian American pizza joints and whisks it away to a tropical tiki wonderland with a menu full of pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, and smoothies. Breaded mozzarella sticks ($5) or a small avocado and asparagus salad served with a slice of pita bread and artichoke hearts ($5.75) pad gullets for the impending deluge of grub or errant falling coconuts. Pizza purists can pummel a classic dough disk, such as the minimalist tomato, basil, and pesto-topped margarita (14", $17.25), and palate pushers can nosh on the muffaletta, mounded with ham, pepperoni, salami, mortadella, and olive mix, and also available with a wheat crust (16", $21). Spinach alfredo lasagna ($11.75) or a voodoo smoked house sandwich stacked with chicken or shrimp, barbecue sauce, onions, and melted cheese ($7.75) appeal to carbo-loaders.
At the tender age of 7, Andrea Apuzzo began honing his culinary skills at a bakery in his Italian hometown. "I was spoiled as a kid. We made our own olive oil and wine,” he says in a Gambit article. His breadth of knowledge expanded greatly when, at 14 years old, he embarked on a culinary adventure across Europe and South America. Now at the helm of his own restaurant, Chef Andrea applies the knowledge he learned amid the cream-hued rising loaves and on the chattering South American streets.
The dishes that fill tables at the eatery have been enjoyed by the likes of Queen Elizabeth, President Carter, Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, and one dog that figured out how to use a credit card. To share his abilities and experiments, the chef also publishes cookbooks, which detail formulas for the award-winning pastas, fresh seafood, and steaks. Chef Andrea's bistecca pizzaiola earned a place on Esquire's 2008 list of the 20 Best Steaks in America. "Like the best Italian dishes," the article says, "its simple parts add up to an unexpectedly powerful whole."