Girasole Pizza charms each visitor by adhering to traditional recipes that call for fresh ingredients. Each gourmet, thin-crust pie is crowned with premium toppings such as smoked salmon, fennel sausage, and basil leaves before being prepared in the time-honored Italian manner⎯baked in a brick oven the shape of a boot. Made-from-scratch pastas mingle with house sauces and meats under sprinklings of shredded cheese, and antipasti—with star ingredients such as baked eggplant and roasted tomatoes—incorporate produce from local farmers' markets. Meals maintain their authenticity through the end with slices of olive-oil cake and tiramisu accented by whipped mascarpone.
The oven admirals at Straw Hat Pizza bake an extensive fleet of California-style pizza. The kitchen team prepares each crust to pack a flaky, crispy, crunch-causing texture, creating a sturdy foundation capable of supporting cheese, sauce, toppings, and hardbound copies of Mark McGwire's autobiography. A large chicken-bacon-ranch pizza saturates taste-sensory apparatuses with a dual-meat format and a vegetable cast of tomatoes and red onions, and the large aloha chicken merges chicken, ham, pineapple, and bacon on a highway of barbecue and red sauce (each $17.99 for a 15"). Vegetarians can imbibe the windfall of grown ingredients that fill out the large California veggie pie—a conference of zucchini, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spices, and white sauce ($17.99 for a 15"). Straw Hat Pizza also puts together an impressive roster of hot sandwiches, such as the sauce-packed meatball version ($5.49).
It is not just the pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas that keep guests coming back to Pete's Restaurant and Brewhouse and Original Pete's—the handcrafted beers also play a major role, quenching thirsts with flavors ranging from the Uptown blonde’s light layers of honey to the highly hoppy profile of the Skinner’s Horse IPA. Pete’s team keeps meals in balance by offering food-and-beer-pairing suggestions, assuring diners that the Midtown ale harmonizes with fish tacos and that the Old Town red—a malty, medium-bodied amber ale—improves coordination for slam-dunking meatballs.
The first Cool River Pizza opened 14 years ago with a mission to serve handcrafted pies made from fresh ingredients and California cheese in a family-friendly environment. All of the dough is made fresh daily and each pizza sports Cool River's homemade sauce accented with more than seven herbs, spices, and umlauts. Over the years, Cool River Pizza has grown from a solo outfit to a family of restaurants in California and Indiana. Inside each location, televisions illuminate dining rooms packed with long wooden tables and board games for families to play while waiting for their orders.
It all started in Davis, more than three decades ago. Steve Wilkinson opened a single pizzeria that became the model for multiple locations and eventually an entire franchise. To this day, he still runs that original Steve's Pizza, serving up the piping-hot pies that earned him his success. The menus include more than 30 toppings that can be mixed and matched on traditional or gluten-free crusts, as well as Italian pastas, hot sandwiches, and flightless hot wings.
Since 2003, Keith Nash, owner of The Pizza Place, and his wife Shab have operated their family-owned restaurant designed for pizza aficionados. Opening The Pizza Place location in Rocklin in 2007, The Nash's oversee cooks who craft fresh pizza dough daily, homemade pasta sauces, and hulking meatball sandwiches. In the oven, the fresh dough rises and crisps beneath fistfuls of artichoke hearts, salami, linguiça, anchovies, basil, and garlic. A full Italian menu includes traditional stunners, such as from-scratch lasagna, bubbly warm tomato sauces, and stacked Philly cheese steaks. An accompanying dessert menu features fluffy tiramisu to decadent chocolate mousse cake. In the dining room, calzones spill steam that rises up towards framed jerseys, signed photos of athletes, and 5 flat screen TVs. An ample salad bar offers tasty greens for patrons in search of lighter bites. Outside the eatery, patrons lounge on a terrace, sipping on wine or one of the 10 beers on tap while enjoying the breeze. The Pizza Place's traditional culinary treasures earned them the title of "Best Pizza Place 2009" in The Placer Herald.