The dough-twirling chefs at Nicolitalia Pizza Express handcraft a menu of Boson-style pizza from freshly made dough using Neapolitan family recipes. Take healthy bites of a premeal order of breadsticks or chicken fingers to warm jaw muscles up and provide a good excuse when pals question your malfunctioning Boston accent. A classic margherita pizza satisfies traditional taste buds with a garlicky array of tomatoes, romano cheese, and basil, while the Italian Stallion appeals to untamed tongues with a rowdy amalgamation of spinach, pepperoni, steak, garlic, mozzarella, and parmesan. Decadent mouthfuls of cannoli or the restaurant's special boston-italian cream pie propels the meal to its sweet finale, evoking lingering thoughts of vanilla-infused ricotta and childhood crushes on Cookie Monster.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Wasabi Sushi Restaurant whips up an expansive menu of sushi, sashimi, teriyaki, and other authentic Japanese fare. In specialty rolls such as the italian maki, a skilled chef conducts a harmonious orchestra of tempura, shrimp, crab, avocado, Placido Domingo, and cream cheese ($12.95). Meanwhile, the seafood yakisoba ($12.95) swims with stir-fried veggies, noodles, and four different types of seafood, and the beef teriyaki ($7.50/lunch, $12.95/dinner) comes nestled in a bed of rice and served with miso soup.
A veritable cornucopia of hands-on family entertainment, Planet Play buzzes with laser tag, bumper cars, and more than 100 video games sprawled throughout its 55,000 square feet of indoor space. Miniature-golf decorations illuminate putts under the gleam of a black light, and gamers bask in the electronic glow of pinball machines, skee-ball, or Guitar Hero in the game room. Instead of lugging around giant piles of tickets or paying exorbitant fees to deposit them in an older sibling's pocket bank, gamers can easily cash in their winnings using an e-ticket Play Card. After working up an appetite on go-kart track or the mini bowling lanes, visitors can belly up to a buffet that brims with hand-tossed pizzas, a fresh salad bar, and decadent desserts.
Live musicians play their latest tunes as the cracking of pool balls reverberates off walls lined with high-definition TVs. From top to bottom, Leatherheads Sports Bar is designed for sports fans, as evidenced by menu items such as Quarterback sliders and the Leatherheads burger: a third-pound patty with jalapeños, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli. To round out the menu, chefs grill nine other specialty burgers, hand make meatballs for subs, and stack ham, turkey, and bacon into clubhouse sandwiches named after the clubhouse at St. Andrew’s golf course, which was made out of stacked ham, turkey, and bacon. Bartenders complement these handheld meals with beer, cocktails, and wine.
At Peking Wok, supple meats and veggies sink into Mandarin- and Szechuan-style sauces crafted from scratch each day. Diners populate the dining room for lunch, dinner, or a family-style grazing session, complete with soups and appetizers such as pot stickers, egg rolls, and fried shrimp and lobster chips. Portions of aromatic barbecue pork, sweet and sour chicken, and honey-walnut shrimp arrive at tables weighed down by full wine glasses and manner-less elbows, or tucked inside to-go boxes for carry-out or delivery.
Chef Teresa Pruitt believes that one cannot think well, love well, or sleep well, if one hasn't eaten well. With this mantra in mind, and marinara running in her veins, she has blended the regional influences of Tuscany, Reggio Emilia, and Modena into her menu of Old-World Italian recipes. The dining room décor recalls an Italian piazza with white ceiling drapes like store awnings, golden sponge-painted walls, and charcoal drawings of Tuscan architecture. In the glow of enormous front windows, entrees of pasta—prepared fresh daily—are slathered with hearty sauces, and made-to-order veal and fish are sautéed in delicate wine sauces. In the kitchen, cheesy pizzas are crafted with Italian “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh buffalo mozzarella, and are released from Italian wood-fire ovens. After enjoying a scoop of freshly made gelato, diners can pinch the dining room's statue of a toga-clad woman before leaving to insure that it's not a painted spy trying to make off with the secret pesto recipe.