Chefs cook handmade meatballs, the scent of spices and beef mingling in the kitchen at Lomonte’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria. Certain dishes, such as mussels or crab claws, are available only when in season, guaranteeing that they're fresh and that they match holiday decorations. White wine simmers in skillets on the stove, its dry essence cooking down into a sauce for veal and chicken, and onions caramelize in nearby pans. Chefs sprinkle the golden onions over deep-dish pizzas with italian sausage. The snap of opening bottles floats from vessels of Peroni and Moretti, and the beer list also includes domestic brews such as organic Sam Smith lager. The wine list, like a U.N. delegate trying to move a futon, enlists help from around the world, with choices including Italian chianti and New Zealand chardonnay.
Familial warmth is at the core of Lanie and Alex Ciocca’s quaint Italian restaurant in historic downtown Richmond. A wedding photo of the brother-and-sister team’s parents greets visitors to Italian Maid Cafe—chosen because of their mother's nickname—but it’s the menu of comforting Italian cuisine that truly introduces diners to the Ciocca experience. Growing up in Pittsburgh, the pair dined on pasta and sauces made by hand, and their dishes afford customers the same luxury. Chef Alex sautés veal scaloppini with red onions, mushrooms, and wine, and he marinates the Southwestern-inspired Italian-lime chicken breast in lime vinaigrette before grilling it and giving it a massage with cilantro sauce. The kitchen's rotating selection of specials and housemade desserts always presents tasty complements to cappuccinos and lattes.
Each day, the chefs at Pepperoni's Pizza's eight locations crush premium tomatoes into sauces, roll out homemade dough, then cover the freshly baked pies with natural mozzarella. Diners can build their own creations from more than 30 toppings, including bacon bits and pineapples, or opt for more than 10 specialty pizzas such as the New Yorker, smothered with heaping amounts of sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Their menu also sates hearty appetites with more than 20 oven-baked subs, as well as local favorites such as calzones and smokey BBQ Buffalo wings.
Sitting inside Bombay Pizza Company, owner Viral Patel watched the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, waiting alongside family and friends for a mention of his Slumdog pizza, a fusion of Indian and Italian flavors. After the 30-second spot, the restaurant erupted into a standing ovation.
Patel's journey to that moment first began when he quit his job in restaurant management to travel around India learning how to cook. Hoping to one day open a restaurant of his own, Patel returned to the United States and became interested in pizza, buying his own pizza stone and experimenting with new recipes, which fused Indian flavors with the traditionally Italian pies. He opened Bombay Pizza Company with the help of his mother, Sonali, who also inspired the Sonu's Rita pizza, which combines house-made cilantro-mint chutney with a margarita pizza. Soon after the restaurant opened, it was awarded Houston Press's Best Pizza in 2010. In addition to pizza, the menu features Indian street fare such as the kati roll with tandoori chicken and paneer and traditional Italian dishes such as lasagna and chicken parmagiana.
Today, Bombay Pizza Company has two locations, the original in Houston and a second, larger location in Sugar Land. Both eateries feature saffron-hued walls, the soft glow of Thomas Edison–style filament light bulbs, and photos of Bombay residents performing daily activities including washing clothes, fishing, and playing chess. The Sugar Land location also features an outdoor patio, microbrews on tap, and a private dining area.
The Russo family moved from Italy to New York in 1964, and from New York to Texas in 1978, carrying with them time-honored culinary techniques imported straight from the old country. Anthony Russo has worked side by side with family members and Italian chefs since the age of 12, learning to prepares salads, pastas, and pizzas from only the freshest of ingredients. Anthony's love for his family's cooking grew into a lucrative business, with Russo's Coal Fired Italian Kitchen restaurants and Russo's New York Pizzerias popping up all over the American South.
Like a cookie decorated with Lady Liberty's Social Security Number, Russo's pizza is an edible souvenir of the Big Apple, introducing palates to the thin, crispy brick-oven pies that helped make New York cuisine world famous. In between bites of basil-, anchovy-, and meatball-crowned pizzas, diners feast on baked ziti, lobster ravioli, and tortellini carbonara, as well as oven-cooked flatbread sandwiches and toasted calzones.
With parents hailing from Sicily and Naples, Anthony Russo enjoyed an Italian upbringing. By age 12, he spent much of his time in the kitchen, learning to prepare Old World recipes with his family and family friends. And from the flurry of Italian phrases and conversation, one quote of his father's stuck with him most: "If you can't make it fresh, don't serve it!"
Several decades later, Anthony has hand-tossed his own Italian restaurant franchise and, true to his father's words, employs fresh ingredients in the same family recipes that were passed down to him. Amid exposed brick and walls the warm hue of marinara, skilled chefs craft New York–style brick-oven pizzas with toppings such as spinach, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Servers stand ready to answer questions about the restaurant’s wine lists, letting guests know which wines pair best with the pizzotto sandwich or whether pinot noir can really turn dogs invisible.