Rulli’s culinarians dish up pizzas, pasta, and seafood dishes born from recipes central to southern Italy, serving patrons in their 25-year-old dining area at their Middlebury location or at their newest spot in Elkhart. A range of appetizers, such as 12 broaster-style chicken wings accompanied by dunk tanks of barbecue, ranch, or vidalia onion sauce, pave the way for heartier main courses or Stooge-level food fights. Velvety ricotta, parmigiana, romano, and provonello cheeses comprise the lasagna’s melty strata, which trundle italian sausage toward forks on fragrant avalanches of marinara and signature sauce. Rulli’s pizza, which has been served at the Elkhart County Fair for two decades, bristles with inventive toppings such as spaghetti and meatballs.
Vivid Italian artwork and murals from local artist Rocky Weaver pepper the dining room, a delightful prelude to the neighboring Rulli's Bella Luna sports bar’s fun neon signage, clacking pool balls, flickering high-definition TVs, and live music. Foam-flecked taps line the full-service bar boasting a selection of robust wines, which nicely complement rowdy bands wailing or grape stomping live atop a well-appointed stage.
The terms “coward” and “brave” are neither insults nor compliments at Bangkok Place Thai Restaurant; rather, they signify the level of spiciness a customer can handle. Chef Keo Phannavong and his wife Ann helm the casual eatery, where Keo brings 20 years of experience—and a slew of his mother’s recipes—to the kitchen. Using fresh ingredients, such as basil leaves, lemon grass, coconut milk, and chili, the master chef concocts a wide range of authentic Thai dishes that pack as little or as much spice as the patron desires or can trick his date into eating. The restaurant offers familiar Thai favorites, such as pad thai and tom yum soup, as well as some more obscure entrees, such as pla jien—a steamed fish topped with ginger and baby corn.
Whenever an adult purchases an entree at select restaurants, a child younger than age 12 dines free thanks to The Kids Club Card—an innovative pass that helps families save money when eating out. Participating eateries, such as Applebee’s, Dairy Queen, and T.G.I. Friday's, offer a variety of tastes for patrons who might have otherwise avoided restaurant prices by staying home and eating porridge. Local charities also benefit from the pass, receiving a cut of its proceeds when it's sold in their communities.
The hardwood lanes of Country Club Lanes invite amateurs and pros alike to wreak havoc on unsuspecting pins seven nights a week. The alley features bumpers for younger athletes and hosts special glow bowling for those looking to mix up their game or discover new T-shirt lint constellations under the shine of black lights. Strike after strike, spare after spare, players can refuel at the onsite snack stand, which distributes ice-cold refreshments and lighter handheld fare.
Samuel Mancino's Italianate empire extends throughout the Midwest, each outpost stocked with a menu of fresh-baked grinders and pizzas loaded with hearty ingredients. A troika of ham, hard salami, and spicy italian sausage powers the signature italian grinder ($6.49 for an 8"), spurred on to its task of filling bellies by green pepper, onion, and melted mozzarella. Mancino's chefs toss dough by hand to give it a fluffy texture and one bittersweet taste of freedom before it meets its fate as a foundation for pizzas laden with fresh, gourmet toppings such as chicken and garlic, or ham, bacon, and pineapple ($15.99+ for a large). For dessert, piping-hot breadsticks return in sugary eveningwear as sweet Cinna-Stix ($5.99).
General Manager Nino Porpiglia oversees his family’s culinary legacy, laying out his mother’s traditional Italian-American feasts in the restaurant building built by his father more than 20 years ago. Hearty plates of veal, chicken, fish, steak, and pasta come flanked with house-made bread, and Old World sweets, including tiramisu and spumoni, add pleasing punctuation to dinner’s end. A wine list featuring more than 25 wines by the bottle details vintages ranging from J.J. Muller’s steadfast riesling to Joseph Phelps cabernet sauvignon ’05, which boasts a 90-point rating from Wine Spectator. Inside the romance-tinged dining room, painted murals of San Roberto and Fiumara stand guard as the bar’s signature martinis add glitter to conversations held from the comfort of red leather chairs.