The penne, spaghetti, and linguine at Pastori's Restaurant & Bar may be the only pastas that are actually imported from Italy, but every bite of manicotti and alfredo tastes authentic. Yet the Italian specialities only claim a small portion of the menu. There are also burgers and grinders, wraps and pitas, and seafood dishes, such as sea scallops tuna steak. Plus, the bar promises cocktails, beer, and wine, as well as games broadcast on TVs and regular karaoke.
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At Pizzeria DaVinci, the signature house pizza—aptly named the Da Vinci—is a vegetarian one, piled with spinach, sun-dried tomato, and feta. However, there's plenty of meat options on the pizzeria's menu, too. There are 16 thin-crust pizzas to choose from, each baked on a hot stone and topped with delicacies from baked potato fixings to clams and bacon.
Owner Randy Price curates a creative menu of New Haven–style "apizza" in more than 30 styles. His team crafts fresh dough daily using unbleached flour, creates sauce from handpicked italian and chilean tomatoes, and sprinkles pies with cheese from home-schooled cows. The famous Challenger—a 22-inch pizza stuffed with a mélange of vegetables and meats that weigh in at nearly 10 pounds—presents the hungriest visitors with a challenge to conquer the hot wheel in an hour or less, a feat that has earned a place on the Travel Channel's Man Vs. Food roster of surmounted food battles.
In 1909, Frank Pepe immigrated to the United States from his native town of Maiori, Italy. He was poor, illiterate, and just 16 years old—but he had a strong work ethic. After a stint in a New Haven factory and service as an Italian solider in World War I, he settled down for good in New Haven with his wife, Filomena, and started a bakery delivery service. But because he couldn’t read, he had trouble deciphering the orders. So he started having his customers come to him, and in 1925, he and Filomena added a simple item to the menu: Neapolitan-style pizzas.
To this day, the staff still heats up coal-fired ovens to bake the original tomato pies that Frank and Filomena first made famous. They can also add toppings such as bacon, Italian-imported anchovies, and house-roasted red peppers to their pizzas, or create specialty pies such as their signature white clam with olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. Diners can pair their pies with Pepe’s salad, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, or have the server tap draft brews such as Sam Adams Boston Lager and Peroni. They’ve served Foxon Park soda since 1925, so diners can request bottles of cream soda or diet white-birch beer made from only the sveltest birch trees.
For more than four decades, one family has passed down the tradition of crowd-pleasing pizzas, grinders, and pastas. Hartford Road Pizza owner Greg Procaccini claims the honor of the pizza-making paterfamilias from both his father and his uncle Mike, who recently retired after a long career of Italian cookery at Hartford Road’s affiliate, Gino’s Pizza. Greg continues his family’s proud tradition with plates of stuffed-shell pasta, tender veal parmigiana, and pizzas crowned with toppings such as hamburger, anchovies, eggplant, ricotta, and pineapple. Each meal stays as close to home as possible, with hearty grinders and saucy meatballs sourced from local meats when available, and traditional dishes such as the housemade pasta fagioli soup made from time-tested family recipes.
The Stone and Paddle’s California-style thin-crust pizzas acquire their subtle crunch while baking atop a hot stone in a 600-degree oven. Gourmet toppings such as hot sausage, shrimp and artichoke, and spinach and gorgonzola grace the pies, which share table space with flatbread sandwiches that are also stone-baked. Though chefs must return nightly to the steel-encased bunker where they safeguard their secret dough recipe, guests can enjoy a new location in Rocky Hill, linger on the shaded patio at the Vernon location or watch sports on Manchester's flat-screen TVs.