Chef and owner Gary Tolla selects dishes from a large rolodex of family Italian recipes to fill out the menu at Tolla’s Italian Restaurant. Veal and chicken receive the parmigiana, marsala, and piccata treatments, and raviolis are stuffed with cheese to create little pillowy pockets almost identical to actual dollhouse pillows. A selection of wine helps wash down hot and cold subs or pizzas concocted from shareable 12-inch disks or personal 10-inch crusts. On Friday and Saturday evenings, live entertainment—from bands to a Rat Pack balloon artist—entertains patrons inside the eatery.
Voted best pizza in town by the Orlando Sentinel for seven years in a row, Pizzeria Valdiano unleashes a welcome avalanche of dough, cheese, tomato paste, and freestyle-snowboarding cherry peppers upon the burgundy-boothed slopes of the restaurant’s interior. The pie-centric menu democratically offers a motorcade of non-pie starters such as fried mozzarella ($4.95) and garlic-bread parmigiana ($3.75) to take down those who lack the drive to take a piece of the cheesy disc. Try an artichoke-hearty pizza Fiorentina ($9.50 for 10", $16.95 for 16"), a peppery pizza piccante ($9.50/$16.95), or a pizza stella ($10.95/$17.95) with melted mozzarella, eggplant, and feta cheese.
The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to about 150 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, chefs assemble grilled and deli-style hoagies and bake calzones and pizzas in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 50 microbrewed beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.
Not every pizza place has a Wall of Fame, let alone a Wall of Shame. Pizza Xtreme, however, entreats customers with a dare that echoes its name: eat all 7 pounds of a one-topping, jumbo pie with the help of just one friend, and you've won the 28" Challenge. The rules demand that you get it all down in less than an hour, though, and as the Wall of Shame and pile of half-eaten pies testifies, this is no easy feat.
The kitchen team accommodates the more gastronomically reserved by making single servings of hand-tossed pizza, which it decorates with toppings such as italian sausage, grilled chicken, smoked gouda, and crumbled eggs. Chefs also bake specialty pies and non-pizza goodness, such as calzones, cube-shaped tomatoes, customizable pasta dishes, and oven-baked ciabatta sandwiches such as the pesto-strewn turkey artichoke. Pizza Xtreme’s staff also pours out a selection of wine and beer to complement the food.
Joseph and Efren Boglio grew up in a Northern Italian town near Torino, raised by a mother locally renowned for her cooking abilities. Although the brothers loved the double-crusted, ricotta-stuffed pizza that she made every Easter, it wasn't until they moved across the ocean to Chicago that they realized just how special it was. Unable to find an equivalent after eating their way through local pizzerias and hunting pizzas in the wild, they opened Giordano's in 1974 with the goal of recreating the savory pie from their childhood. They've adapted their style over the years, but the concept has stayed the same: thick layers of mozzarella submerged in rich tomato sauce and served in a shallow bowl of golden dough. Diners can add ingredients such as spinach, sausage, or shrimp. Even though the Giordano’s deep-dish empire has expanded to Florida, its menu retains its old-country stamp with cuisine such as juicy italian beef and housemade meatballs.