Ever since Sam Wolfinbarger opened up his downstairs bar in the early '40s, Sam's Cellar has been a favorite watering hole among happy hour crowds, strangers passing through, and neighborhood regulars alike. Guests sip frosty draft glasses and bottles of beer as they dine on wood-fired pizzas, oven-baked penne pastas, and light chicken wraps.
To replicate the thin-crust pies found in New York's Italian-American neighborhoods, Giovanni's chefs make everything from scratch and bake their five-borough recreations atop a toasted hearthstone. They load their slices with layers of fresh mozzarella and an eclectic mix of toppings. Tables, draped in classic red-and-white checkered cloths, buckle under the weight of the pies, including the Coney Island piled with freshwater clams, garlic, and spices.
In addition to baking circular eats, the cooks marinate Sicilian-style chicken in extra-virgin olive oil and herbs before fire-roasting it on the rotisserie. Forks excavate the lasagna's layers, burrowing through strata of imported pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and housemade tomato sauce, to unearth hearty pieces of meat or veggies.
Gambino's Pizza, an eatery with locations in five states, makes a pizza for nearly every palate. German pizzas with sauerkraut, taco pizzas, and even dessert pizzas with fruit and frosting are but a few of the specialties that cooks fashion on regular or low-carb crusts. They also prepare pasta dishes, crisp salads, and hefty sub sandwiches.
Every bite of hand-stretched, mozzarella-covered crust at Sbarro can trace its roots back to Naples, Italy. It was there that the Sbarro family began its rich culinary tradition, and when Gennaro and Carmela Sbarro came to America, they brought that tradition with them. In search of the American Dream, the pair opened their first salumeria in Brooklyn in 1956. And the neighborhood took notice. The homemade mozzarella and flavorful sausage soon earned the grocery a reputation for having fresh, authentic Italian food, a reputation that helped the Sbarros pepper New York with additional locations over the next decade. Then, in 1967, they established their first mall-based restaurant inside the Kings Plaza Shopping Center. With its open kitchen and speedy service, that eatery laid the groundwork for what would become one of the world's most popular pizzerias.
Today, Sbarro has grown into more than 1,000 restaurants across the globe. At each, chefs decorate their New York-style pizzas with everything from mushrooms and sausage to pineapple and broccoli, along with sauce made on-site using fresh herbs. And while Sbarro serves more than 70 million pizzas every year?enough to make pepperoni one of agriculture's most lucrative cash crops?they also craft other Italian favorites from recipes that have been passed down since 1947.
Three crusts are the foundation of the experience at Mr. Bigg’s Pizza. St. Louis–style thin crust can support pies such as the mexican with its seasoned beef, diced green pepper, and a specially blended sauce. Thick crust can burden the load of the Bigg’s meat pizza and all its sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, and bacon toppings. And the kicker, hand-tossed New York–style pizza, might sport the toppings of the veggie pizza—mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, and tomatoes.
Though the pizza roster forms the central pillar of the menu, it’s not alone. Pasta dishes, such as baked mostaccioli and lasagna, complement non-Italian food, including a chicken bacon ranch sandwich. And drinks contrast the pizza selection, too. From draft and bottled beer to wine and specialty cocktails, the libation list has thirsty throats covered.
If guests would rather not stare at one of the big-screen TVs that adorn a wall in each dining room, they can eat their pasta and sip their wine on the patio where picnic tables and a fish-populated fountain surround cobblestone walkways.
People wage wars at Springfield's Incredible Pizza Company—against other drivers on the go-kart track and the limits of their own stomachs at the buffet. The funporium’s buffet—featuring more than 100 items—centers on pizza, including original, thin, and deep-pan crust (gluten-free upon request) crowned with more than 30 toppings. Verdant greens and freshly made dressings await visitors at the popular salad bar, and the baked-potato station comes with every necessity for side-dish construction, from cheese to the bacon bits from which bacon is built. A variety of sauces enliven the buffet’s fettuccine and spaghetti noodles, and homestyle eats on offer include hot dogs and frito pie.
In the indoor adventure park, meanwhile, gamers zip around a track in two varieties of go-karts—the stock-car speed and the slower Busch speed—as announcers report each turn. Visitors also can instigate harmless car crashes in the bumper-car area or spend five frames toppling pins during mini bowling.