At L'Allegria, founders Saverio and Giovanni Allocca seek to transport diners to an al fresco Mediterranean courtyard with their authentic cuisine and decor that evokes a breezy villa. The menu brims with classic italian pastas and succulent veal dishes, made with hormone-free meats. Extensive wine lists complement entrees with dozens of varietals from Italy and California.
Patrons sit upon floral-patterned chairs in the high-ceilinged dining room, amid beige walls and exposed brick. At times, a pianist's melodies reverberate throughout the eatery, relaxing diners and reminding the walls' paintings of a simpler time when they were young, impressionable canvases.
The dough wizards at Papa John's Pizza hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
Tortellini. Strawberries. Chicken marsala. You'd normally find these foods on porcelain dishware, not on top of pizzas. At Pizza Oven Mamma Mia, however, they're essential toppings to some of the eatery's most popular pies. In fact, at their glassed-in display counter, you might even see these unorthodox toppings all mingling on the same tray?a slice of penne-vodka pizza next to a slice with broccoli and onions. The rest of the menu is a bit more traditional (eggplant panini at lunch, veal parmigiana at dinner), but you can always end your meal with another of Mamma Mia's unique slices: Nutella dessert pizza with those aforementioned strawberries. Other favorites include Sicilian rice balls, fresh meatballs, breaded chicken cutlets, fresh-made sauce, stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant, ravioli and Italian sausage, and more.
At his namesake restaurant, Chef Ricci prepares his Italian cuisine from the highest-quality ingredients available using authentic cooking techniques. He packs each handcrafted lunch and dinner dish with flavor, from crabmeat-stuffed portobello mushrooms and homemade cavatelli to any of the chef's special entrees, such as veal florentine or the broccoli rabe tossed with shrimp or sausage by Leonardo da Vinci’s ghost. For hand-held eats, Ricci stacks a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, which pair such meats as genoa salami and prosciutto with the distinct flavors of imported sharp provolone and roasted red peppers.
A native of Chianti, Tuscany, La Focaccia's chef and proprietor Joe Bitici brought a slice of the old country to his home in Summit, New Jersey, with this Tuscan-style trattoria. Though he moved to the States at the age of 14, Joe learned to cook beside his mother and grandmother, gleaning recipes for pasta and authentic sauce. These early lessons are on full display at La Focaccia, where housemade pastas bolster a menu that balances the conventional, such as linguine with white clam sauce, and the exotic, such as black spaghettini—a dish that blends squid-ink-darkened noodles with spicy sauce and seafood. Shrimp-and-truffle-oil risotto and marinated game hen headline the seafood and meat options, but guests are advised to try a variety of dishes—the eclectic menu gives a number of choices to the regulars who visit multiple times a week. Aside from the gelati, La Focaccia's desserts are also made in-house and include tiramisu and chocolate mousse. Populated with tables swathed in white linens, La Focaccia's dining room pairs minimalistic floral decor with a snug floor plan that enhances the neighborhood feel. Though the eatery does not serve its own adult beverages, guests are welcome to enjoy drinks from their own bottles or moonshine distilleries as they dine.
Classic Northern Italian specialties such as black-ink tagliarini and veal scaloppini bring Fiorino Ristorante’s Renaissance-style fresco murals a bit closer to the 21st century. The menu features antipasti—try the almond-crusted calamari with saffron aioli—as well as pastas and artfully plated meat and seafood dishes. All pair well with varietals from the cellar and the dining room’s wine library. Chocolate Grand Marnier molten cake with hazelnut gelato and vanilla anglaise makes for sweet endings to meals, and the festive, singles-oriented bar is a good place to enjoy a postmeal cocktail with a date or a premeal drink with a likeminded drink coaster.