As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s Pizza has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
The first Cool River Pizza opened more than 10 years ago with a mission to serve handcrafted pies made from fresh ingredients and California cheese in a family-friendly environment. All of the dough is made fresh daily and each pizza sports Cool River's homemade sauce accented with more than seven herbs, spices, and umlauts. Over the years, Cool River Pizza has grown from a solo outfit to a family of restaurants in California and Indiana. Inside each location, televisions illuminate dining rooms packed with long wooden tables and board games for families to play while waiting for their orders.
The founding family behind Pizza Bell starts each of their pies with their grandmother's dough recipe. Whole-milk mozzarella and Pizza Bell's signature sauce then invite toppings to form such creations as the All Meat Fantastico, the Garlic Chicken Supreme, and the Spring Veggie. To augment the circular sundries, Pizza Bell keeps a salad bar stocked with a slew of fixings and serves up toasty meatball subs straight from the oven. For dessert, sweet teeth can swan dive into cinnamon sticks or apple and raspberry twisters, whose recipes were discovered by playing Chubby Checkers records backwards.
It is not just the pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas that keep guests coming back to Pete's Restaurant and Brewhouse and Original Pete's—the handcrafted beers also play a major role, quenching thirsts with flavors ranging from the Uptown blonde’s light layers of honey to the highly hoppy profile of the Skinner’s Horse IPA. Pete’s team keeps meals in balance by offering food-and-beer-pairing suggestions, assuring diners that the Midtown ale harmonizes with fish tacos and that the Old Town red—a malty, medium-bodied amber ale—improves coordination for slam-dunking meatballs.
Sings 1978, Steve's Pizza has been slinging pies and parceling out slices that have become a staple of the community. The pizzeria sticks to a simple menu of pre-imagined or customized pizzas. Folks can mix-and-match topping combos that include cilantro, smoked gouda, and artichokes, or go for something like The Steve covered with just about any type of meat you can imagine and homemade red sauce. Steve's also creates pies with certified gluten-free crusts upon request.
The kitchen staff at Cheezer’s Gourmet Pizza has made its fair share of signature White Creamy Pie pizzas since the shop opened in 1986, so staff members have the process down to a science. First, they slap together the dough and stir the homemade white, creamy garlic sauce. Then they toss the sauce onto the dough and blanket it with cheese, pepperonis, mushrooms, bacon bits, tomatoes, green onions, and one regulation-sized golf ball. Finally, they slide the entire disk into a brick oven and bake it until it bubbles.
All 19 of their pizzas receive a similar treatment, the only differences being the toppings and the type of homemade sauce, which include creamy-pesto sauce, barbecue sauce, tomato-basil sauce, and tomato sauce. They stuff the same toppings into paninis and calzones, though they wisely leave them out of the glasses they fill with draft beer.