With parents hailing from Sicily and Naples, Anthony Russo enjoyed an Italian upbringing. By age 12, he spent much of his time in the kitchen, learning to prepare Old World recipes with his family and family friends. And from the flurry of Italian phrases and conversation, one quote of his father's stuck with him most: "If you can't make it fresh, don't serve it!"
Several decades later, Anthony has hand-tossed his own Italian restaurant franchise and, true to his father's words, employs fresh ingredients in the same family recipes that were passed down to him. Amid exposed brick and walls the warm hue of marinara, skilled chefs craft New York–style brick-oven pizzas with toppings such as spinach, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Servers stand ready to answer questions about the restaurant’s wine lists, letting guests know which wines pair best with the Pizzotto sandwich or whether pinot noir can really turn dogs invisible.
Tommaso's Italian Grill warms bellies with a menu of American favorites and pizzas concocted from house-made dough and freshly made sauces. The chefs hand-toss dough ($7+ for cheese and one topping) and artfully decorate disks with jalapeño, hamburger, and spinach ($1.25+/topping) before hanging them on the back diners' chairs. Between bites of hot wings ($5.99 for seven), guests can solicit investment advice from a collection of sage bobbleheads on a windowsill or catch reflections of a double meat burger ($6.99) on the surface of a hanging disco ball. Augment a selection of pastas ($7.99+) with homemade sauces—such as simple garlic and olive oil or a protein-rich meat sauce—and top dishes off with a pair of meatballs ($2) or a sextet of shrimp ($4).
The sub-making professionals at Quiznos design a menu stacked with an expansive selection of speedy snacks, including soups and salads. A fleet of classic subs ($4.49–$7.29) waits to dive into mouths, as do flatbread sammies ($3) and chopped salads ($3.19–$5.99). For a trimmer sandwich take, try the Torpedo ($4) or Bullet ($3) sizes—longer, leaner baguettes packed with yummy stuffings, from the pesto turkey's mozzarella, turkey, and basil pesto to the Italian's heaping piles of ham, salami, capicola, and pepperoni. Avoid deathbed laments to your increasingly exasperated butlers with today’s Groupon to Quiznos, providing a dependable lunch option, park-bench dinner, or appropriate meal to be seen eating at a stoplight.
Hailing from humble beginnings in a renovated Mississippian gas station, McAlister's Deli has revolutionized the concept of fast food with healthy fare recognized by Parents in 2009. Premium ingredients, such as Black Angus roast beef and black forest ham, pile upon stuffed potatoes or artisan bread, sating hungers and silencing stomachs before they recite bank-account numbers. As patrons wait for servers to deliver meals, they sip signature sweet tea, swirled together onsite daily from pure cane sugar and a rainforest-certified black-tea blend as dictated by a closely guarded recipe.
Known for its award-winning margaritas, Don Julio’s also wins guests over at several Texas locations with a variety of Mexican specialties, including guacamole made tableside. The chefs take pride in using fresh chicken, housemade chipotle sauce, seafood bought fresh at local Kemah markets, and a hearty amount of beans and avocado to flavor dishes. Entrees take their names from various Mexican cities, such as the Puerto Vallarta—a combination of enchiladas, tacos, tamales, and puffed chili con queso.