Linguini, penne, spaghetti, and fettuccini—the chefs at Carolina’s Italian Restaurant have been preparing pasta in its many incarnations for more than three decades. But their time-tested cooking techniques aren't the only reason for the robust flavors in their classic Italian cuisine. Ingredients are delivered five times a week, ensuring that each tomato is as fresh as the day its life coach finally coaxed it off the stem. Quality seafood and meats such as Atlantic salmon and new york steak put a finishing touch on many entrees.
After diners polish off their meals, they can indulge in a dessert such as housemade tiramisu or cannoli drizzled with chocolate syrup. Then, they can lean back and admire the wall murals of Italian countryside and verandas, or watch confused airplanes circle the ceiling's painted blue sky.
At Georgio's Pizza & Subs, the Meat Lovers pizza has to contend with the Athena: a pesto-covered disk decked in roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, eggplant, feta cheese, and pine nuts. The Athena is just one of four vegetarian combinations that share menu space with 10 other specialty pies, such as the barbecue chicken and the classic margherita. Though their topping options span a wide spectrum, all of them lie atop hand-spun, housemade dough.
The word housemade permeates much of the Italian menu, preceding several of its pasta sauces, the meatballs in its submarine sandwiches, and the breadsticks in its appetizer section. Salads, calzones, and calamari constitute savory side plates, and slices of original New York–style cheesecake conclude meals with the rich decadence of some French palace.
Head Chef Ray brings more than 20 years of culinary expertise to the kitchen of Papa Pilo’s, where he champions a menu of Italian recipes that won CityVoter's Best Italian prize in 2011 and 2012. Thin-crust, New York–style pizzas don toppings such as fresh tomatoes and meatballs, and specialty pies include the breakfast pizza with eggs, bacon bits, onions, canadian bacon, and a snooze button. Papa Pilo’s also whips up dishes such as chicken parmesan, fettuccine in spicy fra diavolo sauce, and meat lasagna with ricotta, romano, and mozzarella.
Chef Luigi and the kitchen magicians at Luigis D Italia import Italian flavors to tongues with a menu of pastas, pizzas, and authentic entrees. Culinary compadres can savor the meeting of meat and grapes in the chianti-braised short ribs ($17) or hoist their forks into orecchiette pasta with house-made italian sausage ($12). When held to anxious ears, stuffed shells fill auditory canals with sounds of the Mediterranean sea and trickles of sauce ($14). White clam pizzas ($14 for small; $17 for large) motivate guests to dive for edible pearls, and meatball sandwiches ($9) cradle succulent spheres in a bready embrace. Diners can accompany meals with a bottled brew or glass of CK Mondavi white zinfandel ($5.95), and desserts (all $5) such as cannoli, tiramisu, and ice-cream tartufos encourage patrons to tap into their second stomachs.
At first glance, South Coast Pizza Parlors might look like an ordinary family pizza joint. The requisite video and redemption games chirp and ring near the entrance. Six big-screen televisions flicker with sporting events. But the difference is in the pizza--the kitchen crew crafts dough and sauce fresh every single day, drizzling pies with classic toppings such as green peppers and pepperoni, as well as more non-traditional options including vegan cheese and soy chorizo.
A disc of dough floats down from above, its trajectory halted by a pair of nimble hands. Such is the scene at Rafael's Pizza, where each pie is made to order by hand, not defrosted by a chef with very warm hugs. The staff has made pizzas this way for more than 35 years, strewing Wisconsin mozzarella and fresh veggies atop each one. Specialty dishes include the signature Rafael's Pizza with pepperoni, ham, and bacon. Diners boost their meals with plates of pasta or hot and cold subs.