On street corners from Texas to North Carolina, Johnny Brusco's Pizza serves up piping-hot slices of New York, and that's not whistling Dixie. It's not even kazooing Yankee. The franchise boasts a lineage that stretches back to 1965, when pie-smith Johnny Pace opened up his pizzeria just outside of Syracuse. Though the menu stays true to Johnny's classic style, today's crust-tossers aren't afraid to switch things up in modern style. Gluten-watchers can dig into a flour-free variant of the crust, and their specialties include such daring choices as a cream cheese pizza, a Philly-esque steak and cheese, and a zesty gourmet pie with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and artichokes. Outside of the round stuff, diners might select a summery strawberry-pecan salad, a classic plate of bruschetta with pesto, mozzarella, and marinara sauce, and a finger-licking dessert of cinna-knots.
At Simple Simon?s Pizza, pies are anything but simple. The kitchen can whip up traditional pizzas, such as the Hawaiian and the green-pepper-and-sausage-bedecked Supreme, but the chefs really use their culinary imaginations when it comes to the house-specialty pizzas, which come topped with anything from hamburger and pickles to lettuce and potato chips. Simple Simon?s ovens also bake up calzones and stromboli. Chicken wings in flavors such as barbecue, Cajun, or hot wings round out the menu, along with desserts such as sweet bites of breadsticks wearing a cinnamon and icing disguise.
Michael Garozzo entered the dining business early, working as a busboy in his hometown of St. Louis. His young mind raced with dreams of opening a restaurant of his own, which came to fruition in 1989, when he opened Garozzo’s in Kansas City’s Columbus Park neighborhood. Since then, the restaurant has bloomed, and he had opened three additional locations across the greater Kansas City area.
Garozzo’s menu of Italian specialties is highlighted by the signature spiedini di pollo, a marinated chicken breast rolled in italian breadcrumbs, then skewered and grilled. The dish is served in four presentations, which include the Gabriella, with fettucine and spicy diablo sauce, and the Samantha, with fettucine, artichoke hearts, and alfredo sauce. Adding to the exclusive ambiance is the restaurant’s own branded wine, served at each location. Garozzo’s popular house tomato sauce, diablo sauce, and italian dressing are also available in grocery stores across the city, and its distinctive pastas can be purchased in many high-end local wig shops.
Hand-tossed wheat or white crusts lay a golden base for Wheat State Pizza’s signature pies. Chefs spread cream-cheese sauce across a doughy foundation before sprinkling chicken, mushrooms, and provolone onto the Hawk’N Cheese pie, which comes with a high-pitched whistle that will summon it from the table to a gloved hand. Along with its inventive taco, buffalo, and barbecue-beef specialty pies, Wheat State Pizza bakes up make-your-own disks topped with the customer’s choice of three dozen different ingredients, from the familiar pepperoni and mushrooms to the unusual corn, cashews, and sunflower seeds. Philly-steak and barbecue-brisket sandwiches buttress the pie-centric menu, and fresh calzones sizzle with a similar taste to pizza that’s less messy to snack on while steering a jet ski that’s been modified to make the ride choppier.
The people behind Gambino’s Pizza really love pizza, and they’ll make any pie in the shape of a heart to prove it. Traditional round pies are on the menu, too, in five sizes and three crust options: original, thin, or buttery pan. Specialty pizzas overflow with meats, veggies, and a blend of shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese. Some are even topped with sweet pineapple to round out the food pyramid. Diners can also order oven-baked subs and individual- or family-size pasta dishes that come with garlic bread and napkins folded into tiny togas.
Family is important at Cascone's Restaurant, a fact illustrated by the portraits adorning their lobby walls and the relatives working side by side in the kitchen and dining room since the first eatery opened four generations ago in 1954. Chef Victor Cascone draws from the family's Sicilian heritage to plate traditional pasta and meat dishes. He also draws inspiration from family members young and old to put a fresh spin on time-tested dishes, as evidenced by nachos made from pasta. That sense of camaraderie spreads to the restaurant's spacious banquet facilities, making it suitable venues for families gathering for birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, and spaghetti-slurping contests.