The rural Irish village of Gleann Beithe stands across the ocean from Hartford, but according to the road sign inside Hanafin's Public House, it's only 18 kilometers away. Built from heavy wooden beams that gleam in the light of hanging lamps, the pub mirrors Ireland's public houses in appearance and spirit. Here, guests socialize, imbibe Irish whiskeys and draft beers, and dine on traditional Irish meals, such as corned beef and cabbage. The cooks add an American twist to tradition with dishes such as Prince Edward Island mussels in Guinness cream sauce and potato pizza topped with mashed potatoes, green onions, and aged cheddar. To entertain guests as they nosh, large screens broadcast football games and bare-handed boxing matches between major-network weathermen. The pub also holds a trivia night that won a spot on CBS Connecticut's Best Bars for Trivia Nights list.
Crust that’s at once crispy and gooey, imbued with a flavor that’s subtly smoky and fresh, with a texture that’s like a playground for the tongue—this is what brick firing gives to pizza. At Giovanni's Brick Oven Pizzeria, chefs understand that a little extra attention elevates good pizza to gourmet pizza, and so they fire their thin, New York–style crusts directly on the brick of their oven. Yet this is just a single facet to their polygonal masterpieces. Family recipes are another, bringing the results of years of experimentation to pies such as the margherita and hawaiian. Then there’s the creativity—cheeseburger pizzas covered in ketchup, mustard, ground beef, and american cheese—and the variety—25 slices available every day. These are served alongside pastas in bolognese sauce and more than 19 kinds of grinder stuffed with genoa salami and other meats.
Beer and wine, such as Lagunitas and the California red Ménage à Trois, wash down meals and add the extra dimension of pairing to pizza dinners. Guests can enjoy these inside, amid rustic Italian decorations, or on a spacious, heated patio amid fresh breezes and the moon’s attempts to hit diners’ eyes. Giovanni's also hosts special events, such as holiday parties and kids' nights, and contributes to community causes, such as schools and sports teams.
If you had passed by in 1978, you probably would have missed Vito's Pizzeria. The storefront was completely invisible from the street, an unfortunate reality that might have been the death knell for a lesser business. But the 600-square-foot, strictly-take-out pizzeria managed to survive and even thrive based solely on word of mouth.
It's been more than 30 years, and people are still talking. Thankfully, the pizzeria has expanded quite a bit in terms of space and menu. Today, Vito's chefs craft everything from deep-dish pies to Italian grinders, which, as their name suggests, taste just as good when ground up and served with a straw.
Emerging hot from the brick oven, the melted cheese of a specialty pie bubbles beneath juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, and robust garlic: this is Gina’s Brick Oven Pizza's signature pizza. And like a circus with a geriatric lion, it is tamer than it could be. That's because Gina's other specialty pies include the Buffalo chicken and BBQ chicken pizzas. No matter which pizza is ordered, the cooks take care to evenly distribute the toppings throughout the entire thing. The kitchen also sends out jumbo burgers, Philly cheesesteaks and chicken sandwiches, which pair with the four beers on tap.
Pans of house-made lasagna and specialty pizzas bake in the ovens at Valenti's Pizzeria, filling the kitchen with aromas of Italian herbs, spices, and melting cheeses. Servers deliver more than 20 varieties of giant hot or cold grinders measuring up to 16 inches and stuffed with chicken parmesan, pastrami, or genoa salami. The team also prepares sundry specialty Rockefeller pizzas, which, like the Rockefeller family crest, display baby clams, butter sauce, and bacon. Staff members also carefully wrap linguine with clam sauce and chicken and broccoli alfredo for carryout or free delivery with a $10 minimum order.