As a boy, Bob Quintana’s first bite of pizza came fresh from the kitchen of his Italian neighbors, the Marones. Inspired by the authentic taste, he and his family began baking their own pies with herbs and tomatoes from their garden. Bob’s early encounters with Italian food burgeoned into a career at various local pizzerias, which eventually led him to open Li’l Nick’s Pizza with his wife in 1978.
Named for his then two-year-old son, the eatery was truly a family affair, with Bob's mom Ruby in the kitchen whipping up italian sausage. Today, Bob and now-adult Nick continue to rule the restaurant, where staff members create sauce, dough, and meatballs from scratch. Though their menu still flaunts staple pizzas, pasta, and sandwiches, it has expanded to also encompass Mexican tacos and burritos. The eats fuel conversation in two dining rooms, as well as at a recently installed bar with a 60-inch flatscreen TV filled with 60-inch-tall actors.
Vinnola’s Italian Market quashes midday hunger grumblings with a café menu of hot and cold sandwiches, pizzas, and Italian specialties. Newly wedded cheese and sauce emerge from their oven honeymoon on slices of pepperoni or sausage pizza ($1.99). The hearty lasagna provides a multilayered pasta dance floor for taste-bud tap dances ($5.95), and grilled homemade focaccia takes center stage in the paninis, with backup flavors of prosciutto, salami, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers, basil pesto, and bags of chips ($6.99). Classic italian sodas and Pepsi products refresh palates and carbonate mealtimes with a range of old-school flavors. Give postlunch activities a sweet edge with one of Vinnola’s cannoli, prepared in the traditional Italian, Bavarian, and Pistachian styles ($2.35 each).
With a signature pizza size called the Monster, you’d expect Pudge Brothers Pizza to be more focused on quantity than quality. But in fact, the chefs create their signature varieties of hand-tossed pies by blending together the flavors of three sauces, a range of meats, and fresh veggies. From within sizzling ovens, chefs pull out creations such as the Jersey Girl—a pizza featuring italian sausage and green peppers—or the White Delight—a ham, chicken, and garlic-sauce combination. Pies range in size from 10 inches to 18 inches, with a range of garlic bread, wings, and cinnamon bread to fill in a meal. The shop also offers delivery service, ensuring clients can have a hot, hearty meal when time is short or when the paparazzi won’t leave their front yard.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
Under the supervision of an experienced chef at Woody?s Tavern, crackling logs not only give pizza dough a crispy crunch, but also create complex, smoky flavors. Chefs top pizzas with specialty combinations, such as the California Dream's basil pesto and artichoke hearts or the Pep Pep Pepperoni's roasted poblanos and jalape?os, and use gluten-free crusts and big, round carrots for those with dietary restrictions. Customers can enjoy the slices by the pie or sample a variety at the shop?s featured all-you-can-eat salad, soup, and pizza bar. These dishes and their hearty half-pound burgers pair well with the 16 drafts on tap, award-winning wine, margaritas, and other cocktails from the bar.
The flavor maestros at 5 J's Italian Dining compose a menu of authentic Italian pastas, sandwiches, specialty pizzas, and meat-centric entrees. Diners may select an accompaniment of meatballs or sausage for classic marinara-drenched pastas, such as three-cheese ravioli ($9.50) or gnocchi ($9.99). Chefs freshly prepare 5 J's luscious lasagna ($11.99) daily, layering ground beef, sausage, ricotta, mozzarella, basil, and garlic the same way Italian fashion designers do during wintertime. Otherwise, patrons can grab hold of one of the sandwiches, including a meatball sub ($5.99) or italian beef ($5.50), or divvy up a large white pizza ($10.99), which eschews tomato sauce for a more traditional combination of mozzarella, tomatoes, and herbs.