Like chili popsicles and videos of grizzly-bear ballerinas, the simple, authentic Italian food at John's Restaurant & Pizzeria has been enjoyed for nearly 40 years due to its versatility and heartiness. Start with an order of baked clams ($9 for eight), bruschetta ($4.95), or fried zucchini sticks ($7). John's pizza starts with freshly made dough, 100-percent real part-skim mozzarella, and a fresh sauce made from California and Italian tomatoes. Try a pie topped with artichokes and sundried tomatoes ($17) or the sauce-less tomato and basil ($18). Meaty slices include the buffalo chicken ($21) or the chicken parmigiana ($21). Calzones, pastas, and heroes both hot and cold round out the menu.
At Caruso's, Italian cuisine is the star of the show. On an outdoor patio or indoor dining room, forks can be found twirling through plates of spaghetti and linguine or spearing nubs of homemade gnocchi. In the kitchen, chefs make sure to use fresh ingredients in each of their dishes, sourcing items locally when possible. Local littleneck clams made an appearance on the menu, while Long Island's own Pellegrini chardonnay and merlot can be found amidst the wine list's Italian and Californian options. Diners may also opt to recreate the restaurant experience in their own home with a take-home pie from Caruso's attached brick-oven pizzeria and white tablecloths draped over the family dog.
Passed from Andy Saldamarco to Tom DeLuca, Saldamarco’s Deli has been a fixture in the community for 33 years, and DeLuca carries on Andy's recipes as he serves up many of the same sandwiches and hot foods such as eggplant parm, chicken parm, meatballs, and sausage and peppers that have kept it a local staple. Saldamarco's was also voted #1 best Italian Deli in the 2013 Best of Shoreline Readers' Poll, #2 for best soups, and #3 for best salads. Freshness is a priority, as all salads are made fresh including tuna salad with Hellman's Mayo and the Deli grinds their own beef with no additives. Housemade roast beef adds tasty weight to soft sub rolls, and freshly cut steaks and pork roasts line the butcher's case alongside strands of housemade italian sausage that are great for grilling in the summer or exercising when a jump rope is unavailable.
In the kitchen of Nuzzo's Apizza, third-generation pizza maker Barry Nuzzo and his team of cooks prepare thin-crust New Haven-style pizzas and Sicilian-style pies layered with ricotta cheese. Patrons can choose from toppings such as bacon, clams, or red peppers roasted on-site, or opt for a specialty pie: the Eggplant Rollatine, for example, which combines eggplant, marinara, ham, ricotta, and Parmesan. The cooks also make gluten-free pizzas, pasta dishes, and submarine sandwiches.
Sonoma Grill's chefs strive to satisfy every palate by stuffing fresh, grilled veggies into homemade wraps, infusing traditional Italian-style pizzas with the smoky notes of a brick oven, and decorating hefty burgers with seven types of cheese. Sonoma's spacious, sunflower-decorated dining room maintains a family-friendly feel. A specialty kids' menu lets little ones find flavors complementary to their juice box's complex berry notes, and fully grown diners can sidle up to the 35-foot full-service bar for international wines and 10 types of specialty martinis. Sports flicker across the five plasma-screen TVs that frame the bar area, and on Friday and Saturday nights, auditory centers get an earful as live music pulsates throughout the restaurant.
The aroma of freshly baked bread often wafts from the kitchen of La Vita Gustosa, greeting guests who step through the restaurant's window-paneled doors. That scent mingles with others as chef James Wilder sautés plump, opened clams in olive oil, crushed red pepper, and white wine, braises bone-in pork shank for tender osso bucco, and drizzles balsamic glaze over hand-cut new york strip steaks. Rich sauces cling to strands of linguini and orecchiette "ears," and fresh produce from local farms tops New Haven–style thin-crust pizzas.
After enjoying a meal at the eatery, whose polished wood bar complements sunny yellow walls, one Hartford Courant writer described La Vita Gustosa's ambiance as "classy, romantic, casual, warm and inviting." In warm weather, diners can relax on an outdoor patio with a clear view of Connecticut River and Goodspeed Opera Theater. Live bands, dance parties, and spontaneous reenactments of Broadway musicals keep the fun going long after dinner has ended.