Since its first pizzeria opened in 1978 in Palo Alto, Mountain Mike’s Pizza has stretched to encompass more than 150 restaurants throughout the West Coast. From the meat-laden Pike’s Peak to the vegetarian-friendly Mt. Veggiemore, 12 specialty pizzas—most of them named after mountains—arrive in portions from small to extra large, which can feed up to eight patrons or spark nostalgia in homesick, city-dwelling mountain goats. Diners can also choose their own conglomeration of ingredients, ranging from Louisiana-style hot links to sun-dried tomatoes, and supplement pies with an all-you-can-eat salad bar or a quintet of appetizer options including wings and jalapeño poppers.
Named for the iconic director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery gratifies grape groupies with a wide array of virtuosic vinos. Pirouette your way into the Bottling Ballet Mechanique tour for a chance to examine the winery’s bottling process, which is exactly the same process used to bottle model ships. From the huge barrels of grape soup in which wines are born to the priceless glass containers into which they’re packaged, the 45-minute tour—which takes its name from the way each bottle shimmies and pirouettes down the line—gives guests the chance to see and more fully comprehend how wine comes to take its uniformly bottle-like shape. Visitors also learn the back-stories behind the winery’s labels and take part in a palate-expanding tasting, completing the beautiful circle of libationary life.
Over the course of 20 years, Checkers Bistro's cuisine architects have designed a menu of Italian fare, constructing breads, dressings, and sauces from scratch. Sun-dried cranberries and candied walnuts burst from plump butternut-squash ravioli, slathered in shallot cream sauce, surprising its smoked-chicken roommate ($16). A Mediterranean entourage of pesto, feta, olives, and pine nuts escorts the greek pizza ($10 for 6", $13.50 for 9", $20 for 14") to a mozzarella-skirted red carpet teeming with sun-dried tomato starlets and artichoke-heart heartthrobs. Couple the prosciutto-wrapped scallops ($18) or fiery thai noodle salad ($12) with a hearty serving of Checkers' customer-lauded tomato-basil soup ($3.50 for cup, $5.25 for bowl). The elegant, airy restaurant opens into an outdoor seating area where imbibers bathe in the fruity billows of Checkers' revamped wine offerings, doled out by the glass, bottle, or 10-gallon hat.
Within the inviting milieu of a family-owned eatery, Pizza Gourmet's disc forgers bake hand-tossed pizzas topped with such epicurean ingredients as gruyere and whole roasted garlic cloves. The Five Star pizza ($15.50−$21.75) mixes it up with a blend of five cheeses including fontina, feta, and parmesan, and the elegant Barcelona pizza ($17.75−$23.95) evokes Spain’s cultural capital with seasoned chicken and artichoke hearts, brought to the table by stampeding bulls. Patrons can garnish a plain New York–style pizza ($11.50−$15.50) with a slew of sauces ($2−$3) including barbecue, ranch, or salsa; herbs and vegetables ($1−$1.50) such as cilantro, basil, and zucchini; meats ($1−$1.50); and 23 specialty toppings such as yellow squash and bleu cheese ($2−$3). Pies are available in 12-inch or 16-inch varieties and can be ordered without cheese.