Joseph and Efren Boglio grew up in a Northern Italian town near Torino, raised by a mother locally renowned for her cooking abilities. Although the brothers loved the double-crusted, ricotta-stuffed pizza that she made every Easter, it wasn't until they moved across the ocean to Chicago that they realized just how special it was. Unable to find an equivalent after eating their way through local pizzerias and hunting pizzas in the wild, they opened Giordano's in 1974 with the goal of recreating the savory pie from their childhood. They've adapted their style over the years, but the concept has stayed the same: thick layers of mozzarella submerged in rich tomato sauce and served in a shallow bowl of golden dough. Diners can add ingredients such as spinach, sausage, or shrimp. Even though the Giordano’s deep-dish empire has expanded to Florida, its menu retains its old-country stamp with cuisine such as juicy italian beef and housemade meatballs.
Exposed wooden archwork forms a canopy over guests as they settle into black booths with checkerboard tablecloths. Walls of bare brick add to the rustic charm of L'italiano's dining room, which pays homage to the home of its signature deep-dish and stuffed pies with plentiful pictures of Chicago and large statues of the Blues Brothers.
Though the cheerful ambiance, flat-screen TVs, and music draw patrons into L'italiano's, the chefs' hearty, Chicago–style pizzas give them reason to linger over a dessert of lactase supplements. The cheesy disks share the spotlight with Italian pastas, gourmet sandwiches, and the deep-dish's gangly cousin, the thin-crust pizza.
Domino's recently reformulated its pizza recipe, which puts the buyer in command of a plentitude of pie-personalizing possibilities. Take those new flavors for a test drive with two large one-topping pizzas, selecting from an array of tasty cheese crowns that stretch into infinity like a taffy pull in a black hole.
A celestial ceiling that gives the illusion of dining under the stars casts a romantic aura over Pacino's two-story interior, as patrons savor aromatic Italian dishes that have earned the restaurant a high recommendation from Frommer's. Toothsome family heirlooms dot the menu, with classic starters such as garlic-scented roasted mussels, or the dazzling flaming cheese ($9.99), ignited tableside by the tiny dragons servers keep in their pocket. Forks cut in for dance with the linguini carbonara that twirls on a cream dance floor with prosciutto and parmesan ($13.99). Subtly breaded slices of eggplant surround a trio of Italian cheeses in the vegetarian eggplant rollettini ($13.99), and a pork shank simmers in barolo wine in the osso bucco, a meaty Northern Italian classic ($19.99). Groups of two or four complement Old World feasts with a generous pour of wine while admiring their reflections in the restaurant's Sicilian copper grill or diving through dishes on the outdoor patio.
Supporting one's friends and neighbors is a theme at Brick & Fire Pizza Express, a neighborhood pizza joint that uses locally sourced ingredients as often as a moth kisses a lamp—whenever possible. For instance, to craft their one-of-a-kind housemade pizza dough, they mix in a batch of Orlando Brewing's Organic Red Ale. Local ingredients such as these equate to maximum freshness and flavorful brick-fired pizzas and calzones. To adorn those pizzas, the menu features more than 20 fresh toppings, including grilled ripe plantains, capicola, and meatballs.
Not every pizza place has a Wall of Fame, let alone a Wall of Shame. Pizza Xtreme, however, entreats customers with a dare that echoes its name: eat all 7 pounds of a one-topping, jumbo pie with the help of just one friend, and you've won the 28" Challenge. The rules demand that you get it all down in less than an hour, though, and as the Wall of Shame and pile of half-eaten pies testifies, this is no easy feat.
The kitchen team accommodates the more gastronomically reserved by making single servings of hand-tossed pizza, which it decorates with toppings such as italian sausage, grilled chicken, smoked gouda, and crumbled eggs. Chefs also bake specialty pies and non-pizza goodness, such as calzones, cube-shaped tomatoes, customizable pasta dishes, and oven-baked ciabatta sandwiches such as the pesto-strewn turkey artichoke. Pizza Xtreme’s staff also pours out a selection of wine and beer to complement the food.