Drivers leaving Famous Pizza Express wait for their cars to fill with aromatic steam that hints at the contents of warm boxes. The vapors suggest pastas, calzones, and pizzas crowned with toppings including breaded chicken, meatballs, broccoli, and fresh garlic. Massive trays of chicken parmigiana and gnocchi are ideal for feeding partygoers or convincing an IRS auditor that you really do have 11 dependent Italian grandmothers.
In 1909, Frank Pepe immigrated to the United States from his native town of Maiori, Italy. He was poor, illiterate, and just 16 years old—but he had a strong work ethic. After a stint in a New Haven factory and service as an Italian solider in World War I, he settled down for good in New Haven with his wife, Filomena, and started a bakery delivery service. But because he couldn’t read, he had trouble deciphering the orders. So he started having his customers come to him, and in 1925, he and Filomena added a simple item to the menu: Neapolitan-style pizzas.
To this day, the staff still heats up coal-fired ovens to bake the original tomato pies that Frank and Filomena first made famous. They can also add toppings such as bacon, Italian-imported anchovies, and house-roasted red peppers to their pizzas, or create specialty pies such as their signature white clam with olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. Diners can pair their pies with Pepe’s salad, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, or have the server tap draft brews such as Sam Adams Boston Lager and Peroni. They’ve served Foxon Park soda since 1925, so diners can request bottles of cream soda or diet white-birch beer made from only the sveltest birch trees.
Replicating the boisterous atmosphere and hearty repasts of traditional Italian hearths, Patricia's of Tremont piles plates with familial favorites from the pages of the multifaceted menu. Patricia's dough decathletes pound out a personalized dinner discus from an array of pizza possibilities, with entries including the Patricia, an eponymous, olive and asparagus-laden pie ($9.75–$18), gas-cooked or wood-fired to diner specifications.
Jazzeria owner Matt Criscuolo Jr. has been hanging out at pizzerias since he was 6 years old. After emigrating from Italy, his father opened a pizzeria where the entire family worked, giving little Matt an up-close look at the business of turning his mom’s recipes into feasts fit for the old country. Inspired both by his family’s livelihood and his passion for jazz, Criscuolo began his own pizzeria, where he now puts his more than 30 years of pizza-slinging experience to work each day.
Inspired both by family recipes and lessons he learns on his yearly trips to Amalfi, Italy, Jazzeria’s dishes derive their flavors from authentic Italian ingredients. Hand-tossed pizza dough transforms into pies including pesto pizza or the pescatore pizza topped with a trio of baby clams, roasted garlic, and bacon. Diners can enjoy dishes named after jazz greats—such as Lady Day’s Bolognese pasta—or grab a calzone to stuff in their pockets for later. In addition to housing tasty bites of the Mediterranean, Jazzeria locations live up to their name with live jazz performances three times a week.
The Rocco boys' love for pizza started in the Bronx, where they worked at their father’s pizzerias from a young age. Now, brothers Joe, Mike, and Frank are continuing their family's tradition at 10 locations of their own invention—all flaunting the Planet Pizza name tag.
A man can't build such a pizza universe without some serious pies. But inspiration isn't a problem for the Planet Pizza culinary team, who've molded more than 30 toppings into about 25 specialty circles, all available on gluten-free and whole-wheat crusts. In addition to specialty pizzas, the cooks concoct other menu choices such the compo salad with baby field greens, grape tomatoes, candied walnuts, gorgonzola, and dried cranberries or the buffalo chicken wrap loaded with strips of crispy chicken, lettuce, tomato, spicy wing sauce, and chunky blue cheese dressing are more convincing than Pluto as a mature planet.
From pizza to liverwurst to breakfast scrambles, Marc's Deli and Pizza hushes stomach grumbles with a menu of classic comfort food. Savored under a flat-screen TV in a tawny booth, food tackles the heartiest of appetites. Stacks of Boar's Head meats crowd into overstuffed sandwiches and wraps, which are complemented by housemade macaroni salad, coleslaw, potato salad, or a big slice of build-your-own pizza. The catering menu's Seafood Treasures top plates with shrimp parmesan and poached Norwegian salmon that, like pirate's treasure, can be turned into a statement necklace.