OK, not your uncle. "Bob's your uncle," a century-old British slang phrase, refers to anyone with a bright future, and if Executive Chef Sal Hnesh's previous endeavors are any indication, this restaurant can most certainly count "Bob" among its kin. Renowned for his pizza, Chef Hnesh, a 30-year veteran of the Iowa City culinary scene, hurls dough sky-high before peppering fresh ingredients across thin, medium-thick, pan, or stuffed-crust pies. The menu oscillates from gourmet pizza to homestyle comfort fare such as liver and onions, goulash, shepherd's pie and roast beef served on gravy-smothered sourdough. Many gluten-free options available, as are pasta, salad, and sandwich options, all with generous portions.
With a menu loaded with pizzas and calzones, cheesy breadsticks, and flavorful wings, Gumby's ovens satisfy voracious cravings into the wee hours of the morning. The pizza makers start each day by making mounds of dough by hand, which they decorate with more than 15 inventive toppings, such as alfredo sauce, chicken tenders, and feta cheese, to create specialty pizzas and personalized pies. The same hand-tossed dough serves as a foundation for their famous Pokey Stix, which are smothered in garlic butter, Italian spices, and heaps of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then cut into strips exactly the length of Abraham Lincoln's foot. To complement the bubbling pizzas, buffalo and boneless wings can be tossed in tangy barbecue, honey mustard, sriracha, or one of four other sauces.
The lunch menu at Guido's Deli fields a reliable squad of fresh sandwiches and paninis. The American Dream sandwich celebrates life, liberty, and hungriness with roast beef, ham, smoked turkey, and a choice of cheese ($3.50–$7). Eight paninis populate the menu, one for each president who could pat his head while rubbing his stomach. The Naturalist unites portobello mushrooms and roasted red peppers with caramelized onions, artichoke spread, and tomatoes on a whole-wheat platform, and the Italian brings together disparate deliciousness in the form of capicola, salami, mortadella, provolone, and roasted red peppers ($3.50–$7). The caprese panini, like the first Roman recipe books, binds volumes of fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and a fresh basil or spinach pesto spread ($3.75 small/$7.50 large) and makes a fine companion for a glass of freshly brewed iced tea ($1.50).
Lorraine Williams is a firm believer in the power of positive energy. That's why she consulted a feng shui expert in China while designing her restaurant and why she named that restaurant after the Italian word for 12—the number around which we structure time, measurements, and music. Cafe Dodici has since thrived under her influence, attracting diners from far and wide with its good vibes and Italian meals. The Iowan even estimates that 85% of its visitors are from out of town, and recounts how an Illinois couple has stayed in the upstairs guest suite for Valentine's day for the last four years.
The menu keeps its dishes simple, steering clear of ingredients that tend to overwhelm the palate, such as salt, garlic, and Junior Mints. Instead, the kitchen lets its clove- and nutmeg-spiced tomato sauce speak for itself. In the sugo di carne, the sauce covers ground beef and pork mixed with tagliatelle pasta, but you can also order it as part of a classic: house-made meatballs and spaghetti. Other entrees include spinach- and gouda-stuffed chicken roulades, a roasted half-duck in an orange-rosemary glaze, and lobster-stuffed ravioli. And, should you stop by before dinnertime, the café serves lunch sandwiches as well as baked goods and coffee in its adjoining shop.
In the wake of the Iowa flood of 2008, the building on 303 2nd Street, formerly the space of Sluggers, was gutted and vacant for 17 months until the team at Monica's rented it in November 2010 and slowly began the rebuilding process. They also renovated the space into two dining rooms and added an expanded patio. Classic '50s tunes suffuse all of Monica's dining spaces, including its main room. Both renovated rooms entice diners with the aromas of Italian cuisine and American comfort fare crafted by head chef Rod Bowman and his team. Bowman, who has held court at several eateries throughout the Midwest, serves up such Italian favorites as lasagna, lobster fettucine, and angel hair pasta with seafood or chicken. Meanwhile, hearty American fare such as beef stroganoff, chicken pot pie, and scalloped potatoes and ham delights patriotic palates even more than the kiss each citizen receives from Benjamin Franklin's ghost on the Fourth of July. A selection of premium salads, such as the champagne fruit salad, as well as a full menu page of sandwiches, served on fresh bread or as paninis, rounds out the offerings, which also include open-flame oven-baked pizzas named for local basketball legends and mac n' cheese.