Mellow Mushroom, in the Tinseltown shopping Center on Jacksonville’s south side, is a psychedelic wonder that overflows with twisty overhead pipes, murals of colorful mushrooms, oak flooring, deep burgundy booths and giant mushroom sculptures. Specialty pizzas are the order of the day here, with options like the Magical Mystery Tour and the Kosmic Karma, served with sun-dried tomatoes, feta and a pesto swirl. Customers can also build their own pizzas, or opt for salads, calzones and hoagies, while fungi favorites like mushroom soup and a stuffed Portobello stay true to theme. Mellow Mushroom even caters to the vegetarian and vegan with vegan cheese, tempeh and tofu pizzas and salads, plus a gluten-free option by request.
Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza, on Jacksonville’s south side, is a quintessential local spot. With its butcher block counter, black bar stools and exhibition brick oven, patrons can even watch the chef make their pie, which might be the Veggie Heaven (tomatoes, arugula, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, shredded carrots, onion, bell pepper, olive oil) one night or The Brumos (pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, bacon, ham) the next. Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza also has a wide variety of salads, appetizers, calzones and hot sandwiches, and offers pizza by the slice for fast-casual lunchers on the go. Plain flooring and black tables lend to a casual pizzeria vibe, while staff is equally laid back.
La Cena Ristorante, a fine dining restaurant in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, is a cozy spot for intimate conversations and delicious food. It's a well-hidden gem with an extensive wine bar, burnt sienna textured walls and a downstairs main dining room that has only a few tables. Pastas and sauce are made fresh daily, and the skinny breadsticks and gorgonzola salad are local favorites. The menu is large and complex, and includes little side notes, jokes and anecdotes on everything from why parmesan isn’t served tableside to the fee for splitting an entrée. Dishes like the chicken scallopine, spaghetti carbonara and puttanesca make it obvious why downtowners flock to this Italian eatery. La Cena offers a flourless chocolate mosse, an extensive Italian wine list and an owner/chef who will alter dishes based on dietary restrictions.
Perard’s Pizza and Italian Cuisine on Jacksonville’s west side is often considered one of the best pizza places in town. A small, down-to-earth space, the restaurant is well lit, with tile flooring and black laminate tables. There’s a tiny bar space as well, but most folks just order at the counter up front before hunkering down in the casual dining room, within view of the big screen TVs. Typical Italian offerings include garlic knots, antipasto and Stromboli, alongside reasonably priced manicotti, ravioli and calamari dishes. But at Perard’s, the pizza is the draw. There are two styles on offer: the hand-tossed New York-style thin crust or the medium thick crust pizza. The toppings themselves are nearly endless, including local favorite The Goat pizza, made with marinara sauce and goat cheese. And if you’re in the mood, beer and wines are available by the glass.
In the early 1900s, when firewood was a valuable commodity, a resourceful baker's head sprung a light bulb: why not try coal? Hence was born a different kind of pizza––one with a smoky, barbequed flavor and the pure heart of a coal miner's daughter. Pompeii Coal Fired Pizza takes this idea and gives it a modern pep talk, marrying oak wood and Pennsylvania-shipped anthracite coal to bake up new old-style pizzas in a stifling 850-degree brick oven.
Electricity takes a vacation as these furnaces evenly smoke thickly-sauced pastas, deli-style sandwiches, and house-made pizza dough. If Italy's anthem doesn't ring in your ears after eating golden focaccia bread and Italian-imported ingredients, you can grab a gondola oar and help the chef pound out a night's worth of juicy 8-ounce burgers.
White linen tablecloths dot the cozy dining room at Enza’s Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville’s Southside neighborhood, while the noisier bar section behind the wall features booths, a large black glossy table and ample bar seating. The gleaming Italian tile, deep burgundy wall treatments and granite bar make this Italian joint a place that feels like coming home to The Beautiful Country. Open since 2004, the menu sports a host of classics like chicken parmesan and veal picatta while offering a pleasing hybrid of inventive dishes like seafood lasagna and fried ravioli. A host of appetizers, salads and desserts are standard fare, the ample entrées arrive on gleaming white platters and a warmed bread basket magically keeps reappearing tableside. Don’t leave without trying the tiramisu.