Though Brucci's Pizza owner Bruce Jackson was born in Syracuse, New York, his grandparents hail from Italy, and he grew up feasting on Italian recipes that had been passed down through generations. At his restaurant, the chefs follow the same timeworn recipes as his grandparents when dishing up Italian favorites with a New York–style flair. They whip up lasagna layered with meatballs and italian sausage, grill paninis, and hand-toss housemade dough for pizzas, strombolis, and calzones. Their specialty pies include the Brooklyn—topped with diced tomatoes and fresh basil—and the Syracuse Stuffer—laden with sausage, beef, pepperoni, and ham, as well as green peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
But Brucci's Pizza is more than just an eatery—it's also a gathering place. In addition to weekly specials, the three locations host regular events. The Ponte Vedra and Fruit Cove locations host a Monday kids' night, and the West Beaches location facilitates live music twice a week, played by bands that are not made up of animatronic rodents. The chefs also issue a standing challenge: if any guest can devour a double-thick, 16-inch Fuhgeddaboudit pizza—smothered in seven toppings and gobs of extra cheese—within an hour, it's on the house.
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.
When diners at Vinny's Italian Restaurant and NY Pizzeria bite into a slice of hot, cheesy pizza, they can rest assured that they are noshing on the genuine article. That's because the pies here are crafted by former Big Apple residents who know how to calibrate the crust, sauce, and toppings just so. And for those who prefer to sample the entrees of the old country, there are plenty of pasta, veal, and seafood dishes on the menu as well. Deli subs come cold or hot, and 12-inch stromboli get baked over the Statue of Liberty's torch.
Inside Giuliano's Italian Restaurant, George Gjergj and Leonard Gjergji's family recipes guide them as they stuff shells with ricotta cheese, sauté shrimp in homemade marinara sauce, and drizzle merlot reduction onto char-grilled filet mignon. Specialty pizzas marry ingredients such as grilled chicken and pesto or sliced steak and sautéed onions. A bottomless lunch buffet brims with slices of pizza like the description of a third grader’s dream job, and calzones slice open to reveal ricotta and ham.