These purveyors of premium Italian eats buy local ingredients and prepare all dishes from scratch daily, from the sauce to the dough. Baked in a brick oven, the Who-Dat pizza ($12.95 for 14") comes loaded with apple-smoked bacon, meatballs, pepperoni, black olives, and a quizzical expression. Blossoming pie artisans can draw from a rich palette of toppings ($1 each for 14") such as anchovies, sundried tomatoes, and Italian sausage to paint personal masterpieces on plain-pizza canvases ($10.99 for 14"). Meanwhile, the crab-cake linguini ($14.95) is served with your choice of red or white sauce, allowing easy color coordination with wedding dresses and Mountie uniforms. Ensconced in the restaurant’s relaxing, rustic interior, wash down your meal with a cold domestic brew ($2.50), refreshing import or microbrew ($3.50¬–$4), or choice of house wine ($6 per glass, $20 for a bottle).
Featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Rivershack Tavern's historic 100+ year-old edifice envelops daring pub dishes and cold drinks served within a dart's throw of the Mississippi River. Classically trained chef Mike Baskind executes a robust menu that jump-starts waning taste buds with its snack-a-tizers such as fried green tomatoes ($6.75) and fierce alligator sausage ($6) that isn't afraid to talk back to mouths. Heaping sandwiches have playful monikers to delight diners and to conceal the meaty operatives' real names, such as the pastrami-filled Ben D. Rules sandwich ($9.25). A seven-sandwich-deep po' boy lineup includes crunchy delights such as a fried oyster po' boy ($11.75). The historic, worn-in setting surrounds patrons in classic wood-paneled tavern décor and entertains with its rotating calendar of live music.
At the tender age of 7, Andrea Apuzzo began honing his culinary skills at a bakery in his Italian hometown. "I was spoiled as a kid. We made our own olive oil and wine,” he says in a Gambit article. His breadth of knowledge expanded greatly when, at 14 years old, he embarked on a culinary adventure across Europe and South America. Now at the helm of his own restaurant, Chef Andrea applies the knowledge he learned amid the cream-hued rising loaves and on the chattering South American streets.
The dishes that fill tables at the eatery have been enjoyed by the likes of Queen Elizabeth, President Carter, Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, and one dog that figured out how to use a credit card. To share his abilities and experiments, the chef also publishes cookbooks, which detail formulas for the award-winning pastas, fresh seafood, and steaks. Chef Andrea's bistecca pizzaiola earned a place on Esquire's 2008 list of the 20 Best Steaks in America. "Like the best Italian dishes," the article says, "its simple parts add up to an unexpectedly powerful whole."
That’s A Wrap’s chef John Evangelista is a self-confessed control freak. To craft dishes he truly stands behind, he has to be involved in every step in the process. He and his staff brines whole turkey breasts for 24 hours, bakes hams in a special glaze of honey and brown sugar, and slow-roasts briskets dry-rubbed and marinated overnight. In John’s kitchen, no vegetables ever feel the chill of a freezer, arriving to be cut and washed every morning. The kitchen’s meticulous prep work pays off. The eatery’s wraps and sandwiches are imbued with fresh flavors devoid of preservatives and MSG. Specialty wraps such as Classic Club—a bundle of baked ham, Cajun turkey, bacon, and cheddar—pair with smoothies blended from fruits such as pineapples, mangos, strawberries, and snozberries. Flavors of steaming, housemade stew rotate daily, and salads drizzled in housemade dressing augment the roster.
O'Henrys has served baskets of complimentary salted peanuts to guests since its founding in 1982, and the floors remain whimsically festooned with shells to this day. Owner Rhonda Conley, with more than 20 years at O'Henry's under her belt, works to keep the tradition of the restaurant alive at both locations. Waiters crunch across dining rooms from midday to midnight, bearing plates of freshly ground filet mignon burgers, hearty steaks, and signature Monica cream sauce dishes. Outside, an outdoor balcony scattered with tabletops wraps around the restaurant. The eatery boasts private dining rooms for parties of up to 25 people. It also treats guests to a free new york strip steak if they can prove it's their birthday with a valid ID or by showing video tapes of them not celebrating their birthday the previous 364 days.
Though Wow Cafe & Wingery has now found a foothold in more than 60 locations throughout the U.S., the chain still offers the same tasty soul food and wings as it did when it was founded by a trio of Louisianan brothers in 2001. The friendly sports pub still broadcasts the day’s games on various televisions, allowing guests to follow multiple sports or Jenga tournaments as they lick one of 17 delectable sauces from their fingers. In addition to these finger-food staples, guests can devour fajitas, burgers resting between slices of texas toast, and classic New Orleans dishes such as gumbo, catfish, and red beans. Spice-covered tongues cool off with signature drinks such as an italian mango bellini or Louisiana's Abita beer.