Roberto Rosa first discovered his love of cooking at age 13, when he began learning recipes from his grandmother Antonia. Two decades later, the owner of Antonia’s Cucina Italiana shares his love of all Italian fare, transforming chicken, seafood, veal, and house-made pasta into colorful dishes during lunch and dinner. Across the three locations, décor and amenities vary, from outdoor seating to exposed brick walls and checkered floors where diners can settle arguments over who pays the bill with games of human chess.
3 Olives specializes in pastas and seafood made in the traditional Italian fashion, but it also offers some modern twists. Pork chops brined in root beer and covered in a root-beer barbecue sauce are carried to tables, as are dishes such as chicken smothered with bacon poblano gravy and brick oven pizzas.
Each dish is also a lesson in creative presentation. Coal black shells are steamed open in order to reveal pearls of mussel meat, and sprigs of mint accompany creamy sorbets. 3 Olives offers family style dinners with live jazz music on Friday and Saturday nights. During Sunday brunch, live jazz music floats around the dining room.
At Bolli Bros. Pizza, brothers Kevin and Mark Bollinger pile their handmade dough with 100% whole-milk mozzarella and eclectic comfort-food combinations. They scoop gooey homemade macaroni and cheese onto crusts and shower the Bollisagna pizza with penne noodles, just as ancient Romans did to their most popular emperors. Other creative concoctions include the Frito Pie pizza weighed down with homemade chili, crunchy Fritos, cheddar, and mozzarella. Kevin and Mark continue their made-from-scratch concept with desserts, where cheesecake flavors such as Reese’s peanut butter and triple chocolate fill housemade graham-cracker crusts.
Though Anthony Russo's chain of pizzerias has evolved greatly from the single Italian restaurant he first opened in the early 1990s, he still remembers what his father always said, "If you can't make it fresh, don't serve it." Anthony's father manned a restaurant in New York after immigrating from Italy, and it is his approach and recipes that Anthony uses at Russo's New York Pizzeria.
Given Anthony's inspirations, it's not surprising that the menu is more thoughtful than one might expect at a pizzeria. Meals might begin with a plate of roasted prosciutto, which, along with sweet basil, is wrapped around hunks of fresh buffalo mozzarella. The chefs stir housemade pesto into bowls of penne pasta salad with chicken, and layer lasagna with braised beef and a Chianti-braised meat sauce.
Of course, Russo's specialty is pizza, which comes in a diverse selection of styles. Floppy New York slices or crispy, coal-fired Neapolitan pies are perfect for single servings, and groups can tackle a brick-oven specialty pizza. Options include the Mulberry, which comes with italian sausage, pepperoni, canadian bacon, hamburger, and a sense of accomplishment after eating every type of meat known to man.
Rocco's Italian Restaurant whips up a menu of authentic, home-cooked Italian cuisines set in a friendly, hospitable atmosphere of enticing eats. Chef Rocco, who originates from Southern Italy, brings his culinary skills to grubbing guests with a plethora of Italian delectables that are sealed with Italian love taken from an overflowing jar of a grandmother's captured kisses. Tantalize tummies with an appetizer of fried ravioli ($7.99) or bruschetta ($9.99), please palates with the tortellini alla pann—made with cheese-filled noodles topped with a light creamy sauce and mushrooms and prosciutto ($12.99–$13.99)—or swaddle souls with a savory treat as the chicken casalinga ($13.99–$15.50) with peppers, onions, mushrooms, marinara sauce, and Italian spices.
During the surfing craze of 1959, Straw Hat Pizza presented a lighter version of the hearty Italian-American snack that caught on with the swimsuit set in San Leandro, a small town on San Francisco Bay. The crust's layers were flaky and crisp, and bubbling under a blend of six naturally-aged cheeses and spoonfuls of fresh sauce. Salad bars appeared at the chain a decade later, reflecting the epoch's free-love ethos that encouraged communion between animals and vegetables. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, having come a long way from the quirky kitchen that slung beer, screened old-time movies, and showcased local banjo bands.
Today, the cold beer still flows from the bars at each location, and the menu now features pasta and Hot Hat sandwiches, pizza-dough pockets enveloping hearty fillings such as meatballs or roast beef. Tomatoes are hand-sorted to give sauce a consistent texture and full, ripe flavor, and wheat is grown according to Italian tradition, in volcanic soil or bowls of mom's pasta set at least 4,500 feet above sea level. Staying abreast of health and ecological concerns, the company manufactures boxes and napkins from recycled materials, and keeps trans fats out of its menu.