A trip to Portofino, Italy, changed the lives of the family behind Portofino Coal Fired Pizza. It was in that town that they learned the secrets of making spectacular pizza in a coal-fired oven, and it was because of that experience that they returned to the United States and opened up their own restaurant serving coal-fired pizzas. The crusts are topped with more than two dozen ingredients, including sliced hot cherry peppers, saut?ed broccoli rabe, coal-fired chicken, and laser-beam-heated mushrooms, before being placed into the unique oven that helped earn the eatery a Certificate of Excellence from the stomachs at TripAdvisor. Additionally, chefs hand-roll meatballs to pair with pasta dishes and build sandwiches like eggplant parmigiana, which can be paired with appetizers, salads, or soup.
More than 15 locations of Sal's Italian Ristorante grace the Florida panhandle like pepperonis on a sizzling pizza slice. In dining rooms designed to evoke the atmosphere of a small Italian village, plates of penne and linguine steam with alfredo, pink vodka, or light wine sauces. Skilled chefs sauté salmon and veal and top gourmet pizzas with shrimp, basil, and gorgonzola. House wines can be poured by the glass or carafe for the thirsty, or by the eyedropper-full for the curious.
Pastazzi's culinary crackerjacks curate a menu replete with homemade twists on traditional Italian cuisine for noshers on the go. Diners design their own edible masterpieces from many possible combinations of handcrafted pastas and fresh sauces such as penne with bolognesa, cheese ravioli with pomodoro, and gnocchi with creamy alfredo ($7.85–$10.50). Flex jaw muscles like a contestant in the world’s-strongest-jaw competition before decimating the roasted eggplant lasagna ($8.95), or the salami and manchego-cheese panini ($8.25). Mollify insurgent sweet teeth with sugary selections such as the berry tartlet ($4.95) and tiramisu, the traditional italian cake made from lady fingers and espresso whose name translates as "tiramisu" ($4.50).
The chefs at Calamari Restaurant strive to create familiar, comforting Italian foods with house-made ingredients and ocean-fresh fish. With an emphasis on seafood dishes, they grill salmon fillets and stuff lobster ravioli that the Miami New Times placed 50th on its list of 100 Favorite Dishes in 2010, calling it "the entrée that will keep you coming back for more." They also strive to recreate homemade flavors by creating their own Italian sausages and pasta, and roast pizzas in a wood-burning brick oven within sight of the dining room.
In addition to an indoor dining room, outdoor tables with checkered cloths surround a garden fountain, "evoking a seaside picnic," according to a 2009 review in the Miami Herald.
Small wrought-iron chandeliers, pendant lamps, and track fixtures bathe Focaccia Bistro's rustic-modern interior in an amber glow, illuminating towering wooden wine racks stuffed with European vintages. Though the white-clothed tables carry elegantly plated dishes of risotto, shellfish pasta, and handmade ravioli, the bistro's decor extends beyond Italy, enticing passersby with full-length front windows that evoke the aura of a 1930s-era café. French-influenced brunch consisting of croissants and baguettes further enhances the café vibe, as does the beret-sporting ghost that haunts the restrooms.
The menu at Il Corso Trattoria overflows with traditional Italian dishes, displaying examples of lasagna, filet mignon, tilapia, paninis, and brick-oven pizzas. Inside the Old World–style eatery, exposed brick columns stand tall as diners feast on chefs' gourmet handiwork and sample wines that flow straight into the restaurant via transoceanic aqueducts.