Founded in 1983 as a delivery-focused business, Pinocchio's Pizza began crafting New York–style pizzas in its current high-ceilinged home three years ago. As topping-strewn pies and house-made pastas travel from the kitchen into the wood-paneled dining room, guests monitor nearby flat-screen TVs tuned to football and professional staring leagues and sip wine and beer in a semi-enclosed arched bar area. As the notes of live jazz float over tables on Saturday nights, private shindigs take place in a nearby banquet room, where chandeliers look down benevolently at special events.
Johnny Rockets' menu and kids’ menu win a lot of awards, particularly for fresh, never-frozen hamburgers. Chase them with fries and onion rings and wash it all down with a fountain drink such as a deluxe hand-dipped oreo cookies and cream shake, root beer float, or flavored soda pop (cherry or vanilla). If you're more partial to poultry, Johnny Rockets also offers grilled chicken breast sandwiches and crispy chicken club salads. Johnny Rockets' cream and red Eisenhower-era décor, tabletop jukeboxes, and smiling, dancing servers make it feel like an Archie comic (but not the issue where Archie gets drafted).
Bella’s Gourmet Pizza's menu features fresh, simple-yet-inventive pizzas and Italian fare. Many starters are shareable, including fire-toasted mozzarella bread ($5) and house-made hot spinach-garlic cheese dip ($6). After piquing an appetite, move on to Bella’s pies, which come in three sizes. Cheese pizzas ($8 small, $11 medium, $14 large) can be clothed in extra toppings ($1 each small, $1.50 each medium, $2 each large), or you can forgo the customization experience for one of the many pre-concocted specialty discs ($11 small, $16 medium, $20 large). The Hawaiian pizza pays pineappled tribute to the islands’ marinara-spewing volcanoes, and the perfect primo forces ham, pepperoni, bell peppers, and red onions onto a doughy dance floor. Bella’s Gourmet Pizza also serves up daily slices ($3 regular, $4 specialty) and is open until 3 a.m. Thursday–Saturday.
How many awards can a pizza win? Apparently all of them, if it was crafted at Avanti Cafe. Since it first started spinning dough in 1987, the restaurant's gourmet wood-fired pizzas have earned accolades from outlets including Pasadena Magazine and a thumbs-up from famed food critic Elmer Dills. The secret to each slice's success lies in how the pies are made—gently crisped in an imported Italian wood-burning oven that imparts a smoky flavor to the crust. California-centric toppings, such as glazed apples, tiger shrimp, duck sausage, and shiitake mushrooms, provide the finishing touch.
Avanti's tasteful touch extends to other Italian staples as well. Chefs toss chicken and seasonal vegetables into pastas that, like the pizzas, can be made gluten-free upon request; they also fold up savory calzones. The warming cuisine is complemented by a selection of international wines and beers, as well as espresso drinks to fuel second or third helpings.
Though most people are familiar with brick-oven and stone-hearth pizza, not many know about slices cooked in the Italian Cuppone Giotto oven. That's because this oven is the newest addition to the pizza-preparing lineup. It sends electric heat to pies as they revolve atop the oven's rotating stone base to ensure pizzas are evenly cooked in just a few minutes. There's only one spot in North America the deploys this bake-smart piece of technology: Brothers' Pies n' Fries.
There, the trio of brothers load ovens with pizzas layered with traditional toppings such as sausage, jalapenos, and pineapple. They pair slices and whole pizzas with batches of hand-cut boardwalk fries seasoned with a choice of spices and sauces. These flavorful additions include everything from pub-staples such as malt and vinegar, pizza fixings, or the brothers' special seasoning that's as sweet and salty as a grizzled sea captain after charm school.