Husband and wife Angel and James are Partners in Cake. Angel takes care of the baking, while James takes care of the decorating and crafting scenes with fondant and gum paste. Completely self-taught, Angel accumulated a wealth of skills while studying under her mother in the kitchen. James, the master sculptor, draws inspiration from his days as a childhood Play-Doh aficionado. Friends encouraged the two to practice their pastry hobby fulltime, and when their creative forces meet, the two craft custom cakes for all occasions, including weddings and graduations. Their creations include edible 3D renditions of intergalactic robot R2D2, the Statue of Liberty, and Michael Jordan's shoe from Space Jam, which was easier to recreate than his heart of gold. At the heart of each creation are pillowy layers of cake in flavors such as red velvet, banana, and lemon zest, with fillings such as cream cheese, coconut cream, and lemon curd.
With parents hailing from Sicily and Naples, Anthony Russo enjoyed an Italian upbringing. By age 12, he spent much of his time in the kitchen, learning to prepare Old World recipes with his family and family friends. And from the flurry of Italian phrases and conversation, one quote of his father's stuck with him most: "If you can't make it fresh, don't serve it!"
Several decades later, Anthony has hand-tossed his own Italian restaurant franchise and, true to his father's words, employs fresh ingredients in the same family recipes that were passed down to him. Amid exposed brick and walls the warm hue of marinara, skilled chefs craft New York–style brick-oven pizzas with toppings such as spinach, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Servers stand ready to answer questions about the restaurant’s wine lists, letting guests know which wines pair best with the Pizzotto sandwich or whether pinot noir can really turn dogs invisible.
Tommaso's Italian Grill warms bellies with a menu of American favorites and pizzas concocted from house-made dough and freshly made sauces. The chefs hand-toss dough ($7+ for cheese and one topping) and artfully decorate disks with jalapeño, hamburger, and spinach ($1.25+/topping) before hanging them on the back diners' chairs. Between bites of hot wings ($5.99 for seven), guests can solicit investment advice from a collection of sage bobbleheads on a windowsill or catch reflections of a double meat burger ($6.99) on the surface of a hanging disco ball. Augment a selection of pastas ($7.99+) with homemade sauces—such as simple garlic and olive oil or a protein-rich meat sauce—and top dishes off with a pair of meatballs ($2) or a sextet of shrimp ($4).
The sub-making professionals at Quiznos design a menu stacked with an expansive selection of speedy snacks, including soups and salads. A fleet of classic subs ($4.49–$7.29) waits to dive into mouths, as do flatbread sammies ($3) and chopped salads ($3.19–$5.99). For a trimmer sandwich take, try the Torpedo ($4) or Bullet ($3) sizes—longer, leaner baguettes packed with yummy stuffings, from the pesto turkey's mozzarella, turkey, and basil pesto to the Italian's heaping piles of ham, salami, capicola, and pepperoni. Avoid deathbed laments to your increasingly exasperated butlers with today’s Groupon to Quiznos, providing a dependable lunch option, park-bench dinner, or appropriate meal to be seen eating at a stoplight.
Each day, the chefs at Pepperoni's Pizza's eight locations crush premium tomatoes into sauces, roll out homemade dough, then cover the freshly baked pies with natural mozzarella. Diners can build their own creations from more than 30 toppings, including bacon bits and pineapples, or opt for more than 10 specialty pizzas such as the New Yorker, smothered with heaping amounts of sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Their menu also sates hearty appetites with more than 20 oven-baked subs, as well as local favorites such as calzones and smokey BBQ Buffalo wings.
Begin your culinary journey with an order of spring rolls or cheese rolls, stuffed with raisin-studded rice paper and deep-fried (both $4.25). Classic dishes done well appease traditionalists, including spicy Tom Yum soup ($4.25–$5.25), pad Thai ($8.95), pad see eiw ($8.95), and five kinds of curry ($8.95–$9.95). Build a balanced meal with the entree and rice dishes including garlic and pepper lover ($8.95) with stir-fried meat tossed in black pepper sauce over cabbage. Diners can also pick from grilled selections ($10.95–$12.95), served with shrimp fried rice and steamed veggies. Cool off a spice-saturated palate with a sweet scoop of coconut ice cream ($3.50) for dessert. Expect friendly service, carefully curated curry, and a cozy ambiance at any of the eight outposts. Like the recipe for Play-Doh, Thai Cottage adheres to simple, timeless standards.