Café Corleone's cooks transport the rich culinary landscape of Sicily to the United States through mouthwatering Italian pizzas, pastas, and desserts served in a warmly lit space. Head chef Alongi dazzles taste buds with a menu of seafood, steaks, and flavorful sauces made from seasonal ingredients. Inside, pictures of old Italy pepper the walls and tables frame house-made pizzas and elegant desserts with a dressy-casual outfit of checkered tablecloth. In addition to enrapturing palates with plates of fresh Sicilian fare, Café Corleone keeps eardrums entertained with live music from Ron Nardo and Terry Anfuso, who delight audiences each Saturday night with their renditions of jazz standards, Rat Pack hits, and dubsteb remixes of The Sound of Music soundtrack.
When owner Frank White took over this Downey eatery—then called Granata's Italian Restaurant—in 2011, the Granata family had already been serving Italian cuisine there for more than 54 years, according to the Downey Patriot. Today, White still plucks recipes from the family cookbook but has also added his own touch with a new menu of hot and cold Spanish-style tapas. Made with gourmet ingredients such as fresh clams, spanish piquillo peppers, and rich serrano ham, the new plates are small enough to be shared with friends or slingshotted spitefully at enemies. The chefs also use locally sourced ingredients for classic Italian meals whenever possible, festooning linguine carbonara with fresh sweet peas and veal parmigiana with rich tomato sauce.
In the renovated dining area, blue pendant lamps light the full bar and surrounding cherry-wood tables and chairs. Flat-screen TVs share wall space with murals of the Venetian canals where Leonardo da Vinci first learned to jet ski.
When it came time for the team at Johnny Carino’s to come up with some new recipes, they began rifling through their personal cooking histories. Executive chef Chris Peitersen took his first kitchen job at a barbecue joint when he was 14, so he was primed to create italian baby back ribs. By infusing brown sugar barbecue sauce with balsamic vinegar imported from Modena, he’s given the marinade a more acidic bite than typical barbecue sauces. As the ribs slowly roast and char on an oak grill, he bastes on his creation before finishing the dish with a dusting of parmesan.
The ribs are one of Carino’s many menu items that follow the restaurants’ approach of classic Italian preparations modified by forward-thinking flavor combinations. Diners will find a Black Angus burger capped with mozzarella and fried pepperoni, or sautéed tilapia spiced with garlic and jalapeño. Other signature dishes include the 16-layer lasagna, Skilletinis that sizzle with spaghetti and a choice of meat, and tiramisu made from scratch.
Extreme Pizza's topping tycoons devise an innovative spread of ingredient combinations, forging distinctive tastes among a lineup of gourmet pizzas, creative salads, and zesty sides. Palates carefully balance the sweet-and-salty notes of the Paia pie, whose canadian bacon, pineapple, and mandarin-orange slices proffer a more flavorful taste of Hawaii than a molten-lava mai tai. Meanwhile, the Asian-inspired Hanoi Fever pie decks out dough with shredded pork soused in spicy hoisin sauce, peanuts, jalapeños, and fresh cilantro, and the Poultry Geist spreads ranch-marinated chicken over a bed of four cheeses sizzling with broccoli, red onions, and fresh sage. Bite-size wings wallow in a choice of four spicy or sweet sauces, and Extremely Twisted sticks imbue bready morsels with two types of cheese beneath oregano and fresh garlic. Otherwise, forks and pocket-sized bulldozers can unearth savory goodies found within a range of herbivorous ingenuities, such as a vegetarian-friendly caesar salad or the Wobbs salad, which nestles smoked bacon, grilled chicken, and sliced tomatoes in a bed of chopped lettuce and gorgonzola cheese.
Though Michael’s on Naples serves authentic Italian dishes, the team doesn’t rely on imported ingredients. Instead, they makes their own pastas, sausage, and mozzarella each day, and pick herbs and seasonal veggies from the rooftop garden. This home-grown approach is a no-brainer considering the owner's background: before entering the restaurant business, Michael Dene used to bottle his own sauces to give as gifts to his New York neighbors. Inside the kitchen, chef David Coleman brings the menu to life using local and organic components whenever possible. As such, many dishes change with the season, but offerings typically include delicacies such as whole-grilled Mediterranean sea bass with artichokes, and oxtail-stuffed pasta with brown butter and breadcrumbs. Conversely, the wine list focuses primarily on Italian varietals. Should the 16-page collection prove dizzying, undecided patrons can find a perfect wine by completing a brief magazine quiz or by asking General Manager––and wine expert––Massimo Aronne for a recommendation.
At the bright and cozy Canadian Pizza & Grill, many of the pizzas are served in twos. Working in accordance with their regular “2-for-1” deal, cooks bake up pairs of pies fresh, tossing twin 10-inch, 12-inch, or 14-inch circles of dough with imaginative specialty toppings like chorizo, ham and pineapple, or Canadian bacon. They outfit both pizzas in sturdy cardboard boxes and matching "It's a Boy!" bonnets, peddling them to customers for the price of one. When they're not whipping up pizza duos, the kitchen staff turns their attention to other pizzeria classics, including crunchy foot-long subs, plump wings, and grilled philly steak sandwiches. They also prepare a variety of two-person pasta dinners that include meat lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and fettuccine alfredo.