The brother-sister team behind Rudino's Pizza and Grinders opened the eatery's first location in 1995 in Cary, North Carolina. They wanted to create a restaurant that incorporated an onsite bakery into its design, keeping the kitchen full of fresh, housemade dough for pizzas and sandwiches. It was a concept that proved successful, and now Rudino's has locations all across the country.
In these kitchens, cooks coat crusts with a sauce based on the duo's family recipe, and then layer on any number of ingredients?including fresh basil, jalape?os, and bacon. They also slide open-faced grinders into ovens after loading them with such sandwich fixings as italian sausage, salami, and fresh vegetables, which are never frozen, canned, or taken from a neighbor's crisper.
Keith Dartez and Shannon Landry got the entrepreneurial itch after logging 50 combined years of experience in the pizza industry. After they decided to go into business for themselves, they soon decided they didn?t want to create a run of the mill pizza joint. They exercised their creativity, incorporating tried-and-true Cajun recipes into traditional pizzeria dishes. The fusion of flavors manifests in Cajun Pizza Place, where the duo top thin-crust pizza with Cajun staples such as shrimp, barbecue chicken, and spicy jalapenos, sided with Cajun favorites such as muffulettas and fried shrimp po-boys. The spicy kick of the hot-smoked sausages and gumbo can be cooled with seven varieties of draft beer or a hug from an icy polar bear.
The chefs at Hill Country Pasta House have no quarrel with traditional Italian food—they whip up as mean a chicken rigatoni as anybody. But mastering classic Italian cooking is a mere stepping stone toward the restaurant's standout fusions of Italian and southwestern flavors. Besides tossing grilled chicken with jalapeño fettuccine and tequila cream sauce, the culinary team lends an extra kick to shrimp diablo by stuffing each bacon-wrapped crustacean with serrano peppers.
A serrano salsa likewise spices up the aptly named serrano pizza, but Hill Country's wood-fired pizzas can also host more common toppings, such as wine mushrooms. In addition to grain-heavy eats, gluten-free options are also available.
At The Brick Oven on 35th, which has run under its current owners since 2000, grains from around the world pervade the crusts of 10 signature pizzas baked in wood-fired brick ovens, and housemade bread accompanies pasta plates such as baked spinach ravioli. All-natural, range-free chicken and beef adorn dishes, and the staff also concocts vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free pies and entrees. Feasters can savor their Italian treats while sitting amid white tablecloths in the indoor dining room, luxuriating on the outdoor patio, or in the middle of a high-speed gondola pursuit via delivery and catering services.
Hang Town's menu lists an array of diner fare, including burgers, salads, and pizzas, over which newcomers oft flash back to making eyes at high-school sweeties and wanton french fries. Each of Hang Town's burgers ($5.50–$7) is made from 100% ground chuck, and unless you specify otherwise, your burger is prepared medium-well. Try the classic Hang Town burger; or opt for something less Aristotle and more Epicurus, such as the Southwestern-inspired green-chile cheeseburger (with chipotle mayo, green chiles, and jack cheese) or a savory veggie burger. More handhelds include such sandwiches as grilled tuna (yellowfin tuna steak with pesto-ranch dressing, $8.25) and the Hang Town chicken sandwich (dill-pickle slices on boneless chicken breast, $6.25).
In Italy, a "sagra" is a festival where a community comes together in celebration of a local ingredient or dish?a tradition that fits Gabriel Pellegrini's enoteca and trattoria in both spirit and practice. Classic, bistro-style Italian cuisine joins local, Texan ingredients to create an entire menu worthy of commemoration. But that isn't to say all the ingredients are local?house-cured meats accent plates of handmade pasta, and imported Mediterranean cheeses join house-made mozzarella atop hand-stretched neapolitan pizzas bubbling gold in a wood-burning stove.
Shaking up Italian Tradition
Pellegrini's dedication to craft and quality carries over into the bar at Sagra. Shelves brim with liqueurs, grappas, and wines imported from Italy, but the bartenders grow their own herbs, make their own bitters, and infuse syrups and spirits in-house for cocktails such as the La Roma, a rye Manhattan infused with orange-flower peel.