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.
The chefs at FalconesPizza can cater to any pizza palate. Depending on a customer's personal tastes, they toss crusts that are hearty and thick or as thin as the parchment from which Leonardo da Vinci placed his first take-out order. Toppings, too, range from traditional flavors, such as the pesto, garlic, tomatoes, and fresh basil that make up the Napoli, to the inventive combination atop the shrimp pizza, which pairs succulent seafood with chorizo, pepperoni, and onions. Italian meats such as mortadella and capacolla join fresh mozzarella on salads and sandwiches, and family-style trays of baked ziti or lasagna keep large groups from taking over a grocery store.
It begins with dough, spun at its center into a flat round disk. Next comes the marinara––sweet red sauce ladled evenly across the pie’s surface and topped with handfuls of shredded mozzarella. Finally, the best part: Bella's more than 20 toppings, which range from artichokes and peppers to pine nuts and crispy bacon. Outside of artisan pizzas, the kitchen prepares hand-tossed salads, sandwiches, and hot wings in barbecue and buffalo flavors, which can be complemented with wine, beer, and gelato. Diners may also request Bella's catering services to feed a party or spice up a dull doctor's appointment.