At L'Allegria, founders Saverio and Giovanni Allocca seek to transport diners to an al fresco Mediterranean courtyard with their authentic cuisine and decor that evokes a breezy villa. The menu brims with classic italian pastas and succulent veal dishes, made with hormone-free meats. Extensive wine lists complement entrees with dozens of varietals from Italy and California.
Patrons sit upon floral-patterned chairs in the high-ceilinged dining room, amid beige walls and exposed brick. At times, a pianist's melodies reverberate throughout the eatery, relaxing diners and reminding the walls' paintings of a simpler time when they were young, impressionable canvases.
The dough wizards at Papa John's Pizza hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
A native of Chianti, Tuscany, La Focaccia's chef and proprietor Joe Bitici brought a slice of the old country to his home in Summit, New Jersey, with this Tuscan-style trattoria. Though he moved to the States at the age of 14, Joe learned to cook beside his mother and grandmother, gleaning recipes for pasta and authentic sauce. These early lessons are on full display at La Focaccia, where housemade pastas bolster a menu that balances the conventional, such as linguine with white clam sauce, and the exotic, such as black spaghettini—a dish that blends squid-ink-darkened noodles with spicy sauce and seafood. Shrimp-and-truffle-oil risotto and marinated game hen headline the seafood and meat options, but guests are advised to try a variety of dishes—the eclectic menu gives a number of choices to the regulars who visit multiple times a week. Aside from the gelati, La Focaccia's desserts are also made in-house and include tiramisu and chocolate mousse. Populated with tables swathed in white linens, La Focaccia's dining room pairs minimalistic floral decor with a snug floor plan that enhances the neighborhood feel. Though the eatery does not serve its own adult beverages, guests are welcome to enjoy drinks from their own bottles or moonshine distilleries as they dine.
Classic Northern Italian specialties such as black-ink tagliarini and veal scaloppini bring Fiorino Ristorante’s Renaissance-style fresco murals a bit closer to the 21st century. The menu features antipasti—try the almond-crusted calamari with saffron aioli—as well as pastas and artfully plated meat and seafood dishes. All pair well with varietals from the cellar and the dining room’s wine library. Chocolate Grand Marnier molten cake with hazelnut gelato and vanilla anglaise makes for sweet endings to meals, and the festive, singles-oriented bar is a good place to enjoy a postmeal cocktail with a date or a premeal drink with a likeminded drink coaster.
Serving up Italian/American food favorites?including spaghetti and meatballs, steaks, burgers, to seafood pasta?has been Pete's Tavern's calling since 1966. One of the eatery's more popular items, however, are an Italian twist on sliders. Created in the kitchen by owner Todd Simonds after a busy night, the mini burgers combine the first three things that the hungry Simonds could find: a meatball, a mozzarella-topped garlic knot, and marinara sauce. If meatballs aren't your thing, that's OK?you can swap them for sausages, eggplant, breaded chicken, or pepperoni.
Beyond Tomato Pie of Morristown's French door façade, chefs mix fresh ingredients into a menu of signature pizzas and homemade Italian favorites. For starters, diced chicken and mozzarella cheese sing a duet in lightly fried balls of arborio rice served with marinara, or a chorus of Italian cheeses, meats, peppers, and beans rattle the antipasti platter with trilling operatic arias. To complement the Grandma pie's spread of gooey cheese and tomatoes over a crisp, rectangular crust, the circular tomato pie hosts hearty tomatoes and a selection of toppings ($2 each) such as artichokes, bacon, and sweet peppers. For dessert, rich slices of Nutella pie recall the sweet flavors of Italy's chocolate mountain ranges, and a sextet of zeppoles tops balls of deep-fried dough with spackles of fine powdered sugar.