The pizza purveyors at Sorrento's sling thin-crust pies into a brick oven in between assembling noncircular savories such as hot grinders and calzones. An appetizer of fried dough jump-starts gustatory glands with an accompaniment of powdered sugar and cinnamon or savory marinara sauce ($4.95). Anchor levitating dinner tables with the 12-inch house special, which is a topping-heavy pizza that bears pepperoni, meatballs, sausage, bacon, and chopped vegetables ($10.95). Mouths can admire the 12-inch mozzarella pizza ($7.50) uncovered or conceal its bareness with a choice of regular or premium toppings that include sausage, eggplant, hot peppers, crispy chicken, and clams ($1.25 each). Sorrento's culinary artisans also craft hot grinders into five different flavors of parmigiana, such as veal ($5.50+) and eggplant ($4.95+).
The Stone and Paddle’s California-style thin-crust pizzas acquire their subtle crunch while baking atop a hot stone in a 600-degree oven. Gourmet toppings such as hot sausage, shrimp and artichoke, and spinach and gorgonzola grace the pies, which share table space with flatbread sandwiches that are also stone-baked. Though chefs must return nightly to the steel-encased bunker where they safeguard their secret dough recipe, guests can enjoy a new location in Rocky Hill, linger on the shaded patio at the Vernon location or watch sports on Manchester's flat-screen TVs.
For more than four decades, one family has passed down the tradition of crowd-pleasing pizzas, grinders, and pastas. Hartford Road Pizza owner Greg Procaccini claims the honor of the pizza-making paterfamilias from both his father and his uncle Mike, who recently retired after a long career of Italian cookery at Hartford Road’s affiliate, Gino’s Pizza. Greg continues his family’s proud tradition with plates of stuffed-shell pasta, tender veal parmigiana, and pizzas crowned with toppings such as hamburger, anchovies, eggplant, ricotta, and pineapple. Each meal stays as close to home as possible, with hearty grinders and saucy meatballs sourced from local meats when available, and traditional dishes such as the housemade pasta fagioli soup made from time-tested family recipes.
Entertainment is important in Hartford Road Cafe. Weekly events include jazz open-mic nights on Sundays, trivia on Tuesdays, and performances from local bands on Thursdays and Fridays. To accompany these feasts for the ears, the caf? offers a full menu of casual American cuisine, which includes bacon-wrapped scallops baked in a sherry-maple-butter sauce and pesto-topped salmon served over seasoned risotto and asparagus.
Father-and-son team Daniel and Louis Fiore start with local produce and imported Italian cheeses when crafting their recipes for Aldo Pizza’s pies. Louis draws on his classical training as a chef to perfect specialty pizzas such as the Hawaii 5-0 and The New Yorker, the latter of which he tops with roasted garlic, plum tomatoes, and esoteric comic strips. Along with their flagship pizzas, the Fiores craft traditional Italian dishes such as genoa salami grinders and chicken parmesan to serve in their homey cottage storefront or deliver for free throughout the Manchester area.
Owner Randy Price curates a creative menu of New Haven–style "apizza" in more than 30 styles. His team crafts fresh dough daily using unbleached flour, creates sauce from handpicked italian and chilean tomatoes, and sprinkles pies with cheese from home-schooled cows. The famous Challenger—a 22-inch pizza stuffed with a mélange of vegetables and meats that weigh in at nearly 10 pounds—presents the hungriest visitors with a challenge to conquer the hot wheel in an hour or less, a feat that has earned a place on the Travel Channel's Man Vs. Food roster of surmounted food battles.