On any given day, Sarah Halterman can be found making handbags, corsets, baseball jerseys, or guitars—out of cake. Once an elementary schoolteacher, she founded Sweet Art Bakery in 2007 as an outlet for her love of custom baking. Today, she leads a team of five design assistants who help her turn 10 cake flavors such as dark chocolate, red velvet, strawberry, and spice into works of art suited to her customers' specifications and interests. She breathes life into her treats with 10 types of filling and icing, which include raspberry preserves, peanut-butter mousse, and chocolate buttercream. When not crafting custom cakes or their miniature cupcake cousins, Sarah fashions butter-citrus sugar cookies into the shapes of hats, owls, and snowmen, rolls cake balls and profiteroles, and dips strawberries in chocolate. She also leads monthly cake-decorating classes which, though geared toward beginners, also teach experienced bakers how to execute advanced kitchen moves or protect cakes from impatient guests by disguising them as scary predators.
The pizza makers at Palio's Pizza Cafe crown regular, whole-wheat, and gluten-free crusts with fresh vegetables, preservative-free sauce, and roasted chicken. Chefs take the burden of putting together the best toppings with 17 specialty pizzas that pair gourmet ingredients such as artichoke hearts, roasted chicken, and fresh basil pesto. Ovens create bubbling pies, stuffed calzones, baked ziti, and italian sub sandwiches that servers carry through both chic, cozy locations. Leather-lined booths and flat-screen televisions keep diners comfortable and entertained while they enjoy Palio's BYOB policy and sip wine or Capri Sun pouches brought from home.
Behind the brownstone façade of Cheesecake Amor Cafe & Wine Bar—a cozy eatery reminiscent of a quaint café—owners Gayle and Jeff Haynes pair signature gourmet cheesecakes and fine wines with a full menu of elegant Italian-American dishes. The warm café invites diners to curl up on a leather couch beside a flickering fire or slide their knees under polished black tables garnished by a selection of fine cheeses, pizzas, and entrees coupled with suggestions from a list of more than 60 wines. Gayle pours her passion for baking into an assortment of housemade cheesecake slices in 30 flavors, from classic New York style to liqueur and candy flavors.
Like a surname, a collection of family recipes often gets passed from one generation to the next. That's certainly the case at Brother's Pizza, which not only has a familial reference in its name, but its chefs also rely on third-generation recipes to make their authentic Italian dishes. One main draw is the restaurant's New York-style pizza, famous for its thin crust and ability to hail any cab when flung at the windshield. In 2013, it was ranked #1 in a local pizza crawl. Brother's diners can fill up on many pizza combinations inspired by the Big Apple, or on more than 10 other gourmet pizzas. Pastas with chicken and seafood are also hits here, and a BYOB policy makes it easy to sip a favorite drink with dinner.
Many restaurants claim to serve Neapolitan pizza, but few can back up that claim with corroboration from the Italian government. Clara and Paolo Cavalli’s pizza meets a long list of requirements that touch on everything from the ingredients to the cooking process. It’s no surprise that their pies are up to snuff, as they’re both first-generation Americans with a long history of baking pizzas at home. Their secret is an oven stoked to 900 degrees, the temperature necessary to bake a perfectly crispy crust or burn two copies of Fahrenheit 451. In this veritable inferno, they fire Neapolitan pies made from flour and mozzarella sourced directly from Italy.
Embracing a bohemian aesthetic, Zin Zen Wine & Bistro lavishes guests with comfortable sofas and a menu of bright, gourmet cuisine to meander through while relaxing on the patio. From the kitchen, chefs send out pizzas straight off the grill, and rich baked brie wrapped in a flaky pastry puff with an apricot glaze. Throughout the month, Zin Zen also hosts live musicians, whose soulful croons provide sippers with a lively soundtrack to synchronize with their brass cymbal-style toasts.