A lion's head stands guard over the brick oven at Pizzeria Guido & Wine Bar, bearing its fearsome jaws at any who would try to pilfer the restaurant's family recipes. Thankfully, the only way most diners attempt to gain insight into the establishment's Tuscan traditions is through the food. Slivers of buffalo mozzarella, basil, and fresh tomatoes accent antipasti plates in the colors of the Italian flag, and the wood-fired oven spills forth the aromas of prosciutto, capers, and fontina cheese topping pizzas and filling calzones. Glasses of Italian wine click together in the halos of steam rising from pastas. Waiters move through the spacious dining room, and their white dress shirts and smart red ties complement the wall's gentle orange and yellow tones, which call to mind the warming glow of a sunset or a haunted ventriloquist dummy finally burning.
Garlic Jim's menu was handcrafted with nothing more than a dream and an incredible reserve of pizza-making expertise. Open an order with some gourmet chicken wings, available in barbecue, garlic, and hot, before moving on to pizza territory. Put an end to eating Legos by piecing together a custom pie. Choose from the hand-thrown thick, garlic thin, or gluten-free crusts, slathered in one of seven sauces (from classic red to zesty chipotle pesto), and then slap on any of 15 standard and 11 gourmet toppings (14-inch large pizzas start at $11.99, extra-large $14.99; each additional topping for a large is $1.50). To achieve customization without the stress of having to choose, turn to one of the pre-determined specialties. Meat-maul hunger with the Hercules (salami, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, beef, spicy Italian sausage, and bacon; $18.99 for large, $21.99 for extra-large), or discover the secret of pizza-temperature fusion in your head with Jim's bacon-cheeseburger pizza (beef, bacon, red onions, tomatoes, mozzarella, and cheddar; $18.99 for large, $21.99 for extra-large).
After leaving his hometown of Naples in 1964, Mario Vellotti made his living tossing pizzas in various kitchens across New York City, eventually opening pizzerias in all five boroughs. Now, he’s brought his famous pies to Seattle. In the New York tradition, his slices “are so huge that just one and a beer probably put you over the recommended daily intake of carbohydrates,” according to Seattle Weekly. For those who prefer whole pies, he makes massive 18-inchers to order, topping them with gourmet ingredients such as Italian ham, homemade pesto, and gorgonzola cheese.
Big Mario’s maintains its laid-back vibe with the help of a full bar, the star of which is a collection of 40-fluid-ounce cans of Olde English 800. There’s even Jägermeister on tap for diners who are in the market for something harder or who are looking to do a post-pizza shot.
As if giant slices and shots weren’t appealing enough to party-loving crowds, Big Mario’s also keeps late-night hours. It stays open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and until 4 a.m. on weekends. After bars begin closing, regulars here start lining up at the walk-up window for a final slice, which they can chow down on while sitting at the bar or just standing on the sidewalk.
Over the course of his pizza-making career, Lance Brough has helped open restaurants from Little Star Pizza in San Francisco to Pi in St. Louis. Many of these have achieved acclaim—President Obama loved the meal he ate at Pi so much that he had its owners come make pizza at the White House, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.
Today, Lance dishes up both thick and thin pies at Kylie's Chicago Pizza—named after his business partner's daughter Kylie. "It's kind of a West Coast version of a Chicago-style pizza," he says of the eatery's signature dish. Though "it's not the heavy, greasy gut bomb" that diners might expect, it does have a deep-dish cornmeal crust, as well as the seasoned, chunky tomato sauce found on Chicago's famous pies. And just as in Chicago, the deep-dish creations take about 30 minutes to bake under an indigenous Midwestern dragon's scorching mouth fires. Piping pies arrive at tables clad in custom toppings or specialty combinations, including the Chicago Classic, which hosts Illinois sausage spiced with sweet fennel, as well as onions, green peppers, and mushrooms.
The staff keeps three local beers on tap at all times, including Fremont Brewing's Interurban IPA and Georgetown Brewing's Manny's pale ale. They also pour area wines, including Pacific Rim's riesling, which Lance says is consistently praised as one of the state's top wines. As they sip, guests can admire local artwork, which is swapped out every two or three months to thwart slow-moving art thieves.
Although La Vita E Bella Cafe is physically distant from its Italian roots, it preserves one of the most important parts of home: the coast. Seafood infuses its menu—from appetizers of garlic-marinated octopus to the Siciliana pizza, topped with tuna, onions, kalamata olives, and capers. The kitchen's emphasis on freshness persists beyond its sautéed prawns, though. Owner Giuseppe Forte heads out multiple times a week to purchase groceries for his chefs, ensuring that their bruschetta and pollo cacciatora contain crisp veggies and fresh herbs. Then there’s the crepes—three kinds enveloping such Old-World ingredients as champignon mushrooms and prosciutto di parma.
Yet it’s pizzas that form the base of the menu. More than 20 specialty-topping combinations include the salsiccia, which boasts sausage and broccoli, and the gorgonzola, which mixes its namesake cheese with walnuts. As diners match their slices to a selection from the sprawling wine list, they can tune in to the lilt of live accordion music, which evokes the ambiance of Italy's streets and keeps dates from trying to fill conversational pauses by reciting their favorite Matlock plotlines.
Every morning, the chefs at Cafe Lago prepare the restaurant’s pasta by hand. Every night, they bake pizzas over apple wood fires. To outsiders, the process––which the small trattoria has perfected over the last two decades––may seem painstaking, but it's one that has solidified the cafe's standing as an Italian staple in the Montlake neighborhood. That all the hard work has paid off is readily apparent to anyone who steps into the cozy dining room to be met by the fragrances wafting off of six different pies or plates of lasagna—a delicate layering of ricotta, béchamel, and marinara. The fruits of Cafe Lago's labors have also been hailed by Bon Appétit who noted that the dishes are “simple and honest, and prepared with infinite care”, and by The Stranger, who quipped that "Lago has raised its wood-fired pizza to an art form."