The chefs at Italian Café put new twists on the familiar flavors of Old World dishes as they craft fresh Italian entrees. While kneading housemade dough to make pizzas, chefs grill 12-ounce portions of Angus steak and simmer calamari rings with mussels to serve over linguine. Behind dark wood tables topped with crisp, white cloths, diners split tiramisu—made of layers of ladyfingers soaked in espresso liqueur topped with sweet mascarpone—while gazing at paintings of gondolas floating down scenic Venetian canals toward rushing waterfalls.
At Argia's, chef Ryan Baldini and proprietors Pragun and Salina Rana strike a balance between serving fine northern Italian cuisine and fostering a laid-back dining atmosphere. Many of Ryan's dishes, such as his grilled beef tenderloin and range of handmade pastas, come in solo portions or shareable famiglia servings that sate larger parties. For a taste of the kitchen's signature dish, guests can pry open a Prince Edward Island mussel—shipped to the restaurant daily—and sop up its juices with housemade bread still warm from the oven or a pet sea sponge in need of a soak. Outside, the clinking of wineglasses rings out across a patio enclosed by fragrant herbs; inside, a rustic Sienese-style mural matched with eye-catching frescoes conjures an air of the Italian countryside.
Pizza Boli's dough-slingers craft decadent yet trans fat–free pizzas with more than 20 classic and unusual ingredients. Build-your-own pizzas ($9.99+) drape themselves in coverings ($1.25+) such as pepperoni, bacon, italian salami, and feta. The creamy flavors of a gyro sandwich ($6.99) reappear in a greek pizza ($13.99–$17.99) bearing an unexpected combination of tzatziki sauce, four cheeses, olives, and gyro meat within an unprepossessing wooden horse. The Old Bay crab pizza ($13.99+) dips into the ocean and returns topped with crabmeat, tomatoes, and spring onions, all soaking in an Old Bay–seasoned alfredo sauce. Traditional Italian takeout flavors appear elsewhere in a pair of hearty pastas ($7.75+).
At Pie-tanza, chefs slide Neapolitan-style pies into wood-fired ovens, along with assembling traditional Italian fare subs, and giant salads. With 35 toppings ($1.49 each), including pine nuts, pancetta, and fontina, diners can decorate a 12-inch pizza in countless fashions ($9.69) or select from specialty pies such as onion and gorgonzola pizza ($11.99). Meanwhile, nine pasta dishes such as the twice-baked meat lasagna ($11.99) fill the dining room with rich scents and 13 subs, sandwiches, and wraps keep hands from compulsively slapping their owner's cheeks. Customers celebrating a birthday or hosting a seminar can also count on Pie-tanza to cater their event with fare such as baked ziti ($44 for a half pan) and goat cheese salad ($46 for a large bowl).
Rocco's Italian Restaurant delights diners with family-style Italian cuisine, created with closely guarded secret sauce recipes. The menu highlights the restaurant’s rich lasagna, a medley of melted cheese and freshly made meat sauce spread across four layers of pasta like a long-limbed meatball taking a nap ($14.95). Large sautéed shrimp cozy up to green peppers, mushrooms, and marinara sauce on a wonton bed of linguine in the shrimp cacciatore ($18.95), and thin-crust or deep-dish pizza comes in varieties such as the Pope's Blessing, a pious bouquet of seasoned meats with mushrooms, onions, and black olives ($11.95+). Rocco's also serves up savory subs and burgers ($6.95+) for a handheld meal safe for white shirts and freshly polished commedia dell’arte masks.
Inside the kitchen of Pines of Florence, chefs steam mussels, boil housemade pastas, and bake pans of ziti to a bubbling golden brown. Sub sandwiches packed with meatballs, eggplant parmigiana or italian cold cuts accompany crusty pizzas during weekend lunches, and dinner entrees such as shrimp parmigiana and spaghetti a la carbonara come topped with parmesan cheese. For dessert, sweet bites of fluffy tiramisu, cannolis, and rich cheesecake fill up bellies and the refrigerated snack compartment of most designer handbags.