The Anticoli family has piled plates high with homestyle Italian fare made with imported pastas and cheeses, freshly caught shrimp, and fresh vegetables since opening its first restaurant in 1931. Though they have emphasized serving quality Italian cuisine for more than 80 years, they recently decided to focus on creating an authentic Italian experience, renaming the eatery after the family's ancestral Italian home and cultivating an atmosphere reminiscent of a trattoria. Terracotta colors wash over walls hung with pictures of the old country and of the Italian prime minister's jazzercise class, and carved, wooden roman columns support a wine bar festooned with cascading vines.
The Italian priority of bringing together family and friends over good food is echoed throughout cozy red booths where diners dive into spaghetti with hearty meat and romano sauce, herb-griddled pork chops, or hand-dipped spumoni dishes. The revelry continues outside on the breezy back patio, which is open seasonally or whenever the chefs feel the urge to make snow angels.
Inspired by firefighters, Captain 9's restaurant proudly displays the Maltese cross throughout the barn-shaped diner, which from the outside looks as though it could house a fire truck or two. Full firefighter suits hang from the dining room's brick walls as patrons seated at gingham-topped tables dine on 10 types of specialty pizzas, lasagna, Hershey's ice-cream shakes, and subs that range from philly cheesesteak to breaded cod. Open seven days a week, the kitchen fries wings and slices lasagna noodles into spaghetti until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Since 1954, dough-sculpting artisans at LaRosa’s have crafted a menu of delectable Italian specialties using heaps of fresh ingredients and a family recipe. An array of tasty pies awaits hungry visitors, from the double pepperoni ($5.99–$14.99) to the buffalo chicken, which entertains a devoted entourage of black olives, tomatoes, and jalapeños ($6.79–$19.99). Customers can also hire toppings for freelance work on pizzas of their own creation ($4.79–$12.99 plus toppings). Shy meats and veggies hide inside calzones, such as the Philly cheesesteak calzone, which provides a toasted cavern of shelter for sirloin, white cheddar, onions, and stray cheese ($5.99). In addition, LaRosa’s boasts a spectrum of hoagys, salads, and pasta and offers a sweet adieu to finished meals with a dessert of Italian crème cake ($4.89) or cinnamon-sugar dippers ($3.99).
To reach their table at Spaghetti Warehouse, guests commonly have to step through two doors: the front door of the restaurant and the door of the antique trolley parked inside. Since its inception in 1972, the Italian eatery has merged the functions of kitchen and museum. Artifacts such as grandfather clocks, factory flywheels, and circus billboards surround diners as they delve into signature plates of 15-Layer Lasagna or hand-rolled meatballs. Apart from the items they've amassed, each of the buildings also has a particular history, from the one-time ice-manufacturing plant in Columbus to Memphis's Civil War munitions depot. Given their storied pasts, it's no surprise that several of these venues house their own ghosts—at Houston's warehouse, for example, elevator lights have been known to flicker, objects are mysteriously found in new locations, and a lady in a white gown is said to roam the restaurant.
Yet the main attraction of the place is the delicious food. Like any great Italian meal, made-from-scratch dishes are created from family recipes passed down for generations via email. Guests devour the perfectly al dente pasta, crispy calamari, bottomless soups, and 12-layer chocolate cakes while dining with family and friends. It’s that feeling of togetherness that people love about Spaghetti Warehouse, a feeling that is only enhanced when the drinks start flowing and the air is punctuated by the sounds of laughter as kids play retro games, such as The Claw prize-grabbing machine.
Freshly cut vegetables, more than 40 toppings and sauces, and delicious handmade doughs decorate the creative menu of Dayton’s Original Pizza Factory, a sister establishment of the popular South Park Tavern. Colorful combinations perch atop the gourmet discs ($8.95 for a nine-inch, $13.95 for a 12-inch, $17.95 for a 14-inch, and $19.95 for a 16-inch). Both breadwinners and fourth-place breadlosers can come out ahead with the Reuben pizza, an open-faced sandwich of corned beef, sauerkraut, cheeses, and Thousand Island dressing, as well as in the Greek gyro pizza, a fat wedding of lamb or chicken meat, fresh tomatoes, feta, and cucumber sauce. Classicists can adorn their gullet with traditional pizzas ($7.95 for a nine-inch, $12.95 for a 12-inch, $16.95 for a 14-inch, and $18.95 for a 16-inch) including the New York cheese, its gorgeous Breadway stage set with oregano and three mezzanine levels of fromage. All pizza patrons receive the option of hand-tossed original dough or 100% whole-wheat crust.