It started with a single store, opened in Fridley, Minnesota in 1964. But Dick Kempe's pizza proved too tasty for one outpost, and Chanticlear Pizza eventually spread to 14 locations in the following years. And although Dick no longer owns the pizzerias, his uncompromising standards for quality pies remain in place. Fresh dough is mixed up and hand-tossed daily. Vegetables are chopped each morning. Instead of adding sugar to their sauce, the chefs rely on the tomatoes' natural, charm school-perfected sweetness. And the from-scratch foundation is always topped with house-shredded, 100% Wisconsin mozzarella cheese.
Once the dough and sauce are ready, Chanticlear Pizza's chefs continue the process by loading them with meats and veggies. The selection of toppings range from shrimp and bacon pieces to a secret-recipe pickle blend. A splash of spicy, bourbon-tinged molasses or chunky salsa can add additional pizzazz to pizzas. Beyond circular eats, polygonal dishes as pastas, calzones, and sides of buffalo wings and garlic toast populate the menu.
Like all world-class competitors, the chefs at Pizza Champions know that you get back what you give. That’s why they craft each of their pizzas using dough and sauce that is made each day entirely from scratch. After a generous sprinkling of 100% real mozzarella cheese, they top each golden ring with fresh toppings ranging from traditional sausage and pepperoni to spicy banana peppers or sweet chunks of pineapple. For those who have trouble choosing, a list of six specialty pizzas offers up preapproved flavor combinations, including an alfredo pizza with grilled chicken and white sauce, and the Champion’s Special, which arrives with three kinds of meat, five types of veggies, extra cheese, and a commemorative Wheaties box.
Housed in a charming red-brick building, Bilotti's Italian Village churns out a menu of American favorites and old country specialties to silence grousing stomachs. Nestled cozily within casual environs, diners can oil rusty jaw hinges with starters such as the fried clams ($5.99 for a small order) and Italian pasta's archenemy, Italian antipasta ($10.99 per two-person platter). Sink saucy incisors into a smattering of entrees, including the chicken italianne ($10.99), featuring fettuccini pasta fraught with chicken, marinara, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, or the amphibious Sea & Shore ($16.99), which marries a 6-ounce fillet of walleye pike and a 7-ounce tenderloin steak to form a delightful duo, like a silent, edible Sonny and Cher. Meanwhile, the pizza oven fires up dough disks, including the Bilotti's Ultimate ($21.24 for a 14-inch pie), on which a righteous triumvirate of pepperoni, canadian bacon, and ground beef dance across a field of green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and pineapples. Offered all day, breakfast dishes, such as steak and eggs ($11.99), confound morning news anchors and goad cadres of confused roosters into crowing at sunset. While enjoying delicious bites and discussing the proper way to braid spaghetti, wash down a mighty meal with selections from Bilotti's wine list.
In the 1950s, Sam Perrella owned a small cafe in Minnesota's Iron Range, offering up the usual cafe fare of coffee and baked goods. But after hearing WWII soldiers' stories of Italian pizza and traveling to Chicago to taste the Windy City's version of the Italian pie, he and his wife created their own version. They morphed the cafe with Sammy's Pizza, moved it to a larger location, and watched the loyal customers roll in.
The iconic restaurant now boasts 16 locations in three states and the Five Four Lounge in Coon Rapids. But though it's a household name, it remains a family-run eatery with menu items culled from family recipes. Among them are chicken tetrazzini, three-cheese bacon caballero, and specialty pizzas. Favorites include Sammy's Special with Italian sausage, green pepper, and onions, or the Iron Ranger with kosher beef salami, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.
Fresh ingredients from local suppliers abound at Crave, where patrons can create their ideal plates by hand-selecting from an array of all-natural and organic eats. The buffet table sports an elaborate ensemble of tongue tempters, with items such as fresh baked goods, seasonal fruit, applewood-smoked bacon, and egg strata orbiting a chef's selection of fish. Toppings of maple syrup, whipped cream, and berry compote eagerly adorn freshly-toasted checkerboards at the gourmet waffle station, and the chef's carving station showcases a selection of fine meats whittled to look like bars of soap. Champagne, mimosas, and bellinis give brunch a cosmopolitan flair, and Crave's low-lit ambience provides an intimate backdrop for shadow-puppet Civil War reenactments.
At Sweet Taste of Italy, the secret’s not just in the sauce—although they have a specialty housemade red sauce—because everything is made from scratch each day. The chefs whip butter, grind cheese, bake fresh sweet Italian bread, and hand-slice meats to create Italian favorites with an American twist. Customers can dine in or take out heaping helpings of pasta and Toyota-sized pizzas, and catering services are also available.