Hearty helpings abound at Pirone's, where chefs construct a sizeable menu of steaks, seafood, pizzas, and other traditional Italian specialties. As the dinner curtain rises, feast your eyes and your lips upon an opening number of fried calamari ($11) or mussels marinara ($10) before moving on to sing the praises of a tender, boneless chicken cacciatore ($17) backed by peppers and onions, and simmering in a marinara mushroom sauce. Waiters cart plates of meat- or cheese-tortellini alfredo ($16), chosen from among more than 22 pasta picks that range from traditional spaghetti with meatballs ($22) to an eggplant-topped baked ziti ($16). Meal-goers can appease meaty appetites with a mushroom-infused veal marsala ($19) or a thick-cut steak à la Pirone ($21) topped with mushrooms, provolone, shrimp, sherry sauce, and a miniature model of the restaurant, and those who prefer sliceable sustenance can snack on a sliver of spinach-and-ricotta pizza ($8–$17) or divide a mini calzone ($7) into five mini-er calzones.
A BYOB eatery, Ristorante Marcello's Pizzeria serves a menu that merges Italian staples such as linguine and clams with innovative dishes like crab mac 'n' cheese or buffalo-eggplant bites. The kitchen team adds an element of surprise to its specialty pizzas with pies such as the cheese steak and fried onion or the Spiral pizza—which was what NFL quarterback Johnny Unitas would toss to his hungry receivers.
It may be New Jersey, but the pizza style is decidedly New York. Either in family or personal sizes, the pies on Original People's Pizza & Family Restaurant's menu pack toppings of ricotta cheese, fried onions, or fresh basil and can be stuffed or served in either classic New York or Sicilian slices. Fifteen years have helped the chefs add Big Apple flavor to its Italian classics in a variety of forms. There are entrees of chicken giardino, a chicken breast sauteed with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, or scallops served with spinach and peas in a white wine sauce. Then there are the pasta dishes, which use fresh noodles to soak up garlic sauce and corral littleneck clams just the way swimming pool noodles soak up pool water and littleneck clams.
At Apollo’s casual eatery, cooks layer freshly baked Italian rolls with a variety of deli meats and cheeses and top from-scratch pizza dough with herbs, sauce, and a house-blended mix of cheeses. When they’re not hand-tossing dough or stuffing strombolis with custom ingredients, they’re crafting homemade meat lasagna, sausage-stuffed pasta shells, and seafood plates such as fillet of flounder. They also prepare hoagies, burgers, and a sextet of salads made with garden-fresh veggies.
Vitarelli's Restaurant, in business since 1976, slings a stunning selection of time-tested Italian delicacies. The Vitarelli sampler beckons visiting taste buds to board a vessel of crispy mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and fried zucchini served alongside a marinara sea ($9.95). Twirl a forkful of pasta and meatballs ($9.95) or probe the cheesy pastascape of baked ziti ($10.95) with the same acuity that allowed Christopher Columbus to find India. Peer through the crusty bread bars of an extensive sandwich zoo, which houses sausage parmigiana ($5 for a small) and the Cherry Hill cheesesteak, with swiss and provolone cheeses co-existing peacefully beneath a warm blanket of fried onions ($6.50 for a small). Vitarelli's sociable staff also rolls out an array of pizzas ($6.95 for a 9"), whose doughy canvasses sport paint-by-number classics as well as avant garde mexican and BLT specialty pies.
Lorenzo's pizza purveyors stack disks of fresh dough with a panoply of gourmet ingredients before sliding them into brick ovens to seal in a smoky redolence. Classic pies such as the sweet Hawaiian and the basil-infused margherita send taste buds back in time more quickly than wormhole-flavored toothpaste, and innovative recipes set palates ablaze with creations such as the spicy buffalo-chicken pizza adorned with wing sauce and blue cheese. Chefs saddle up the Ranchero with bacon, spinach, and tomatoes in melty mozzarella and cool ranch dressing. Greener eats include the eggplant-parmesan pizza and the Mediterranean, which flaunts its sauceless façade with roasted peppers, spinach, olives, and garlic. A savory side of garlic knots and a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, or Sprite accompany pizzas shared inside the eatery or savored at home in front of shamed frozen pizzas.