Armed with recipes from their Sicilian family members, Larry and Rose Lepley opened their first Mama Rose’s Pizzeria in Huntingdon Beach in 1976—partly with the help of kids from the neighborhood, who cleaned and painted in exchange for pizza. After the unassuming restaurant began to win local awards, the Lepleys and their five children opened a second location. Their son Joe eventually took over the business, moving the bustling pizza joint to Murrieta, where it continues to serve the same family recipes it has since the beginning. Mama Rose's took first place in the Press-Enterprise's 2012 Readers' Choice Awards for Best Slice of Pizza—a slice available with a traditional sturdy Sicilian crust or with a gluten-free base. In addition to meatballs, sausage, and olives, diners can also add ingredients such as breaded eggplant, cashews, and salami.
Beyond pizza, there are toasted sandwiches, pasta dinners, and breadsticks topped with house-made garlic butter and kisses blown from an Italian grandmother. A more recent additiion to the menu is a selection of wines from Leoness Cellars in Temecula, chosen to pair well with such desserts as a sticky apple pizza and New York–style cheesecake.
At Maxx Pizza Co., the staff members aren't the only cooks in the kitchen. Every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., kids get in on the pizza-making process with a kitchen tour and the chance to build their own personal pizza for lunch. The family-friendly restaurant's kids' menu also features chicken nuggets and spaghetti to feed hungry youngsters after they play in the game room.
Flat-screen TVs, like the paintings covering the holes Napoleon punched into the Louvre's walls, are mounted on the wall, and they light up with local games while diners split gourmet pies. Hand-tossed regular crusts or gluten-free crusts form the foundations for freshly made pizzas such as Paul's pesto with artichoke hearts and fresh garlic or the thin-crust bruschetta pie with olive oil, tomato, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Chicken-wing appetizers dipped in housemade spicy sauce pair with sandwiches served open-faced on garlic bread.
Xiomara Hall has been described as a "fast-talking woman with the giant personality and charm to match her even bigger foodie swag" by Inland Empire Weekly critic Nancy Powell. Hall comes by her culinary skills honestly—born in Puerto Rico, she was raised with the Caribbean flavors of her family's tropical cooking. When she moved to the United States, she soon discovered southern barbecue. Heavily influenced by the melding of these two worlds, she gives a taste of her personal history to diners each day at Tropical BBQ. "My life story is in that jerk sauce," Hall says of one of her five mojo sauces.
These sauces—including chimichurri (basil), spicy jerk pineapple, and jalapeño relish—add the finishing touches to plates that fuse the flavors of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, St. Croix, and the American South. Hall pairs slow-cooked beef brisket, pineapple-jerk chicken and Puerto Rican pasteles with sides such as yucca fries or rice and beans. Her juicy ribs and tri-tips arrive fresh from the smoker to pair up with tropical refreshments including passionfruit juice, pineapple soda, coconut water, and mango juice.
According to Zagat, the portions of breakfast plates at Broken Yolk Cafe can be "obscene"?although one could also consider them generous. Sometimes, these sizes are even considered a challenge. In 2010, Man Vs. Food's Adam Richman paid the restaurant a visit to tackle its infamous Iron Man Special: a 12-egg omelet, topped with chili and piled onto a 15-inch pizza pan.
Opened in 1979, Broken Yolk has spent decades fine-tuning its southwestern recipes?many enigmatically named for people such as "Betty" and "Tony G". Alongside steaming breakfast burritos and griddled buttermilk pancakes, the menu features nearly 20 omelets stuffed with fresh ingredients such as beef chorizo, avocado, and mushroom sauce. Shredded hash-browns are crafted from fresh potatoes, and the salsa is handmade each day. Until its official closing time at 3 p.m., Broken Yolk also serves sandwiches and half-pound Angus burgers. The local chain's six locations each feature their own private banquet room and secret underground passage to one of the other restaurants.
Continuing the Italian tradition of pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), Pizzeria Venti hand-tosses a handful of oven-baked, circular pies teeming with trans-fat-free toppings. Like a repertory theater, Venti's homespun crust acts as a stage for more than 20 pizza performances. The pillowy crusts are pedestals for varieties such as house-made italian sausage, seasoned with fennel, fresh basil, and herbs ($3.50 for a slice) or chicken vesuvio which touts a roasted breast of chicken, mushrooms, black olives and garlic ($4.75 per slice). Though pizza prevails as Venti's main attraction, the menu is also stocked with baked pastas ($6.50+), salads ($6+), and soups ($3+) to create a culinary lineup that is more well-rounded than a reconstructed Humpty Dumpty.
Husband-and-wife duo Alessio and Francesca recreate their family's favorite Old World recipes at Francesca's Italian Kitchen. Housemade pastas, such as gnocchi with shrimp and arugula, vanquish hunger alongside pizzas generously topped with imported Italian capricciosa ham. Wines from California and Italy complement bites of veal saltimbocca and scampi fra diavola in spicy marinara sauce, before diners indulge sweet-tooth cravings with a cannoli or profiterole. Francesca's also caters special events and hosts cooking classes that explore topics such as meatballs, chicken parmesan, and braiding angel hair.