John's Incredible Pizza Co. graces guests with acres of incandescent entertainment options and a fully stocked buffet ($9.49 value, $1.50 value for drinks). In addition to a slew of soups, salads, pasta, desserts, and traditional pizza choices, the buffet brandishes a bouquet of specialty pizza creations, including spicy peanut-butter, barbecue chicken ranch, and alfredo pizza.
In 1959, Domenic Donato ventured from his hometown of Cosenza, Italy, to California, where he opened his first Italian restaurant with recipes from his mother, Rosa, whom he considers the best cook in Italy. Donato soon opened a succession of Italian restaurants now owned and operated by his sister, brother, and sons. In 2006, Donato passed down Mangia Italiano on Third to close family friends Adam and Kathy. The pair faithfully continues to follow the recipes passed down through generations of the Donato family, as well as adding modern twists to Italian classics.
Inside the kitchens, chefs bake eggplant parmigana with ricotta and romano cheese and lightly flour and saut? veal with fresh mushrooms and marsala wine sauce. In the dining area, murals of Italian seascapes are dotted with white sails puffing in the wind and depict ancient ruins full of crumbling columns and Betamax players. When not inspecting the restaurant's art, patrons can dig into plates of housemade cannolis and tiramisu.
Every pizza at zpizza is freshly prepared, hand thrown, gently coaxed into the oven using soft birdcalls and pheromone trails, and fire-baked to crispy perfection. The dough is prepared fresh daily from 100% certified-organic wheat, and z is also happy to offer certified organic and gluten-free crusts, sating the pizza desire of the allergic, dieters, and wheat sympathizers. Toppings include award-winning Wisconsin skim mozzarella, MSG-free pepperoni, certified-organic tomato sauce, additive-free sausage, and fresh produce. Try a large ZBQ pizza (with barbecue sauce, mozzarella, barbecue chicken, roasted pepper, red onion, tomato, cilantro, and sweet corn ($16.95); or a chicken curry and yam rustica (with mozzarella, curry chicken, yam, mango chutney, raisin, and cilantro; $8.95). Vegans can delight in a small Berkeley, a vegan cheese veggie pizza (with marinara, vegan cheese, veggie burger crumbles, zucchini, tomato, mushroom, red onion, and bell pepper; $11.50), and traveling tongues can sate their wanderlust with a mouthwatering Moroccan rustica (with pesto, mozzarella, basil, roasted eggplant, feta cheese, caramelized onion, and pine nut ($8.95).
It's hard to imagine a better working relationship between an executive chef and a sous chef than that of Bice's Mario Cassineri and Francesca Penoncelli. Both grew up in northern Italy, taking their first kitchen jobs as teenagers, before both attended culinary school and joined the Milan-based Bice Restaurant Group. Together, they opened several restaurants, then settled in to Bice San Diego. It was there that their culinary chemistry sparked the interest of the James Beard Foundation, who invited them to be guest chefs in their legendary kitchen in New York.
It's no wonder their talents are so revered. Not only does Mario and Francesca's menu mix things up with seasonal ingredients, but its presentations are engaging. The seafood spaghetti, for instance, is baked in a parchment bag and opened at your table, and even the rigatoni is unexpectedly colorful, painted with bright-yellow saffron sauce and sprinkled with green chives and rosy bits of quick-smoked sausage.
That said, rushing to a dinner table isn't the only way to enjoy Bice. The award-winning cheese bar displays Italian imports that change almost daily, any of which can be paired with honey, Francesca's homemade jams, or a fairly messy high-five. These inventive supplements make it clear that, even after decades spent working together, Mario and Francesca are hardly stuck in a culinary rut. It's also easy to share Bice via a business event, rehearsal dinner, birthday party, or other special private event.
At a young age, Alberto Morreale decided on a career as a chef, leaving his Sicilian hometown to cook in restaurants across northern Italy. After moving to San Diego, he started synthesizing Californian influences with his Old World culinary techniques, creating dishes such as his housemade lobster ravioli with chipotle-mascarpone-cilantro sauce and a dollop of tequila.
Chef Morreale’s use of local ingredients in his creative recipes adds to the freshness of dishes at both Fig Tree Cafe locations—winning the Hillcrest café second place in CityVoter’s Best Brunch category in 2010. The two cafés bake their breads in house, grow their own sprigs of rosemary, and catch their own silverware in a clear mountain stream. The kitchen sources ingredients from area producers, such as a ranch 35 miles outside of town, which supplies the restaurant with natural, free-range eggs.
Guests have to blink a few times upon first entering the Alexander's on 30th dining room—a dazzling wash of pristine white walls, white Carrara-marble counters, and white linen tablecloths. Moonlight pours in through lofty windows, causing the wine glasses and silverware to shimmer with images from Casablanca. Little candles speckle the tabletops, casting a glow on plates of colorful bruschetta, fine pasta dishes, and Italian specialties. A variety of artisanal pizzas perch atop silver pedestals—including the White Room pizza, a flavorful combination of garlic, chicken, and pesto that the San Diego Union Tribune named 1 of the top 50 things to eat in San Diego before you die. Outside, on the back patio, diners linger over last bites of cookie sundaes beneath trees adorned with strings of light.