The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to 100 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location's being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, grilled and deli-style hoagies are assembled and calzones and pizzas baked in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 100 microbrewed and imported beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.
Fiorella, the restaurant's namesake and owner, creates an original Italian-restaurant experience by combining family recipes and her own inventive Italian-American cuisine. Funghi ripieni, mushrooms stuffed with italian sausage and pesto and topped with white-wine tarragon cream sauce ($7), starts mouths watering like those of cartoon animals looking at other cartoon animals wearing mascara, while a gorgonzola, apple, and pecan salad ($8) comes through fresh and crispy. Traditional Italian options include chicken parmigiana ($16) and veal sautéed in a brandy-, porcini-mushroom, and memories-of-Old-World-Europe cream sauce ($19). The signature sandwich is the Furger, an italian burger served on fresh focaccia ($5); a perfect Italian-American marriage witnessed by a team of fries.
Garlic Brothers plates distinctive wood-fired feasts for lunch, dinner, and carryout on the eye-catching California Delta. The menu showcases more than 15 palate-prepping appetizers, such as steamed clams ($9.95), fried ravioli ($7.95), and a ceviche cocktail ($6.75), as well as grilled entrees that are fire-licked to maximum mouth-wateriness over almond wood. Aid a grilled ahi tuna in escaping its tyrannical-yet-tasty herb crust ($15.25) or embrace carnivorous cravings with a marinated tri-tip ($17.25 for dinner, $10.75 for lunch). Illustrate 2010 Census statistics with sliced sectors of the traditional margherita pizza ($13.95) or the Mona Lisa, in which mild italian sausage, kalamata olives, and sundried tomatoes puzzle art historians with an ambiguous smirk ($14.25).
An elegant chandelier sparkles above Amaro Pizzeria & Vino Lounge's open kitchen, but it’s rarely the first thing that guests notice. They are too engrossed by Executive Chef John Spahr’s delicate dance as he flings discs of pizza dough high into the air, careful not to get them caught in the chandelier’s net of crystal beads. Spahr and his culinary team pull their own mozzarella and top their Neapolitan pizzas with such creative ingredients as shoestring onions, oven-roasted artichoke hearts, and shaved ham. Pizza is hardly their only specialty, however. Their dishes run the gamut from house-made pastas to a bone-in pork chop with a Dijon and mustard glaze. 90 wines complement the complex Italian flavors, as do the artworks on the dining room’s walls and live musicians who have strung their guitars with resonant spaghetti al dente.
After Meatballz's inviting, family-friendly atmosphere welcomes visitors like a cushy mozzarella mattress in a sea of marinara sauce, patrons can fork-dive into a steamy, family-style meal that feeds either four family members, two voracious people (leaving plenty of leftovers), or one hulking minotaur-man. The meal includes garden salad, garlic knot rolls, dessert (cannolis, brownies, or crème-stuffed brownies), and an entree. For the entree, customers can choose from several delectable specialties, including saucy spaghetti or penne with meatballs, chicken, eggplant or sausage, stuffed shells, cheese and spinach rigatoni, or manicotti that will strike fear in the belly of any appetite.
Inside Twisted Italian's unpretentious bistro, chefs brush garlic-infused olive oil over their housemade pizza and bread dough, ensuring each loaf and crust turns golden brown and teems with Italian flavors. The laid-back dining room—a disarming blend of intentionally exposed ductwork, cut-glass chandeliers, and wine-rack lined walls—hosts meals filled with spaghetti with crushed tomatoes and handsomely arranged caprese salads. Pizzas don toppings such as italian sausage and peppers or crispy chicken with bruschetta. An array of wines complement entrees or diners' irises, and desserts such as tartufo lend meals a dulcet coda.