The glowing embers in a rustic brick hearth reach temperature heights of 700 degrees Fahrenheit as they bake pizzas. Once they’ve been adequately roasted, pizzas emerge from brick ovens bubbling and topped with now crisp leaves of basil, soft tomato slices, arugula, and tender chicken. Chefs prepare 15 specialty varietals of pizza using traditional maple- and oak-fired methods that date back to the time when the Ancient Romans invented fire and imparts a toasty crispness to each disc. Pasta noodles mingle with creamy pesto sauce or skirt steak, while slices of foccocia bread ensnare morsels of roasted eggplant, meatballs, or lightly breaded chicken.
Diners can customize pies with à la carte ingredients such as sausage, fresh pineapple, and arugula or opt for the prearranged flavors, which include a ricotta-bedecked bianca pizza and an entree-combining chicken-parmigiana pizza. Four fountain drinks keep bellies happily hydrated, although a diplomatic BYOB policy allows guests to supplement dinners with fermented beverages. Diners can nosh in an all-season garden room, where a vaulted-glass ceiling maintains a pleasant climate through summer, winter, and impending ice ages.
Vibrant murals of an Italian countryside span the walls of Palermo Pizzeria & Restaurant, setting the scene for a dining experience inspired by the region. Lobster tails, grilled steaks, and piles of spaghetti populate plates atop linen tablecloths in the dining room, alongside crispy pizza crusts weighed down by plum tomatoes, Spanish olives, and blue cheese. A wood-hewn bar ensures wine glasses and mugs stay full throughout meals and its attached TV keeps patrons entertained.
Crusts puff into crisp golden circlets around Famous Amadeus' New York–style pizzas, unrolling tendrils of steam around calzones, strombolis, and time-tested Italian dishes. Pastas leap fresh from the colander or disappear into multilayered lasagna and ricotta-stuffed shells after testifying against forks. Marinara-cloaked entrees drive up demand for napkins within the eatery or join delivery drivers on jaunts to diners around the city.
Jazzeria owner Matt Criscuolo Jr. has been hanging out at pizzerias since he was 6 years old. After emigrating from Italy, his father opened a pizzeria where the entire family worked, giving little Matt an up-close look at the business of turning his mom’s recipes into feasts fit for the old country. Inspired both by his family’s livelihood and his passion for jazz, Criscuolo began his own pizzeria, where he now puts his more than 30 years of pizza-slinging experience to work each day.
Inspired both by family recipes and lessons he learns on his yearly trips to Amalfi, Italy, Jazzeria’s dishes derive their flavors from authentic Italian ingredients. Hand-tossed pizza dough transforms into pies including pesto pizza or the pescatore pizza topped with a trio of baby clams, roasted garlic, and bacon. Diners can enjoy dishes named after jazz greats—such as Lady Day’s Bolognese pasta—or grab a calzone to stuff in their pockets for later. In addition to housing tasty bites of the Mediterranean, Jazzeria locations live up to their name with live jazz performances three times a week.
The Rocco boys' love for pizza started in the Bronx, where they worked at their father’s pizzerias from a young age. Now, brothers Joe, Mike, and Frank are continuing their family's tradition at 10 locations of their own invention—all flaunting the Planet Pizza name tag.
A man can't build such a pizza universe without some serious pies. But inspiration isn't a problem for the Planet Pizza culinary team, who've molded more than 30 toppings into about 25 specialty circles, all available on gluten-free and whole-wheat crusts. In addition to specialty pizzas, the cooks concoct other menu choices such the compo salad with baby field greens, grape tomatoes, candied walnuts, gorgonzola, and dried cranberries or the buffalo chicken wrap loaded with strips of crispy chicken, lettuce, tomato, spicy wing sauce, and chunky blue cheese dressing are more convincing than Pluto as a mature planet.
As the sun rises, Chef Pasquale can be found one of two places. Most days, he wakes up early to visit a Bronx marketplace where he personally selects the freshest ingredients for Da Marino's menu. If he isn't there, then he's picking even-fresher produce directly from the vine in his home garden. Chef Pasquale learned the importance of fresh ingredients from his grandmother while he was first learning to cook in Calabria, Italy. From there, he honed his skills in Italy, Germany, France, and Finland before coming to the United States and opening Da Marino. Here, he crafts homemade pastas, such as the stuffed-cheese rigatoni and thin capellini, and prepares Old-World entrees of sea trout sautéed with tarragon and capers in a lemon-butter sauce and new york strip steaks grilled to order.
The chef pays attention to the restaurant's ambiance just as much as he does to the food. Once featured in a scene on Sex and the City, the restaurant is designed to mimic an Italian villa with faux stonework and murals of Tuscan scenery painted by Italian artist Davide Rodoquino. Even the restrooms match the Old-World aesthetic with stone fountains, vases of flowers, and vaulted ceilings painted with blue skies that earned a nomination for 2012's Best Restroom in America from Cintas and the Plumber's Tourism Agency.