The Pasta & Pizza Factory's aged wood paneling, brick archways, and tinted lamps set the scene for a memorable dining experience. At each table, diners can summon servers for more food or keep them at bay to ensure their stomach has ample time to catch its breath. Pasta comes in a variety of shapes and styles, such as linguini with clam sauce (lunch $11.95, dinner $14.95); rigatoni with sausage, peppers, and peas in pink sauce ($9.95, $12.95); and tortilini de la nona, with chicken and artichoke hearts bathing in a cream sauce ($11.95, $14.95). Pizzas are decorated with traditional toppings, such as the meat lover's pizza covered in pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, and chicken (individual $9.95, medium $12.95, large $16.95), as well as unexpected combinations. The Parisian—baby shrimp, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes—and Portuguese pizza—onions, green peppers, ham, eggs (both $9.95, $12.95, $16.95)—take taste buds on a tour of Europe, and the Brooklyn Gourmet pizza—diced tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil ($8.50, $11.50, $14.50)—avoids subjecting taste buds to a battery of inoculations. Diners can also use their Groupon value towards all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta: lunch $30 value, dinner $40 value.
In 2001, the calzones, burgers, gyros, grinders, and cheesy pies that lived in the entrepreneurial dreams of then-college sophomore Mark Kalmanidis escaped and joined forces to create Crossroads Pizza. Inside the eatery, customers can send their tongue shopping for spaghetti and meatballs ($8.50) and their teeth can busily munch fried chicken served with french fries and cole slaw ($10.50). Or, choose to chew into one of the menu's more than 15 specialty pizzas—taste a small white pizza's doughy disc of ricotta, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and oregano ($9), visit a medium Hawaiian's ham-pineapple fusion ($12.99), or let a small vegetarian pizza refill your food pouch with an assortment of delicious nonmeats ($9.99).
Letizia's Pizza collects a multifaceted menu of traditional Italian dishes using family recipes perfected by three generations of pizzaioli polishing. Demanding diners customize their thin-crust pies ($7+) with traditional and unique toppings such as spinach, pepperoni, and clams arranged to resemble Leonardo da Vinci's secret back tattoo ($1.25–$2.75 each). Aloof eaters enjoy pre-topped specialty pies such as the 10-inch Garbage pizza, a savory circle littered with meatballs, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and anchovies ($13), while gobbling gamblers place bets on the 12-inch Casino pizza, clams, garlic, onions, peppers, and bacon blanketed with red or white sauce ($16.50). Pizzas with a gluten-free crust are available by request for diners on a break from grains after catching wheat making out with their cousin (12", $14.75). Patrons in the mood for other Italian classics shift their sights towards Letizia's pasta and sandwich options, which include eggplant parmesan grinders ($7), baked ziti ($9.25), and other comforting fare.
Chef Pasquale Pascarella constructs each gourmet pie on Pizza Rosso’s menu from fresh ingredients using traditional culinary blueprints. The homemade red sauce cooks for five hours and spends another hour putting on its make-up before it is ready to grace the olive-oiled pizza dough with its presence. The margherita wears fresh buffalo mozzarella and a blanket of homemade sauce to keep its thin, crispy crust warm pizza ($11 for a 12”, $13 for a 16”); the hogan pizza balances prosciutto, figs, arugula, and ricotta into an edible flavor aria ($14 for a 12”, $18 for a 16”). The lasagna layers pasta crafted in-house with sauce, meats, and cheeses to create a delicious model of the earth’s core ($10). The grilled vegetable and pesto panini ($7) presses its ingredients together for an easily handheld meal during lunchtime fencing duels, and the smooth, creamy gelato ($5) chases the last cheesy slice with a rousingly sweet finale.
While on his honeymoon in Northern Italy, David Raymer found the best pizza not at a lauded restaurant, but at an out-of-the-way truck stop. There, he was pleased to discover that the chef didn't limit his menu to the savory pies. There were fresh salads, entrees, and house-made desserts, many of which were prepped with local ingredients.
So, when he returned to the states, David decided to indulge in the sincerest form of flattery?imitation. He put together a menu of artisanal pizzas and Italian plates, finding his foods locally whenever possible, and amassing a list of wines and beers that would complement the cuisine. Strada 18 now serves up his dream daily. The red pizzas are topped with house-made mozzarella and tomato sauce, with toppings from hot sausage to duck confit and roasted radicchio. White pizzas, on the other hand, come with fixings like fresh spinach and wild mushrooms, but without the sauce and the tendency to attract angry bulls.
Other meals include baked pastas, the braised meat of the day, and roasted chicken diavolo with cauliflower. For lighter fare, guests can order a panini or focaccia sandwich. And for dessert, the kitchen bakes warm apple tarts with fresh whipped cream at the same time as it chills homemade gelato.
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.