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.
Che Bella Pizza specializes in New York–style pies crowned with a variety of unique specialty toppings, alongside saucy pastas, toasty heroes, and more, all conveniently located near Columbia University. Timid tasters can dip a toe into the pizza pool with a traditional pizza, customizable with an abundance of appetizing toppings, such as broccoli, meatballs, jalapeños, pineapple, and eggplant (starting at $6). Gutsier gourmands savor specialty pies, including Philly cheese steak (starting at $9.50); barbecue chicken (starting at $9.50); and ziti, topped with pasta, baked mozzarella, ricotta, and marinara (starting at $7). Munch on a healthful salad pizza, a crusty base topped with crisp romaine, tomato, red onion, and peppers that is the ideal foil for finicky children who love salad but never get their recommended daily pizza intake (starting at $7).
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.
Giovanni’s Restaurant unites pasta lovers and seafood seekers with a menu replete with thoroughly hearty, old-school Italian fare. Start with an order of clams marinara ($8.95 for six), or go with its cousin, fried calamari ($11.95), the only sea creature born with a delicious, protective shell of golden batter. Main events include Italian specialties such as eggplant parmigiana ($13.95) or sausage and peppers ($13.95), both of which are served alongside salad, pasta, or rice. Green-tongued eaters can grab a sesame-crusted tuna salad, which, like a runway model showing off a perishable fashion line, arrives toting baby spinach and dressed in citrus vinaigrette ($13.95). Polish off the palate party with an espresso ($2.50) and a selection from the dessert menu, such as miniature cannoli, which come in orders of three and sized just right for sweet-toothed secret agents ($4.95).