Nestled within the Cottonwood Plaza Shopping Center, Tonti's Pizza fashions award-winning New York–style pies within classic pizzeria digs. Cooks slather homemade East Coast tomato sauce on myriad Italian dishes, adding dollops to crowd-pleasing calzones and mozzarella sticks. Tonti's cheese has been extolled in Westword for its astonishing stretchiness, which helps pizzas hold fast even as lunching executives pull from each end to get a bigger share of the last slice.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
At Portofino Pizza & Pasta, the owner and head chef conjures a menu of classic Italian cuisine. Diners round up appetites with garlic knots ($3.99/dozen), which sidle up next to marinara for dipping or finger painting. Hefty calzones enfold a triumvirate of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses, and hot hero sandwiches pile rolls high with stacks of meatballs or eggplant ($7.49). Pizza professionals toss specialty pies such as the Portofino pizza ($18.99), which is speckled in spinach, sun-dried tomato, and black olives in an attempt to camouflage itself from fingers, and fetuccine alfredo ($8.99) twirls itself around fork tines to sneak into mouths to ambush unsuspecting taste buds.
With a signature pizza size called the Monster, you’d expect Pudge Brothers Pizza to be more focused on quantity than quality. But in fact, the chefs create their signature varieties of hand-tossed pies by blending together the flavors of three sauces, a range of meats, and fresh veggies. From within sizzling ovens, chefs pull out creations such as the Jersey Girl—a pizza featuring italian sausage and green peppers—or the White Delight—a ham, chicken, and garlic-sauce combination. Pies range in size from 10 inches to 18 inches, with a range of garlic bread, wings, and cinnamon bread to fill in a meal. The shop also offers delivery service, ensuring clients can have a hot, hearty meal when time is short or when the paparazzi won’t leave their front yard.