With parents hailing from Sicily and Naples, Anthony Russo enjoyed an Italian upbringing. By age 12, he spent much of his time in the kitchen, learning to prepare Old World recipes with his family and family friends. And from the flurry of Italian phrases and conversation, one quote of his father's stuck with him most: "If you can't make it fresh, don't serve it!"
Several decades later, Anthony has hand-tossed his own Italian restaurant franchise and, true to his father's words, employs fresh ingredients in the same family recipes that were passed down to him. Amid exposed brick and walls the warm hue of marinara, skilled chefs craft New York–style brick-oven pizzas with toppings such as spinach, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Servers stand ready to answer questions about the restaurant’s wine lists, letting guests know which wines pair best with the Pizzotto sandwich or whether pinot noir can really turn dogs invisible.
Papa Murphy's Take 'n' Bake Pizza was born out of the owner's frustration with bad pizza from chains, which often tasted as if every ingredient was canned or frozen. Deciding to change the industry, Papa Murphy's tosses every ingredient, all of which are never frozen, onto the crust in front of the customer's eyes and sends them home to bake in a home oven. This dedication to fresh flavor earned Papa Murphy's the top spot on Zagat's National Chain survey.
Visitors can create their own take on the pizza pie or chomp into one of their signature pizzas, which range from meat-filled stuffed crust to calorie-conscious lite varieties covered in vegetables. Their appetizers and desserts follow the same pattern. Customers order raw cookie dough or cheesy bread ripe for the baking, resulting in every course being fresh from the oven.
Center Court Pizza & Brew ramps up the classic combo of pizza, beer, and sports thanks to daily made pizza dough, craft beers from across the country, and television screens abuzz with the big game. Sports and pizza collide atop the touchdown pizza, with pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, and a slew of crisp vegetables, a pie that begs for a pint from Rogue Ales or St. Arnold Brewing Company. Pizzas are the centerpieces here, but robust plates of pastas, wings slathered in sauces and dry rubs, and bread-splitting subs round out the menu. End the game with a homemade dessert that adds sweetness to a bitter loss better than an eviction notice sealed with a kiss.
Pizza Patrón's friendly, bilingual servers dole out pies that celebrate Latino culture while speaking to tongues in the international language of flavor. Pizzasmiths slather fresh dough with marinara or alfredo sauce and cheese, then strew crust canvases with an artistic smattering of more than a dozen topping options or assemble specialty masterpieces. The restaurant's festive Latin-infused environs host dine-in eating, and patrons can opt to carryout or swing by the drive thru to nibble in the comforts of their homes or favorite quicksand pit.
A massive gorilla snarls from the rafters above Putt-Putt Fun House's caf?, powerless to snatch the ice-cream cones and hot dogs from smiling kids' hands. Indeed, kids are control at the family fun center, leading parents through a variety of indoor and outdoor attractions ranging from mini-golf to laser tag. Waterfalls, ponds, and flowerbeds surround two 18-hole mini-golf courses, 22-foot climbing towers recreate the experience of scaling limestone, and bumper cars teach reckless young drivers to safely exchange insurance information. Putt-Putt Fun House also offers an array of additional activities including bumper boats, mini bowling, a 3D motion theater, and laser frenzy.
Since co-founding Candelari's Sausage Company in 1993, Michael May has been rightfully known as the "King of Sausages." But after studying the art of crust making under artisan bakers, May decided to push the boundaries of his culinary realm into the land of pizza. He polished his recipes, tamed an oven-dwelling dragon, and teamed up with his business partner and fellow Bellaire High School alum Greg Wheeler to found Candelari's Pizzeria. Today, chefs at the haven's five locations top thin-crust Neapolitan and hearty deep-dish pies with mushrooms, roast chicken, fresh basil, and plenty of Candelari family-recipe sausage—each bite of which mingles peppery spices with notes of liqueur.
Besides pies, Candelari's serves diners lunches of meatball sandwiches and sopressata paninis, and hearty dinners of baked lasagna, penne rustica, and sautéed chicken. Patrons dine-in to pair their Italian smorgasbords with European and Californian vino, or order online for convenient pick-up and delivery service.