Known for their successful takeover of Hudson Bay Café, I Squared proprietors Sadri Madjlessi and Tanya Anderson partner with executive chef Nory Madjlessi to combine traditional Iranian and Italian fare into one bold menu. Chef Nory honed his Italian culinary skills under Giovanni LoCoco at LoCoco's and absorbed knowledge of traditional Iranian recipes and cooking techniques from his mother. Rather than attempting traditional fusion fare, Chef Nory aims to stay true to the flavors of both countries, filling I Squared's ever-changing menu with Iranian staples such as fesenjoon—a stew of chicken, walnuts, and saffron served over basmati rice—as well as Italian classics, such as eggplant parmigiana. Using local and sustainable ingredients when possible, Chef Nory preps his signature lamb-stuffed cabbage wraps as patrons peek in the open kitchen from their places at minimalist butcher-block-topped tables. A stainless-steel-topped bar holds a beginner's alchemy kit and the makings of specialty and dessert cocktails along with extensive wine and beer offerings.
Cybelle’s Pizza has dampened hunger pangs with a menu of gooey New York–style pizza, calzones, and Italian pasta favorites for more than three decades. Staff invite diners to pick up or receive deliveries of pies devised from a selection of four sauces, five types of cheese, and 35 toppings—with such mainstays as pepperoni and meatballs, and unique offerings that include corn and a medley of clam and garlic—or opt for 1 of the restaurant’s 20 preconceived specialty pizzas to avoid labor disputes with overworked brain cells. The restaurant's calzones envelop sauce along with two types of cheese and chosen toppings, and pasta dishes and appetizers, such as oven-baked hot buffalo wings, round out meals.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
Four Star Pizza’s masterful pie artisans dole out steamy slices of pizza loaded with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella to complement hot sandwiches, wings, and baked italian pastas. Specialty pizza creations include an all-meat smorgasbord of pepperoni, beef, and canadian bacon and a greek pizza loaded with marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and ancient philosophical texts. Chefs make pies to-order daily in seven sizes, from the personal 8-inch pie to a massive 24-inch replica of a Roman chariot’s wheel.
The cooks at Lanesplitter bake up a menu of New York–style pizzas and pocket-like calzones, and bartenders at the three pub locations pour a large selection of microbrews. An army of nearly 30 meaty, veggie, and vegan toppings stands ready to occupy thin neapolitan or thick sicilian crusts in combinations such as the herbivore's spinach, mushrooms, onions, and olives ($23.50 for a 19-inch) or the garbage pie's heaping mélange of spiced meats and crisper-drawer items ($27.50 for a 19-inch). The bar's taps have recently flowed with Racer 5 by Bear Republic, E.J. Phair's doppelbock, and hand-pumped Bombay by Boat IPA from Moonlight Brewing Company. Some locations host art openings, where diners and drinkers may admire photography, paintings, or mosaics made entirely of anchovies.
Marzano aims to bring a bit of southern Italy to Oakland, creating an environment that the San Francisco Chronicle says, "Has a vibe that's as embracing as you'll find at the beloved family-owned trattorias in Italy." Although Executive Chef Douglas Borkowski and his team roll their own papardelle pasta and cure bacon in-house, the real star of the menu seems to be the traditional stone oven. The wood-fueled flames roast meatballs, snap peas in brown butter, and Neapolitan–style pizzas laden with everything from aged provolone and spicy, fennel-tinged sausage to cremini mushrooms and truffle oil. The Zagat-rated restaurant's rustic charm extends beyond the menu to the intimately sized dining room's ambiance. Brick walls and exposed wooden rafters complement country-style chandeliers, which are built from the staves of French wine barrels, according to the Chronicle's review. Opposite the row of tables sits a massive bar stocked with housemade bitters, Italian wines, and half-completed Sudoku puzzles.