Owners Todd and Lindsay Agren have run Mario's Pizza for more than a decade, and they hope this marks the start of a long line of pizza-makers. This close-knit family dynamic extends to the way they welcome guests at their intimate pizzeria. They also aim to give their meals a home-style feel when using fresh, local produce to whip up authentic Italian dinners, homemade pizzas, wings, and paninis. And many of the savory sauces are house-made. Mario's can even cater special occasions to celebrate birthdays, graduations, or the crowning of the neighborhood Candyland champ.
Lorenzo's pizza purveyors stack disks of fresh dough with a panoply of gourmet ingredients before sliding them into brick ovens to seal in a smoky redolence. Classic pies such as the sweet Hawaiian and the basil-infused margherita send taste buds back in time more quickly than wormhole-flavored toothpaste, and innovative recipes set palates ablaze with creations such as the spicy buffalo-chicken pizza adorned with wing sauce and blue cheese. Chefs saddle up the Ranchero with bacon, spinach, and tomatoes in melty mozzarella and cool ranch dressing. Greener eats include the eggplant-parmesan pizza and the Mediterranean, which flaunts its sauceless façade with roasted peppers, spinach, olives, and garlic. A savory side of garlic knots and a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, or Sprite accompany pizzas shared inside the eatery or savored at home in front of shamed frozen pizzas.
A BYOB eatery, Ristorante Marcello's Pizzeria serves a menu that merges Italian staples such as linguine and clams with innovative dishes like crab mac 'n' cheese or buffalo-eggplant bites. The kitchen team adds an element of surprise to its specialty pizzas with pies such as the cheese steak and fried onion or the Spiral pizza—which was what NFL quarterback Johnny Unitas would toss to his hungry receivers.
It may be New Jersey, but the pizza style is decidedly New York. Either in family or personal sizes, the pies on Original People's Pizza & Family Restaurant's menu pack toppings of ricotta cheese, fried onions, or fresh basil and can be stuffed or served in either classic New York or Sicilian slices. Fifteen years have helped the chefs add Big Apple flavor to its Italian classics in a variety of forms. There are entrees of chicken giardino, a chicken breast sauteed with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, or scallops served with spinach and peas in a white wine sauce. Then there are the pasta dishes, which use fresh noodles to soak up garlic sauce and corral littleneck clams just the way swimming pool noodles soak up pool water and littleneck clams.
Lavallette Trattoria seems to fill with the sun of the Italian countryside. The warm hues of fresh tomatoes spill from a wide and colorful mural in the dining room. Through painted stone arches, it depicts an idyllic village, an ideal backdrop for the chefs' spin on Italian pastas, pizzas, and other dishes. Amid flowers, wine bottles, and hanging baskets, patrons twirl pastas in vodka or meat sauce, crunching through stalks of broccoli rabe or chewing tender morsels of chicken. Filets of veal are cooked in different styles. To make them francese style, chefs egg batter the filet and add lemon and white wine sauce. To craft bolder marsala, they reduce red wine with mushrooms. Thin New York-style pizza crusts slip from the oven, strewn with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and roasted peppers like the National Museum of Italian Food and Catapults.