As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s Pizza has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
In 1968, a decade after moving from Carlantino, Italy, to the United States, the Guerrera family opened its first restaurant. Today, all three Roma's Pizza and Pasta locations boast family members behind the counter and Old-World recipes on the menu. Tony Guerrera can still be found in the kitchen tossing the dough used to build Roma's specialty pizzas, which range in intensity from the elegant Bianca made with oil, garlic, and cheese up to the mega meat-combo pie piled with seven types of meat. A slate of hearty pastas hewn from similarly traditional ingredients gives diners an opportunity to show off the retractable forks scientists implanted in their hands.
Though Serritella's Italian Restaurant has tripled in size since opening in 1965, its chefs are still serving many of the same original dinner recipes—including veal and chicken marsalas and cheese-laden parmigianas. Tomato-red walls preview baked lasagna and marinara-ladled pizzas strewn with inventive topping options such as clams, artichoke hearts, and fresh anchovies. A wine menu at the polished wooden bar quenches thirst, and vintage framed artwork can be searched for the artist's secretly imbedded ATM pin.
The chefs inside Godfather?s Pizza?s kitchen crown original, thin, and gluten-free crusts with fistfuls of more than 15 meat and veggie toppings. Predesigned pies simulate the flavors of other foods in configurations such as the bacon-cheeseburger pizza with beef, bacon, cheddar, pickles, and onions. Sandwiches and hot wings round out feasts. In the dining room at some locations, ice clatters cheerily from Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, which dispense more than 100 flavors of soda as well as resum? advice for robot bartenders. Delivery drivers bustle past, filling orders or toting catered fare, and Godfather?s Pizza brims with happy chatter during field trips that introduce students to the pizza-creation process.
It all started in Davis, more than three decades ago. Steve Wilkinson opened a single pizzeria that became the model for multiple locations and eventually an entire franchise. To this day, he still runs that original Steve's Pizza, serving up the piping-hot pies that earned him his success. The menus include more than 30 toppings that can be mixed and matched on traditional or gluten-free crusts, as well as Italian pastas, hot sandwiches, and flightless hot wings.