The al dente experts at Johnny Pasta's serve up hearty helpings of made-to-order pastas smothered in homemade sauce. Drizzled in a rich butter-and-white-wine sauce, a made-to-order mound of linguine and clams ($12.95) quiets vociferous bellies with garlicky bites of tender baby clams, and vegetarians cure their kind-hearted carb cravings with forkfuls of zucchini, broccoli, portobello mushrooms, and italian squash that has lived out a long, meaningful life. Create your own culinary jumble ($9.95+) from a list of five pasta shapes, such as rigatoni or penne; five homemade sauces, such as pesto or pink sauce; and five add-ons, such as meatballs or shrimp. Or hew saucy slices from a slab of Johnny's Lasagna ($10.95), a freshly baked assemblage of ground beef, pork, and italian sausage bonded by gooey layers of ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Johnny Pasta's augments its main mealtime menu with a variety of hot sandwiches ($8.50+), as well as red and white wines by the glass ($4+) or bottle ($16+).
Satisfying meals and handcrafted beer intersect with premium sports viewing at Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewery, founded in 1976 by Angelo Barro and his sons, Dan and Tom. Today, the franchise welcomes patrons to 37 locations in three states, and the philosophy remains the same at all of them. Seven big-screen TVs broadcast football, basketball, and baseball games from around the leagues to entertain patrons sipping small-batch draft beers brewed onsite. Fans munch on traditional sports-viewing snacks, such as jalapeño poppers, potato skins, and deep-fried depth charts. Chefs also prepare heartier entrees including garlic-chicken pasta, Pesto Supreme pizzas covered with artichoke hearts, and The Linebacker, a pizza loaded with pepperoni, salami, ground beef, sausage, and two types of bacon.
It's almost a tradition now: seasoned staff members of Krony's Pizza love the business so much that they open their own location. After three decades, this rite of passage has brought Krony's third location from its home in upstate New York to the West coast. Amid bright orange walls and checkered floors, homemade pizzas depart the oven steaming in white, pink, or red sauce beside hot subs, hearty wraps, and fresh salads. The eatery's free WiFi allows easy access to email or pointers on protecting the roof of one's mouth from impatient chomping on too-hot pizza.
For The Gourmet Pizza Shoppe owners Bill, Don, and Scott, the standard assortment of pizza toppings isn't enough. Though pepperoni, sausage, and black olives are certainly part of its repertoire, the trio also stocks exotic ingredients such as mashed potatoes, peanut butter, and crabmeat—making a total of more than 120 toppings. Strewn across dough made fresh each day, these morsels form custom build-your-own pies or dozens of specialty pizzas, ranging from classic eggplant parmesan to the out-there Mini Pearl, loaded with country gravy, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken.
At both locations, taps pour out more than 20 regional microbrews, including several from the Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands. After meals, customers can request six types of dessert pizzas to adorn the tables' green-gingham tablecloths or their imaginary pet dragons' green-gingham tongues.
Husband-and-wife duo Alessio and Francesca recreate their family's favorite Old World recipes at Francesca's Italian Kitchen. Housemade pastas, such as gnocchi with shrimp and arugula, vanquish hunger alongside pizzas generously topped with imported Italian capricciosa ham. Wines from California and Italy complement bites of veal saltimbocca and scampi fra diavola in spicy marinara sauce, before diners indulge sweet-tooth cravings with a cannoli or profiterole. Francesca's also caters special events and hosts cooking classes that explore topics such as meatballs, chicken parmesan, and braiding angel hair.
Xiomara Hall has been described as a "fast-talking woman with the giant personality and charm to match her even bigger foodie swag" by Inland Empire Weekly critic Nancy Powell. Hall comes by her culinary skills honestly—born in Puerto Rico, she was raised with the Caribbean flavors of her family's tropical cooking. When she moved to the United States, she soon discovered southern barbecue. Heavily influenced by the melding of these two worlds, she gives a taste of her personal history to diners each day at Tropical BBQ. "My life story is in that jerk sauce," Hall says of one of her five mojo sauces.
These sauces—including chimichurri (basil), spicy jerk pineapple, and jalapeño relish—add the finishing touches to plates that fuse the flavors of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, St. Croix, and the American South. Hall pairs slow-cooked beef brisket, pineapple-jerk chicken and Puerto Rican pasteles with sides such as yucca fries or rice and beans. Her juicy ribs and tri-tips arrive fresh from the smoker to pair up with tropical refreshments including passionfruit juice, pineapple soda, coconut water, and mango juice.