Restaurateur Salvatore S. D'Abbusco was born in Naples, but traveled to the United States at the age of 24 to marry a woman from Philadelphia, with whom he'd fallen in love on a cruise. He wanted to bring the tastes of Italy to his new home and founded Salvatore Cucina Italiana more than 20 years ago.
His chefs toss pasta dishes made from traditional Italian recipes with italian cheeses, shellfish, chicken, and lamb. They handcraft tiramisu and blend, cut, and fold their own dough for manicotti. Sommeliers complement the extensive menu with an array of white and red wines from Tuscany, Sicily, and California, for a greater blend of international flavors than UN potluck parties. Each meal begins as servers lay complimentary bruschetta, in lieu of traditional bread, onto white-clothed tables arranged under ornate gilded lamps and pasta-covered walls.
Peppino's menu of family-style portions provides more savory pairings than grandma could shake a slotted spoon at. Ease a land lover into the seafood sampler, composed of halibut, shrimp, scallops, and salmon atop a bed of angel-hair pasta infused with a garlic-basil tomato sauce and a splash of white wine ($21.95), or teach the young ones the true meaning of antipasto with a piled-high salad of salami, capicola, ham, mortadella, provolone, red onions, black olives, tomatoes, pepperoncini, kitchen sinks, roasted peppers, and mixed greens ($9.95).
The enticing aromas of baked breads waft out from the open kitchen, spilling into the cheerful dining room speckled with red-checkered tabletops. Here, cooks have been doling out signature Chicago-style pan pizzas for more than 20 years, as well as a selection of thin-crust pies, gluten-free offerings, and hearty Italian sandwiches. They adorn handmade dough with fresh toppings and pure mozzarella cheese or layer toasted italian rolls with succulent slices of slow-cooked beef.
Outside the restaurant, a wooden awning stretches out over a front patio, where diners can enjoy the fresh air, barring rain or Mother Nature's decision to get rid of her day-old air first.
The devoted dough-tossers at Serrano Pizza serve up a flavorful fusion of fine ingredients and rich, melty cheese atop a crispy New York–style crust. The menu of doughy discs ($6.95+) parades with regular and wheat crusts, low-fat or soy cheeses, and an array of more than 30 fresh toppings, from pie standbys such as green peppers, pepperoni, and onions to more arcane raiments such as anchovies, capers, and Cape Girardeau. Adventurous culinarians can gaze beyond the pizza frontier for the veal-parmesan sub ($6.99) or a plate of baked spaghetti and meatballs ($6.99), which pair finely with guzzlings of domestic beers ($2.75) or wines by the glass ($3.50).
At Bistro K, traditional Italian recipes merge with eclectic New World flavors for a menu that's reflective of the international history of the family behind it. That story starts back in Italy with the four Bagatta brothers, all chefs who later traveled on to France, South Africa, and Southern California. It was during these wanderings that Tony Bagatta met Massimiliana, the woman who would become his wife. Today, Massimiliana and her daughter Katia run Bistro K as a mother-daughter team, serving up hearty plates from traditional Italian gnocchi to gourmet burgers smothered in gruyère.
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.