Bonafede-family matriarch Anita started JoJo's Pizza Kitchen more than four decades ago, and her discerning taste for ingredients is still identifiable in the menu. Though her son Joe, who napped on flour sacks in the back of the restaurant as a child, now runs the eatery, fresh basil and plum tomatoes grown in Stanislaus County still release aromas that hint at sun-soaked furrows. Through a dining room window, guests catch glimpses of chefs tossing freshly risen dough for pizzas or smaller chefs for their adorable giggles. They grate fresh parmesan cheese as wine cooks slowly down with mushrooms on the stovetop and chicken marinates in lemon and garlic. Servers bustle past, filling glasses with house wines or draft beers.
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 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).
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 buffalo wings. 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.
At Main Street Pizza & Cafe, eager eaters ingest hand-tossed pizzas, hot sandwiches served on french rolls, and breakfast fare. The savory surface of an artichoke-feta pizza supports fresh garlic, tomatoes, and mozzarella, which cower on its edges after glimpsing the approach of world-consuming teeth (starting at $8.99).
Walk roughly five minutes west of the beaches of Capistrano Bight and you’ll find Surfside Pizza. There, charmed by the not-too-distant sound of the waves, chefs spend their days pounding out dough for a hearty assortment of hand-tossed pizzas. Most of it goes toward making the eatery’s 30-inch pie—aptly named “The Big One”—that can be topped with everything from simple cheese to specialty ingredients such as barbecue chicken or homemade meatballs and mushrooms. In addition to pies, the chefs also craft scratch-made favorites including sub sandwiches, calzones, and cinnamon-sugar donuts drizzled with chocolate from Willy Wonka’s infinity pool.