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.
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).
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.
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).