Chefs cook handmade meatballs, the scent of spices and beef mingling in the kitchen at Lomonte’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria. Certain dishes, such as mussels or crab claws, are available only when in season, guaranteeing that they're fresh and that they match holiday decorations. White wine simmers in skillets on the stove, its dry essence cooking down into a sauce for veal and chicken, and onions caramelize in nearby pans. Chefs sprinkle the golden onions over deep-dish pizzas with italian sausage. The snap of opening bottles floats from vessels of Peroni and Moretti, and the beer list also includes domestic brews such as organic Sam Smith lager. The wine list, like a U.N. delegate trying to move a futon, enlists help from around the world, with choices including Italian chianti and New Zealand chardonnay.
Familial warmth is at the core of Lanie and Alex Ciocca’s quaint Italian restaurant in historic downtown Richmond. A wedding photo of the brother-and-sister team’s parents greets visitors to Italian Maid Cafe—chosen because of their mother's nickname—but it’s the menu of comforting Italian cuisine that truly introduces diners to the Ciocca experience. Growing up in Pittsburgh, the pair dined on pasta and sauces made by hand, and their dishes afford customers the same luxury. Chef Alex sautés veal scaloppini with red onions, mushrooms, and wine, and he marinates the Southwestern-inspired Italian-lime chicken breast in lime vinaigrette before grilling it and giving it a massage with cilantro sauce. The kitchen's rotating selection of specials and housemade desserts always presents tasty complements to cappuccinos and lattes.
Each day, the chefs at Pepperoni's Pizza's eight locations crush premium tomatoes into sauces, roll out homemade dough, then cover the freshly baked pies with natural mozzarella. Diners can build their own creations from more than 30 toppings, including bacon bits and pineapples, or opt for more than 10 specialty pizzas such as the New Yorker, smothered with heaping amounts of sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Their menu also sates hearty appetites with more than 20 oven-baked subs, as well as local favorites such as calzones and smokey BBQ Buffalo wings.
The staff at Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt rejects the oft-touted claim that Americans don’t care about nutrition. The problem, they say, has more to do with selection than anything else; most low-calorie sweets don’t hold a candle to a fudge brownie or a warm slice of apple pie. They kept this in mind when crafting their frozen-yogurt recipes, working tireless to develop a healthy—and equally delicious—alternative to the dessert status quo by turning to decadent confections and just-picked fruits for inspiration.
Their experiments thus far have yielded more than 60 frozen yogurt flavors, which take turns pumping through the self-serve machines that line their colorful shop’s wall. Before taking a seat in a bright orange chair, guests fill their dishes with cool, low-fat swirls of chocolate cheesecake, strawberry banana, and a classic tart that bites as pleasantly as a teething kitten. Juicy pears, crunchy granola, and gooey chocolate sauce headline a smorgasbord of at least 30 toppings ready to scooped or poured into cups before their final weigh-in.
Named after its owners' son, Preston's boasts a menu loaded with classic, hearty American pub fare. Like a fine haberdashery, an eclectic roster of 13 sauces gives traditional and boneless wings a full closet of unique jackets ($6.99 for six; $9.99 for 12), such as the sweet-meets-smoky Wango Tango Habanera BBQ and the tangy, chili pepper-infused sweet asian chili. Queso Dippers hide hot cheese under a tortilla-chip coating ($6.99), while a wave of marinara and mozzarella splashes down upon Meatball Sliders ($8.99). Live music on Saturday nights entertains diners not busy gazing into the pixilated eyes of plasma-screen TVs or fawning over the Monkey Bites, battered and deep-fried orbs of bananas foster accompanied by vanilla ice cream ($5.99).
Texas Rib Factory’s sugarless barbecue sauce gilds the edges of beef brisket, juicy ribs, and sausage. Inside the deep fryer, catfish and chicken take on a crispy, golden-brown hue, ready to be paired with southern sides such as fried okra and housemade potato salad.