From the outside, Maximiliano looks like just another pizza restaurant. Yet inside, there’s an artistically modern feel, with concrete floors, long banquettes with black padded cushions and outdoor lighting that hangs inside the middle of the restaurant, above a boomeranging communal table. Since the restaurant is of an Old School Italian style, one wall has paintings of spaghetti – art students worked with the architect to help design this Andre Guerrero-owned space, creating a whimsical environment. Almost everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the ample breads, pastas and aforementioned pizzas. The draft beer is from Craftsman Brewing Company, one of the oldest craft beer companies in Southern California, and on warm nights, there’s a lovely garden patio in the back with a vertical garden hanging on a fence.
Hot wings, New York-style pizza, and Philly steak sandwiches may be the signature foods of the east coast, but it's hard to imagine any restaurant treating them with more reverence than west-coast franchise Alondra Hot Wings. The eponymous wings are the house specialty, hot and slathered in one of 18 sauces. Ranked on a scale from mild to atomic?which requires a waiver to order?the sauces also include flavors such as lemon pepper, spicy barbecue, maple syrup, and thai chili.
Alondra's other major influence is written all over the menu?and the walls. Mug shots of famous mafiosi hang throughout the dining room, and the owners are so fascinated by the subject that their website even offers tutorials in mob history. Also from that old Italian-American milieu: pizzas built on from-scratch dough, bearing names such as The Godfather?a hearty amalgam of four meats?and the Little Italy, which flecks chicken breast with basil. Draft beer and wine help mouths cool down after biting into a hot wing or almost insulting the ghost of Al Capone.
Capers, cilantro pesto, barbecue chicken: these ingredients, along with more than 30 others, can top pizzas at Villaggio Pizzeria. Dough handlers craft build-your-own pies as well as California-style ones, which come crowned with West Coast–inspired toppings such as chipotle pesto and olive tapenade. The pies share a menu with other classic pizzeria treats, including buffalo wings, jumbo cheese ravioli, and oven-baked subs with housemade meatballs.
Founded in 1983 as a delivery-focused business, Pinocchio's Pizza began crafting New York–style pizzas in its current high-ceilinged home three years ago. As topping-strewn pies and house-made pastas travel from the kitchen into the wood-paneled dining room, guests monitor nearby flat-screen TVs tuned to football and professional staring leagues and sip wine and beer in a semi-enclosed arched bar area. As the notes of live jazz float over tables on Saturday nights, private shindigs take place in a nearby banquet room, where chandeliers look down benevolently at special events.
How many awards can a pizza win? Apparently all of them, if it was crafted at Avanti Cafe. Since it first started spinning dough in 1987, the restaurant's gourmet wood-fired pizzas have earned accolades from outlets including Pasadena Magazine and a thumbs-up from famed food critic Elmer Dills. The secret to each slice's success lies in how the pies are made—gently crisped in an imported Italian wood-burning oven that imparts a smoky flavor to the crust. California-centric toppings, such as glazed apples, tiger shrimp, duck sausage, and shiitake mushrooms, provide the finishing touch.
Avanti's tasteful touch extends to other Italian staples as well. Chefs toss chicken and seasonal vegetables into pastas that, like the pizzas, can be made gluten-free upon request; they also fold up savory calzones. The warming cuisine is complemented by a selection of international wines and beers, as well as espresso drinks to fuel second or third helpings.
Though most people are familiar with brick-oven and stone-hearth pizza, not many know about slices cooked in the Italian Cuppone Giotto oven. That's because this oven is the newest addition to the pizza-preparing lineup. It sends electric heat to pies as they revolve atop the oven's rotating stone base to ensure pizzas are evenly cooked in just a few minutes. There's only one spot in North America the deploys this bake-smart piece of technology: Brothers' Pies n' Fries.
There, the trio of brothers load ovens with pizzas layered with traditional toppings such as sausage, jalapenos, and pineapple. They pair slices and whole pizzas with batches of hand-cut boardwalk fries seasoned with a choice of spices and sauces. These flavorful additions include everything from pub-staples such as malt and vinegar, pizza fixings, or the brothers' special seasoning that's as sweet and salty as a grizzled sea captain after charm school.