As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s Pizza has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
In 1968, a decade after moving from Carlantino, Italy, to the United States, the Guerrera family opened its first restaurant. Today, all three Roma's Pizza and Pasta locations boast family members behind the counter and Old-World recipes on the menu. Tony Guerrera can still be found in the kitchen tossing the dough used to build Roma's specialty pizzas, which range in intensity from the elegant Bianca made with oil, garlic, and cheese up to the mega meat-combo pie piled with seven types of meat. A slate of hearty pastas hewn from similarly traditional ingredients gives diners an opportunity to show off the retractable forks scientists implanted in their hands.
Though Serritella's Italian Restaurant has tripled in size since opening in 1965, its chefs are still serving many of the same original dinner recipes—including veal and chicken marsalas and cheese-laden parmigianas. Tomato-red walls preview baked lasagna and marinara-ladled pizzas strewn with inventive topping options such as clams, artichoke hearts, and fresh anchovies. A wine menu at the polished wooden bar quenches thirst, and vintage framed artwork can be searched for the artist's secretly imbedded ATM pin.
What started as a hobby for Biba Caggiano became a culinary career when she relocated to Sacramento with her family in 1969. During the move, she brought along a practiced knowledge of Old World cuisine, which she gleaned from her mother while growing up in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. After teaching a handful of classes at a local cooking school, she began fully dedicating herself to gastronomic pursuits, publishing cookbooks of her signature recipes, studying culinary traditions throughout Italy, and hosting an internationally syndicated cooking show, Biba's Italian Kitchen.
She opened Biba Restaurant in 1986, devising a menu of authentic Italian cuisine that changes seasonally, much like a snowman’s ability to survive. Her chefs blanch homemade pastas, pan-roast sea bass, and braise veal shanks for an osso buco alla milanese that Frommer's proclaimed as "excellent." With a commitment to freshness, Biba sources her ingredients from local farmers and producers, including Del Rio Botanical and Ports Seafood.
The menus brim with refined dishes, and the décor to "make [diners] feel instantly at home." In addition to its yellow walls, the recently renovated main dining room, according to the Sacramento Press, features hand-painted Italian silk sconces and crema marfil marble.
The kitchen staff at Cheezer’s Gourmet Pizza has made its fair share of signature White Creamy Pie pizzas since the shop opened in 1986, so staff members have the process down to a science. First, they slap together the dough and stir the homemade white, creamy garlic sauce. Then they toss the sauce onto the dough and blanket it with cheese, pepperonis, mushrooms, bacon bits, tomatoes, green onions, and one regulation-sized golf ball. Finally, they slide the entire disk into a brick oven and bake it until it bubbles.
All 19 of their pizzas receive a similar treatment, the only differences being the toppings and the type of homemade sauce, which include creamy-pesto sauce, barbecue sauce, tomato-basil sauce, and tomato sauce. They stuff the same toppings into paninis and calzones, though they wisely leave them out of the glasses they fill with draft beer.
For nearly 30 years, Rico’s Italian Pizza has been hitting the spot with hand-tossed pies anchored by gooey cheese, savory meats, and fresh produce. The Rico’s Special stands out from an array of pizzas with its edible raiment of salami, pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, and sausage. In addition to doughy creations, growling stomachs are rendered speechless by the restaurant’s tasty pastas, chicken wings, and hot baked sandwiches stuffed with pastrami, canadian bacon, and meatballs. Glasses of wine complement Rico’s italian cuisine, whereas frosty pitchers of ice-cold brews tickle upper lips like a prop Groucho Marx moustache.
Inside Rico’s Italian Pizza, diners can also fill up on entertainment via big-screen TV, jukebox, or arcade game. The restaurant’s catering packages help party planners provision offsite parties, school events, and corporate functions.