The oven admirals at Straw Hat Pizza bake an extensive fleet of California-style pizza. The kitchen team prepares each crust to pack a flaky, crispy, crunch-causing texture, creating a sturdy foundation capable of supporting cheese, sauce, toppings, and hardbound copies of Mark McGwire's autobiography. A large chicken-bacon-ranch pizza saturates taste-sensory apparatuses with a dual-meat format and a vegetable cast of tomatoes and red onions, and the large aloha chicken merges chicken, ham, pineapple, and bacon on a highway of barbecue and red sauce (each $17.99 for a 15"). Vegetarians can imbibe the windfall of grown ingredients that fill out the large California veggie pie—a conference of zucchini, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spices, and white sauce ($17.99 for a 15"). Straw Hat Pizza also puts together an impressive roster of hot sandwiches, such as the sauce-packed meatball version ($5.49).
Sid Fanarof, inspired by the artists around him, sought to do something creative in the kitchen. zpizza, which started in Laguna Beach and now has locations across the globe, fills with bustling chefs experimenting with ingredients traditionally associated with Indian, Californian, and Mexican cuisine. A parade of organic vegetables and skim-milk mozzarella from Wisconsin leads into the eateries, and organic wheat flour bakes over open flame to a crisp finish. “If you don’t hear the crunch, it’s not a zpizza,” Fanarof says of the crusts on his website.
Chefs first slather the gluten-free, vegan, and regular crusts with sweet basil pesto, roasted-garlic sauce, or organic tomato sauce. Their hands flutter across, sprinkling on fistfuls of toppings such as MSG-free pepperoni, additive-free sausage, three types of mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and pine nuts. Vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts allow everyone to enjoy the pizzas except for those trying to hide the fact that they superglued their mouths closed.
Conveyor belt pizza has long been the industry standard for most pizza outlets. But at Fast Freddies Pizzeria, it's the brick oven that makes all the difference. Birthed in fire rather than atop electric coils, hot pies come out crackling with crispy crusts destined for the guillotine of excited incisors. Toppings such as pepperoni, meatball, bacon, sausage, chorizo, and chicken pounce upon mounds of cheese, marinara, or alfredo sauce, along with refreshing veggies such as spinach, cilantro, basil, and jalapenos. Pasta, salad, sandwiches, and wings also fill the menu, along with a bevy of beverages such as wine, soft drinks, and draft beer typically doled out in pitchers.
Since its first pizzeria opened in 1978 in Palo Alto, Mountain Mike’s Pizza has stretched to encompass more than 150 restaurants throughout the West Coast. From the meat-laden Pike’s Peak to the vegetarian-friendly Mt. Veggiemore, 12 specialty pizzas—most of them named after mountains—arrive in portions from small to extra large, which can feed up to eight patrons or spark nostalgia in homesick, city-dwelling mountain goats. Diners can also choose their own conglomeration of ingredients, ranging from Louisiana-style hot links to sun-dried tomatoes, and supplement pies with an all-you-can-eat salad bar or a quintet of appetizer options including wings and jalapeño poppers.
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.
People need energy to play, so meals at John's Incredible Pizza Company might start at a salad bar with 40 different veggies and toppings, before proceeding to an inventive selection of pizzas including barbecue chicken ranch, spicy peanut butter, and standards like pepperoni and cheese. There is also a build-your-own pasta bar and a dessert buffet with everything from fresh baked cinnamon rolls to soft-serve ice cream cones?all of it is meant to fuel a good time. That takes place on bumper cars and interactive super-bikes. Old school arcade enthusiasts can engage in classic Pac-Man battle while redemption tickets whir out of machines, granting winners access to a prize counter stocked with lava lamps and Nintendo and Xbox 360 consoles.