At the heart of Pepz Pizza and Brew House lies its owners' passion for bettering the community through outreach and service. They show their neighborhood love not only through fundraisers and discounts for the star student, but also with an atmosphere warmer than the sun’s feelings for coconut-scented tanning oil. The pizzeria's hefty menu gives diners loads of options, from specialty pizzas including the vegetarian and a chorizo-topped Mexican-style pie, to crisp salads tossed with barbecue dressing and chicken breast. Pasta, sandwiches, and the house secret-recipe "broasted" chicken hold their own on the menu to the unbridled admiration of second-string dishes at pizzerias everywhere. Once meals have wrapped up, parents can kick back and catch some TV as kids horse around in the arcade and game area.
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.
When it came time for the team at Johnny Carino’s to come up with some new recipes, they began rifling through their personal cooking histories. Executive chef Chris Peitersen took his first kitchen job at a barbecue joint when he was 14, so he was primed to create italian baby back ribs. By infusing brown sugar barbecue sauce with balsamic vinegar imported from Modena, he’s given the marinade a more acidic bite than typical barbecue sauces. As the ribs slowly roast and char on an oak grill, he bastes on his creation before finishing the dish with a dusting of parmesan.
The ribs are one of Carino’s many menu items that follow the restaurants’ approach of classic Italian preparations modified by forward-thinking flavor combinations. Diners will find a Black Angus burger capped with mozzarella and fried pepperoni, or sautéed tilapia spiced with garlic and jalapeño. Other signature dishes include the 16-layer lasagna, Skilletinis that sizzle with spaghetti and a choice of meat, and tiramisu made from scratch.