Every Friday and Saturday night, the new speaker system at Joe's Garage Sports Pub is put to the test as local bands play crowd-pleasing tunes late into the night. Sports games constantly blast across 16 televisions?including a 50-inch flat screen hanging above a fireplace flanked by a squad of leather seats. Vintage metal, neon, and mirrored auto and beer signs characterize the industrial chic decor, and beers slide down a 40-foot red corian-topped bar into patrons? hands. The eclectic menu quells cravings for pasta, barbecue sandwiches, pizza, and homemade soup. After guests are adequately sated, they can test their arcade skills on the golfing, hunting, and sleeping simulators.
The menu at Ruggero’s offers a wide variety of Italian favorites: bruschetta, fettuccine alfredo, veal parmigiana, baked manicotti, chicken marsala, shrimp scampi, pizza, calzones, and seven varieties of lasagna. Of course, the selection wouldn’t be complete without the country’s signature desserts making an appearance. Chefs pump cannolis with bavarian cream, slice espresso-flavored pieces of tiramisu, and serve spumoni—an Italian-style ice-cream cake with a nougat center.
Waiters bring this bounty of Italian food out to an elegant carpeted dining area where framed art hugs swirling green wallpaper. Wide sconces blend their photons with the ones coming in through the front wall’s windows, and a fireplace casts warmth on guests. Adjacent to a row of padded booths stands a full bar, rife with liquor and enough sleekly stained wood cabinets to make Paul Bunyan cry an actual river.
A brick oven imbues each of Luigi’s Restaurant’s pizzas with a distinct flavor and crispy crust. Chefs adorn these bubbling hot discs with 20 toppings that range from veggies such as jalapeños and mushrooms to meaty morsels of hamburger and pepperoni. They also handcraft their own spinach ravioli, meatballs, soups, lasagna, and abstract finger paintings. Servers deliver these lovingly prepared meals to tables, which populate an intimate dining room decorated with framed photographs.
“Cooking runs in the family,” says head chef Vito Cangemi of Olio’s Bistro & Cuisine. He’s referring to a childhood spent watching his aunt, also a chef, work her culinary magic in his hometown of Palermo, Italy. As a result, Vito relies on family recipes that he states are “straight from Sicily." The menu proves as much with its mottle of pasta, chicken, seafood, steak, and subs. Vito whips up everything from scratch, including his signature dish, penne alla Vito—chicken, shrimp, spinach, and cherry tomatoes in a light sauce. Of course, no Italian meal would be complete without a pour from the wine list and a hand-puppet rendition of the Aeneid.
Edoardo Barbieri's love of cooking began during a time of war. As an Italian soldier in World War II, he was captured by Allied forces and imprisoned in a series of prisoner-of-war camps in the United States. The young soldier was assigned to the mess hall, and he quickly realized a knack for the culinary arts. When the war ended, he returned to northern Italy and married his fiancée, but it wasn't long before America began calling him back. Edoardo and his wife immigrated to the States, where he soon opened a number of acclaimed Italian restaurants. As his family and business both grew, his son and grandchildren eventually joined the cause, creating a restaurant chain run by three generations of the Barbieri family.
At Da Edoardo North, the flavors and aromas of northern Italian cuisine vie for attention with lakeside scenery visible through the dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows. Executive chef Eddie Barbieri, who is also Eduardo's grandson, creates pastas and sauces from scratch with the family's time-honored recipes, pairing them with morsels of shrimp, veal, or pork chops seared to a tender finish. Individually sized pizzas bear the traditional toppings of prosciutto or Italian sausage, and the ample wine list proffers a selection of more than 100 varietals, many by the bottle. Diners can even bring a gourmet meal home with the restaurant's grab 'n' go option, which makes for a more convenient Italian meal than standing beneath a Sicilian construction crew at break time.
Sure, most people come to John's Steak House Pizzeria for the handcrafted pizzas. But those constitute only a fraction of the menu; the rest is filled out with Italian-American classics such as jumbo cheese ravioli, pizza burgers (yes, pizza burgers), and breadsticks made fresh daily. The chefs here don't cut corners on any recipe, whether they're hand-battering fish, rolling out meatballs, or slicing up fries with a machete.