Nimbly darting through the forest of white-clothed tables in the Milano Ristorante Italiano dining rooms, attentive waiters carry platters of traditional Italian dishes and bottles of fine wines. In the kitchen, seasoned chefs labor over sizzling stoves, folding seafood, meats, and fresh vegetables into northern- and southern-Italian classics. Diners can sample baked pastas, veal dishes, and gourmet pizzas, such as the Milano, layered with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and peppers. Meanwhile, seasoned bartenders mix martinis, margaritas, and specialty cocktails as skillfully as a vindictive construction worker mixes concrete into his boss’s convertible.
Vibrant oil paintings speckle the restaurant's textured walls, adding to the rustic decor and looking down on tables hosting family outings and romantic first dates. Outside on the expansive patio, a brick fireplace illuminates tables of alfresco diners and the cascading water of the ornamental fountain.
Although they both hail from the Mediterranean, pizza and falafel don't often appear on the same menu. Diners at Rome's Pizza, however, might be prompted to wonder why—it turns out it's quite possible for one kitchen to carry both dishes off nicely. In a 2004 review, the Current's Alejandro Pérez praised the pesto pizza's "light, crispy crust and full-bodied flavor" and the falafel sandwich's "hot, crisp patties."
This juxtaposition isn't the only surprise on the extensive menu. Sure, you can get red sauce and pepperoni atop your pie, but Rome's specializes in white pizzas slicked with olive oil, herbs, and smoked garlic. Strombolis and calzones fold in on themselves to make for a hearty meal or a high-powered alternative to a water balloon, and sandwiches and pasta display the same love of big portions and off-the-beaten-path ingredients. On the Mediterranean side of the menu, there are also staples such as dolmas, hummus, and gyros.
Bottles of red and white wine line floor-to-ceiling racks in each room of Luce Ristorante e Enoteca. The restaurant's selection is so voluminous and varied that it has earned the Notable Wine List Diners’ Choice Award from OpenTable. The Zagat-rated restaurant holds very good to excellent ratings across the board, and has picked up other awards from OpenTable, including Best Ambiance, Neighborhood Gem, and Outdoor Dining. That ambiance includes stone columns inset with glowing lights that flank vibrant paintings in the main dining room, where waiters deliver housemade potato gnocchi in a gorgonzola-cream sauce, or wild mushrooms scattered across housemade pizza dough. Outside, cement pillars hold up a wooden-lattice roof on the patio, and a fireplace proffers a nice place to warm hands before patty-cake marathons.
Spicy pomodoro, saffron cream, gorgonzola-mushroom demi-glace—the sauces at Scuzzi's Italian Grill blanket the restaurant’s classic Italian entrees of smoked chicken, tender veal, and seafood. All entrees, including a 12-ounce rib eye, chicken medallions, and grilled jumbo shrimp on a rosemary-stem skewer, join tangled heaps of pasta that is never prewound onto forks. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are available as well.
Diners feast on these creations in the dining room amid corinthian pillars and arches and photos of Italian architecture hanging on sunny yellow walls. Over at the bar, four high-definition televisions entertain tipplers sipping specialty creations such as limoncello martinis. Outside, as the sun sets and a crane hoists the moon into the sky, lanterns illuminate wrought-iron patio tables and potted fronds.
Chef Jeff Foresman has been creating eclectic dishes for hotels across the country for the past 25 years. Inside Zocca Cuisine d'Italia's kitchen, he transforms local produce, cheese, and meats into Italian food including oversize veal meatballs and steak cacciatore.
Nestled inside the Westin Riverwalk Hotel, the ground-floor eatery sweeps open onto the river. Sun flits past the towering cypress trees that lean over the river and shade patrons on the patio. During nice weather, folding glass walls open up to let in warm breezes and the weeping of meteorologists who predicted thunderstorms. Wooden beams spanning the ceiling and copper accents drench the interior in warmth, and beneath them, servers dispense hand-tossed pizzas and lemon-crusted whitefish.
Amid GameTown Pizza's mélange of arcade consoles and analog challenges, chefs sculpt dough for New York–style pizzas and ensconce zesty ingredients within calzones and strombolis before baking them golden on sizzling pizza stones. The bustling game room challenges competitors to bouts of air hockey, basketball, and invigorating redemption games, whose ribbons of tickets garner well-earned trips to the prize counter. Party planners can host savory shindigs within the arcade's private party room, whose whimsical yellow walls display flat-screen TVs ideal for celebratory slideshows and virtual-reality birthday cakes alike.