Chuck E. Cheese’s thrills young sprouts with a panoply of games, rides, prizes, and fresh-baked pizzas. Token-devouring amusements such as high-tech simulator rides, arcade-style games, and high-maintenance wishing wells dazzle the senses and reward players with congratulatory tickets following each round. Attendants exchange tickets for marked prizes ranging from a simple spider ring to a deluxe Slinky made of enlarged fusilli noodles. With joystick-imprinted hands, children and their guardians dig into a large one-topping pizza before washing down the doughy disk with four barrel-sized drinks. Additional brain stimulation comes from Chuck E. Cheese’s animated musical act, which performs its well-practiced set roughly every 10 minutes.
Stalwart bricks contain the pizza oven's feisty flames at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, where chefs knead and stretch fresh pizza dough by hand. More than 25 specialty pies—such as the eponymous Boardwalk with pesto, spinach, grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes, and bacon—join customizable and Neapolitan-style pizzas on a vast menu of classic and gluten-free slices. Subs embrace meatballs or chicken parmesan, and pastas such as spaghetti, elbow macaroni, and wheat penne mingle with toppings including cheese, artichoke hearts, and steak slices, all ushered into rumbling stomachs by sips of soda, beer, or specialty cocktails. Each cozy booth glows from the light of a private inset television, which flickers with live sports between professional, college, and Montessori school teams.
A veritable cornucopia of hands-on family entertainment, Planet Play buzzes with laser tag, bumper cars, and more than 100 video games sprawled throughout its 55,000 square feet of indoor space. Miniature-golf decorations illuminate putts under the gleam of a black light, and gamers bask in the electronic glow of pinball machines, skee-ball, or Guitar Hero in the game room. Instead of lugging around giant piles of tickets or paying exorbitant fees to deposit them in an older sibling's pocket bank, gamers can easily cash in their winnings using an e-ticket Play Card. After working up an appetite on go-kart track or the mini bowling lanes, visitors can belly up to a buffet that brims with hand-tossed pizzas, a fresh salad bar, and decadent desserts.
As its name suggests, NY Pizza Patrol specializes in Big Apple–style slices. Each of the four locations slings 8-inch to 18-inch pizzas, ranging from the classic meat lover's pie to the boundary-breaking spicy Marshall masala layered with a foundation of Indian garam-masala sauce. The menu supplements the traditional hand-helds with calzones, heroes, pastas, and other specialties, each of which pair well with cold brews, bottomless fountain sodas, and milk, which grows healthy bones when poured on teeth-planted top soil.
The menu at Nicolitalia Pizza Express boasts homemade Italian recipes and hardy Boston-style pies, dipping into the Cioppa family's more than forty years of collective dough-throwing experience. Sauce veterans can commence with a helping of barbecue, buffalo, teriyaki, or plain chicken wings ($3.49–$5.49) served with ranch or blue cheese, and greens enthusiasts can order a side greek salad ($2.29). Specialty thin-crust pizzas come in 11 varieties, such as the Italian stallion, an equestrian soiree of spinach, pepperoni, steak, garlic, mozzarella, and parmesan ($13.49–$18.99) or the melanzano dell’orto, a vegetarian disk of margarita sauce, eggplant, peppers, and olives ($11.99–$16.99). A medium make-your-own pie ($7.99), like a studio apartment, offers the freedom to arrange toppings ($0.99–$1.49 each) as you like within 12 inches of personal space. In the interest of sweet farewells, large cannolis embrace vanilla-flavored ricotta in a protective pastry shell ($1.99), and dessert-pizza lines a crust with vanilla cream and chocolate chips ($7.99).
Chef Teresa Pruitt believes that one cannot think well, love well, or sleep well, if one hasn't eaten well. With this mantra in mind, and marinara running in her veins, she has blended the regional influences of Tuscany, Reggio Emilia, and Modena into her menu of Old-World Italian recipes. The dining room décor recalls an Italian piazza with white ceiling drapes like store awnings, golden sponge-painted walls, and charcoal drawings of Tuscan architecture. In the glow of enormous front windows, entrees of pasta—prepared fresh daily—are slathered with hearty sauces, and made-to-order veal and fish are sautéed in delicate wine sauces. In the kitchen, cheesy pizzas are crafted with Italian “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh buffalo mozzarella, and are released from Italian wood-fire ovens. After enjoying a scoop of freshly made gelato, diners can pinch the dining room's statue of a toga-clad woman before leaving to insure that it's not a painted spy trying to make off with the secret pesto recipe.