Though pizza hails from Italy, the cooks at GuGu's Pizza & Pasta aren't afraid to integrate flavors from other countries into their handcrafted pies. For instance, they pay homage to the Caribbean with ingredients such as chicken, bell peppers, and jerk seasonings, and evoke flavors of the Hawaiian islands with habaneros, pineapple, and Canadian bacon.
The cooks also think outside of the box when preparing their pastas. They use Jalapeno marinara sauce to spice up the penne arrabiata pasta, and speckle their spicy firecracker shrimp pasta with tricolored bell peppers and white wine sauce. Of course, they still prepare traditional pastas too, such as a meaty lasagna made from a family recipe. In addition to these classic and unique noodle dishes, they prepare a number of house-made selections, including meatball subs, garlic bread, and cannolis.
Vesuvio's Restaurant and Pizzeria first opened its doors in 1956, introducing Americans in the area to the Italian take on pizza pie, crafted in a wood-fired oven. Today, the same family bakes their pizzas in the same oven, pairing them with pasta dishes, veal entrees, and classic grinder sandwiches. They top tables with their dishes in a rustic dining room featuring murals of the Italian countryside, painted by local artist Greg Martin.
Over three family generations, the sauce-crafting cooks at Tony & Alba’s Pizza and Pasta have fed ravenous diners with a slew of homemade Italian items on its extensive menu. Committed to perfecting the art of pizza, Tony & Alba’s Pizza and Pasta expanded its menu to include a choice of crust options (standard, New York thin, Sicilian thick, 100% whole wheat, and gluten-free), as well as basic and gourmet toppings that allow diners to design their own version of pie perfection. House specialties include the Tony Special pizza, topped with pepperoni, salami, beef, sausage, linguica, onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms, and the Keep Fit pizza, carefully concocted with low-fat cheese, bell peppers, mushroom, tomato, zucchini, garlic, and artichoke (specialty pizza prices range from $12.99-$29.99). Diners clamoring for Italian culture ever since Da Vinci's triumphant return from the grave can also indulge in a homemade sauce, like a creamy alfredo ($9.99), the tender clam sauce ($9.79), or the ricotta-tinged pesto ($9.99), each temptingly drizzled on top of your choice of pasta.
During years spent refining his culinary skills—including a stint in the kitchen of Berlin's Grand Hotel and tutelage under Italian chefs from Brindisi—chef Lyle Koch absorbed the essential commandments of fine cooking. Keep it simple. Keep it fresh. Don't use bases. Make your own sauces. Don't let the lobster trick you into switching places.
Lyle brought those teachings together when he was finally ready to open his own eatery, Antonella's Ristorante. Antonella's chefs make everything from scratch—including sauces and pizza dough—and have seafood and produce flown in fresh throughout the week. Their attention to detail shines through in the final plates, which range from pizzas topped with barbecued chicken and smoked gouda to classic veal parmesan with savory tomato sauce. A generous wine list complement the meals with a variety of grape distillates.
To Lyle, an atmosphere of warm hospitality is just as important to Italian cooking as the cuisine itself. That hospitality has been part of Antonella's since the fateful day it opened (September 11, 2001). As the events of that tragic day unfolded, Lyle decided to make the evening's food and wine free of charge and welcomed his diners into a TV-free refuge where they could eat, talk, and grieve together.
The expert dough crafters behind Pizza Party have perfected their menu of signature pies since beginning their storied pizza-making journey in 1962. All those years of experience and experimentation have yielded such creations as the Backwoods BBQ pizza, which they outfit with barbecue sauce, traditional and canadian bacon, mushrooms, and other vegetables. They keep pushing the topping boundaries with the bacon chicken pizza, which they cover with ranch dressing, fresh tomatoes, grilled chicken, and crumbled bacon. To appease the hungriest customers, they whip up a 20-inch Belly Buster pizza with 36 slices that feed up to 10 people or one teenaged turtle. They also accommodate diets of all kinds with gluten-free pizza crusts, vegan cheese, and other substitute ingredients.
Two big-screen TVs play above the dining room, which also contains an aquarium, a children's playroom, and a video-game room that once housed an antique Wurlitzer organ back in the days when Pac-Man was a silent game.
The scene is a quintessential family pizza joint—rows of wooden tables line the floors, stained-glass hanging lights fixtures illuminate checkered floors, and a pinball machine beeps and clicks faintly from the arcade room. The Italian-inspired menu delivers classics such as thin-crust pizzas, hearty pasta dishes, and warm parmigiana subs. It's a place where friends gather over pies and pints of cold draft beer, children celebrate birthdays with pizza-making activities, and professional rugby players meet over plans to start up a knitting club.
Tomatina's chefs rotate their menu three times a year to include the freshest local and seasonal ingredients. Diners can size up appetites with starters such as parmesan-crusted polenta ($6.75) before sinking teeth into more substantial fare on the extensive menu. The culinary wizards ensure freshness and quality by making sauces and dough from scratch and interviewing every tomato before baking an array of specialty pies, including the thin-crusted Pizza Vineyard with oven-roasted seedless red grapes, baby arugula, and gorgonzola ($17 for a large). Similarly, the restaurant's signature piadine dishes cover warm flatbread with cool salads and a bevy of toppings including steak ($10.95), salmon ($11.50), and hummus ($9.95), all of which can be easily imbibed via fork or face-planting.