Barely a wave's crash from the water, Del Mar Pizza has hosted hungry beach-goers—some sans shirt or shoes—at its tables for more than 20 years. Amid walls lined with long surfboards and artful beach photography, chefs whip up gooey specialty pizzas by the pie or slice, with traditional or New York–style thin crusts. After downing a brew on the outdoor patio, patrons can head inside to two-hand a Boar's Head deli sandwich or clamber up overhead lights to hang ten on wall-mounted surfboards.
At Cicciotti’s Trattoria Italiana & Seafood, chef and author Gaetano Cicciotti and his staff of kitchen craftsmen wood-fire pizza crusts and sauté fresh seafood using original recipes. Like Pac-Man’s Italian relatives, diners chomp their way through morsels of tender pasta mixed with mouthwatering ingredients such as creamy tiger shrimp, homemade meatballs, sun-dried tomatoes, and a creamy gorgonzola pesto sauce. Noodle-free fare includes chicken, veal, and seafood, which arrives shrouded in white-wine sauce or cloaked in mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. In addition, an extensive wine list helps patrons match their meal with a vintage vino for a duo of flavors that’s more dynamic than a Bruce Willis and Mr. Peanut buddy-cop flick.
Sam's Pizza tends to pizza hankerings by giving its gourmet pies top billing on a menu already crowded with star Italian eats. Pizza backstories begin with chefs kneading house-made dough, which they then punch, lob, and give pep talks to before baking it in an oven. The process results in creations such as the BBQ chicken pizza, which mixes five toppers, including chicken, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms ($19.99 for 16"). Diners escape the tyranny of tomato with white pizzas that lay out a medley of three cheeses and garlic ($9.99 for 10"). Diners await their pizzas while sipping beers such as Bud Light ($3.99) or calculating the exact number of krill in the ocean from the pizzeria's outdoor seating area, which is replete with views of the water.
A proper Pizzicato pizza rests on a foundation of authentic crust oiled in olivy and garlicky synchronicity and fused with whole-milk mozzoparm and fresh herbs. Concoctions range from classic New Yawk Cheese ($11.25 for 12 inches) to the contemporary fusion of a Thai Pizza composed of teriyaki chicken, green onions, sweet peppers, mozzarella, carrots, and crushed chili peppers showered in a spicy peanut sauce ($22.25 for 16 inches). Carryout customers can choose between a fresh, ready-to-eat pizza or a fresh, ready-to-cook-at-home, partially baked pizza. A 12-inch creation serves a party of two to three and a 16-inch serves a party of four to five, whereas parties of exactly five may be subject to auditions for an obsolete TV drama series. Geometrically undefined items served on suspiciously circular dinnerware include refreshing salads such as arugula and ripe pear tossed with sweetened walnuts and gorgonzola in a balsamic vinaigrette ($5.25 for small, serves one to two) and the superhuman simplicity of a Tuscan Meatball Hero Panini layered in meatballs, marinara, and mozzarella ($7.00). Check out the full menu for San Diego here and Encinitas here.
Chicago's Finest Cuisine packs a menu full of edibles inspired by Chicago, including Vienna Beef dogs, deep-dish pizzas with cornmeal crusts, and made-from-scratch bagels. Run by a couple of former Second City citizens, the eatery fills expectant mouths with Maxwell Street polish sausages ($3.99) and fried pork-chop sandwiches ($4.25), as well as vegetarian options such as the Edgie veggie sandwich ($4.50) packed with nine healthy fillings, or the meatless garden burger ($4.25). An authentic Chicago grilled skirt-steak sandwich with homemade fries ($6.99) convinces lunchers to linger and bellies to stop jabbering just to get attention. With more than 20 types of bagels made fresh daily, as well as muffins, omelettes, and cereals, breakfasters can also pop in to scare away a bad case of the morning-time hungries.
Home-style Italian dishes draws visitors to Vittorio’s, formerly Villa Capri 2, where chefs make the restaurant’s cheese ravioli, gnocchi, and black-ink linguine by hand, and even create a unique “ravioli del giorno” each day. Diners can pair selections with 1 of 24 red, white, and sparkling wines, available by the glass or out of your neighbor’s cupped palm. The smell of Italian delicacies permeates through a dining room that resembles a Tuscan villa, with faux wrought-iron balconies, terra-cotta-colored walls, and stone archways.