Vinny's Ristorante encapsulates the notion of a hidden gem—upon arrival at the address, customers often first think they're lost, as it appears they're mistakenly at a convenience store. The Italian eatery is tucked in the back of this store, so once customers spot red-checkered tablecloths, along with "the vaguely Sopranos-esque clientele sucking down pasta fazool," it's clear they've made it.
Boston magazine reviewers—who observed the Tony Soprano lookalikes when they deemed Vinny's worthy of the Best of Boston list for affordable Italian in 2006—highlight the restaurant's antipasto bar and "massive" portions of handmade pasta as the major draws. And although the word's been out for some time about this secluded Sicilian hotspot, Vinny's marinara and handmade mafalda noodles, impressive Zagat rating, and ceiling fans modeled after da Vinci's helicopter blueprints continue to captivate loyal regulars.
Warm aromatics wafting from the kitchen will set your senses astir as you focus your peepers on Lil Vinny's menu of feast-worthy fare. As you discuss dinner decisions among tablemates, hush the interjecting jibber jabber of an impatient appetite with a plate of fried calamari ($8.95) or eggplant rollatini ($9.95) to share, coupled with an glass of Italian red wine or a specialty martini from the full bar. Customers craving childlike comfort delight in platters of linguini with meatballs or sausage ($12.95), while actual children can exercise maturity by thoughtfully selecting a dish from the children's menu based on what will pair best with their fountain soda ($1.50). Classic chicken ($15.95) and veal ($18.95) cacciatore toss protein with colorful peppers, earthy mushrooms, purple onions, and crimson marinara, while the vibrant orange notes of scallop and shrimp Grand Marnier ($19.95) come forward to complete a rainbow of rations. Black Angus filet mignon is a house specialty, served with a sweet port-wine reduction and silverware ($28.95).
Brunello Bistro’s menu tantalizes the culinary lobes of the brain with a fusion of Italian fare and Mediterranean tangs, served with the aesthetic flair of a Matisse breakdance. Seafoodies will immediately set a course for Brunello's signature mussels appetizer ($13), served either "bianco" in a garlic and wine sauce or "spicy pomodoro" in a hot fra diavolo sauce. But all roads lead to Brunello’s top dish, lamb osso bucco ($28) in a port-wine sauce with mascarpone-cheese polenta. Diners who are worried about upsetting humanity’s uneasy truce with sheep can instead venture out into one of Brunello's idiosyncratic plates, such as roasted duck ($27) covered in an orange glaze and married with roasted spaghetti squash. Brunello also stocks its cellar with a select selection of wines and walled-up aristocrats, so lubricate one’s dinner conversation with an Arancio pinot noir ($25) straight from Sicily. Lunchtimers, meanwhile, can drop by the restaurant for a monterey-jack cheeseburger ($11.95) or a plate of fresh, handmade ravioli ($18), and early incliners can wake up groggy stomachs with a breakfast of apple/banana pancakes ($8.95) before heading off to another rewarding day of minding the conveyor belt conveyor belt at the conveyor-belt factory.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
No, he wasn't born in Sicily. In fact—according to a 2011 article in the Boston Globe—Doug Ferriman started out in the pizza business without even knowing how to make dough. But he learned fast, besting 120 competitors and two Italian chefs to take second place at the International Pizza Challenge later that year. Ferriman is also one of only two people to have won the International Pizza Expo's Pizza of the Year honor more than once, in 2004 and 2007, according to trade magazine Pizza Today. Finally, in the 2013 competition, Ferriman won first in the non-traditional category in the northeast region.
Today, Ferriman brings his dough tossing know-how to Crazy Dough's Pizza, which he co-owns with his wife, Melissa. Their labor-of-love-turned-small-business-success-story, which has been documented in media outlets such as the Boston Business Journal, can be explained by their commitment to quality ingredients and diverse recipes. Their chefs start with a solid pizza foundation of North Dakota flour, vine-ripened California plum tomatoes, and Wisconsin cheese. Next, they transform raw dough into three pizza types: pan-baked, rectangular sicilian pies; hearty brick-oven rounds; or their specialty fire-grilled pizzas, cooked to a crispy, smoky finish on an open-flame hickory grill.
Finally, guests can choose from a huge selection of off-the-wall toppings and signature combinations, such as cheeseburger bacon or potato bacon cheddar. The shops also attract guests with $5 Pabst Blue Ribbon pitchers, calzones, and Crazy Dough Bowls—salads whose bread-bowl exterior can be eaten or worn as a savory hat.
Founded by longtime friends Jonathan Schwarz and Christopher Robbins, Stone Hearth Pizza builds its gourmet pies from organic, local, and sustainably produced ingredients. The casual pizzeria has expanded to six locations since opening in 2005—a pace of growth made possible by the popularity of chef and general manager Michael Ehlenfeldt’s Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas. New England craft beers complement the pizzas and pastas with a pleasantly bitter taste that reflects their conflicted attitude toward out-of-towners.