The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to 100 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location's being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, chefs assemble grilled and deli-style hoagies and bake calzones and pizzas in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 100 microbrewed and imported beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.
At Peppino's Pizzeria’s four locations, crafty chefs toss, embellish, and accessorize a menu's worth of pizza pies to quash appetites. Diners can pop sodas or quaff brews as large chicken caesar salads sate taste buds or a quartet of antipasto ham, capicola, mortadella, and salami serenades old-world yens. Svelte neapolitan rounds and biana disks pit handmade tomato sauce against a tripled strata of ricotta, parmigiana, and mozzarella, each armed with 18 inches of meatballs, fresh garlic, green olives, or 1 of 13 other toppings (add additional toppings for $1.95 each). Alternatively, homebound bon vivants can transport two extra-large slabs off the premises for private pie-chart comparisons. Peppino’s Pizzeria fires up its fragrant ovens seven days a week; hours vary by location.
The notion of “fast and casual” isn't new—most chain restaurants adhere to the concept, as do many conversations with abandoned sock puppets. However, at Brioso Fresh Pasta, efficient service merges with local and organic ingredients to bump "fast and casual" into the glow of a new spotlight. Italian dishes range from house-made pasta to fork-free paninis, all of which arrive at tables on the arms of friendly servers. Brioso’s culinary team also respects special dietary needs with gluten-free pastas and vegan menu options.
Housemade dough rises twice every day in Frodo's Pizza's kitchen, where each batch follows a recipe perfected since the restaurant's founding in 1979. Whole-milk mozzarella cheese joins customizable toppings such as artichoke hearts and italian sausage; specialty pizzas such as the Hawaiian combine pre-calibrated selections of ham, pineapple, and bacon. Frodo's also serves an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, and placates sweet teeth with chocolate chip dessert pizza and soda poured by the cup, half-gallon, or mouthful.
Using recipes that go back five generations of Sicilians, Antonino Bertolo's Pizza & Wine Bar has filled the bellies of eager diners for more than thirty years. Pure olive oil and a touch of honey combine to give the pizza dough its distinctive flavor, and high-quality mozzarella bubbles atop pies and pastas and inside calzones and Stromboli.
Handmade pizzas and calzones complement a lineup of pasta dishes at Trio, where chefs satisfy Italian cravings with a lengthy menu of the region’s most authentic and recognizable dishes. The team kicks off the workday by making housemade sauces for its dozen or so pasta dishes. Chefs make the classics, such as tomato and basil over angel-hair pasta, as well as the more complex recipes, including a seafood trio of shrimp, scallops, and mussels in marinara.
Chefs also craft hand-tossed white or wheat pizza dough and top it with sausage and peperoni for a traditional pizza. They can also smother crusts with sweet-and-spicy molasses barbecue sauce for a signature barbecue pizza before firing it in the wood-burning oven until it reaches a perfect golden brown. Guests can also get pizza-like creations, including pies folded into calzones or heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cards.
Non-pizza entrees include a slow-roasted rotisserie chicken and a menu of gluten-free specialties. Desserts, including crème brule and tiramisu, make a fine finish to any meal—especially one paired with a glass of one the eatery's more than 25 varieties of wine.