After moving from Greece in 1950, the six Fotopoulos brothers turned their hard-won earnings into the first of 12 ABC Pizza locations in 1966. From its humble beginnings in Connecticut, the chain grew to serve central Floridians and vacationing time travelers a menu of build-your-own pizzas topped with gourmet ingredients such as crab, feta, and shrimp, as well as preconceptualized specialty pies festooned with meats, seafood, and Mediterranean morsels. Hearty grinders and Italian pasta dishes share menu real estate with Greek delicacies including gyros, spinach pies, and grape leaves stuffed with shredded pages of Plato's Republic.
For Las Vegas Cafe owner Francies Vega, cooking is about putting smiles on people's faces. So when she designed her menu, she didn't stick to just one cuisine, but instead incorporated all the dishes that make her happy. The result is a fusion of Cuban and Italian recipes such as chorizo spaghetti, vegetable breakfast crepes, and Cuban-style fried rice sprinkled with ham, peppers, and eggs. Vega's signature dish is the chancellor fish fillet stuffed with ham and cheese and fried until it's as crisp as the first day of autumn.
Chefs at La Casa Della Pasta embellish pastas, gnocchi, and desserts made in-house with handfuls of imported Italian ingredients, including eggplant and mozzarella. As owner Enrique Tangari told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011, "I import everything, flour, water, tomatoes, cheeses … to make any kind of pasta dish you want, on the menu or not." His commitment to imported flavor also extends to the restaurant's drink menu, which features wines made from such traditional Italian varietals as pinot grigio, sangiovese, and nebbiolo, as well as beers with suspiciously small amounts of fermented grape juice.
Like any great Italian meal, made-from-scratch dishes at Spaghetti Warehouse are created from family recipes passed down for generations. Using fresh ingredients ranging from ricotta, romano, and mozzarella cheeses to house-made tomato sauce and Italian sausage, chefs labor for up to three days to prepare batches of their 15-layer signature lasagna from scratch. The menu also offers perfectly al dente pasta, bottomless soups, and 12-layer chocolate cakes to share with family and friends.
It’s that feeling of togetherness that people love about Spaghetti Warehouse, a feeling that is only enhanced when the drinks start flowing and the air is punctuated by the sounds of laughter as kids play retro games, such as The Claw prize-grabbing machine. To reach their table, guests commonly have to step through two doors: the front door of the restaurant and the door of the antique trolley parked inside. Since its inception in 1972, the Italian eatery has merged the functions of kitchen and museum. Artifacts such as grandfather clocks, factory flywheels, and circus billboards surround diners as they delve into Italian creations.
Veering away from the mainstream molds of personality-devoid coffee shacks, Tre Amici aims to establish itself as a local, independent hub for cappuccinos and creativity. Camp out on the squishy, orange sofas and admire local artwork while sipping on fair-trade and organic products. The full menu of hot and cold beverages includes the slushy latte frappamici with frozen espresso, milk, and a flavor shot ($4.75), chai latte ($4.20), and Italian soda ($3). Counter caffeine with a selection of good-for-you grub, such as Kashi oatmeal with either raisin spice and sliced apples, or brown maple and apple cinnamon ($2.95); organic low-fat yogurt parfaits layered with berries and maple-nut granola ($3.95); and hummus plates served with toasted pita ($5.75). Heartier fare includes crisp salads and gourmet sandwiches.
Black-and-white portraits of Sophia Loren stare down at diners as sunlight bounces off the mirrors lining one wall of Gio's Italian Restaurant. After inspecting wine bottles lined up against the wall or arm-wrestling a date to determine who gets the tallest chair, guests can dig into sautéed fish or chicken, fresh salads, or Italian classics such as penne alla vodka.