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, grilled and deli-style hoagies are assembled and calzones and pizzas baked 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.
Named one of the area's top five restaurants by the author of Food Lovers' Guide to Phoenix and Scottsdale and dubbed best neighborhood pizza by Phoenix New Times, Classic Italian Pizza lavishes diners with a slew of dough-based Italian specialties. Swirls of heat from piping hot pies float through the air of the eatery, where patrons can watch as their pizzas and calzones emerge from the arched opening of an oversized brick oven in a puff of savory aromas and Caribbean vacation photos. Artfully selected topping combinations preen atop crusts in classic arrangements, or customized from the menu's slate of 25 gourmet toppings. Meanwhile, palates stay balanced with Italian soda, imported beer, or almost two dozen wine options.
The taste technicians at Spacoli's Pizza & Wings craft a menu of hand-tossed, stone-baked pizzas, as well as wings, salads, and cheesesteaks, for delivery or consumption in their casual dining establishment. Made-from-scratch pizzas, like the Martian pyramids, come in two sizes (14-inch, $7.99+; 18-inch, $9.99+), or as an individually-sized wedge ($2.50) fitted for personal palates. More than 15 toppings top the topping list, including meatballs, jalapeños, ground beef, and ham-aping canadian bacon. Select from a gaggle of specialty pizzas, such as the romano- and ricotta-blanketed white pie ($14.99+) or the bacon- and cheddar-laden cheeseburger pizza ($14.99+), packing malt-shop flavor without tinny jukeboxes or slice-stealing Fonzies.
In order to craft a truly authentic New York–style pizza, NYPD Pizza holds that only New York water will do. All of its kitchens boast a custom filtration system that replicates the flavor and character of Big Apple tap water, said to give the city's pizza and bagel dough its trademark flavor. At NYPD Pizza, that meticulously made dough is hand-tossed and baked inside of a classic stone oven. Similar care is put into selecting the rest of the ingredients—the kitchen strives to use only fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, and employs exclusive cheese blends from Wisconsin and California.
The menu sports more than 15 specialty pizzas, many of which are New York–themed, such as the signature Brooklyn Family topped with pepperoni, sausage, and fresh basil. Other standouts include a Veganizza with veggies, Daiya vegan cheese, and an optional gluten-free crust, and a Pizza Blanca white pie with olive oil and crushed garlic. Slices of pizza, bites of Italian sandwiches, and family-size helpings of pasta all pair well with sips of NYPD Uptown Amber Ale, a craft beer brewed exclusively for NYPD Pizza by The Phoenix Ale Brewery.
Naked Pizza hearkens back to the age of cavemen, when dense grains supplied the energy necessary to combat hours of Ice Age drudgery. The pizzeria’s kitchen chemists kept this lifestyle in mind while developing the shop’s Ancestral Blend, a conglomeration of 10 grains—including oats, brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa—infused with prebiotic agave fiber and probiotics that promote slow and healthy digestion. Toppings are also stripped down to their simplest and healthiest form, from rGBH-free Wisconsin mozzarella to tomato sauce free of citric acid or sugar. Naked Pizza also dispenses with dinnertime secrecy by openly posting nutritional information for all to see and inviting feedback via social media and onsite semaphore flags.
Though Terry "Joe" Black spent more than two decades in the restaurant and food industries, for many years the notion of opening his own pizzeria remained a wistful one. Smitten with the restaurant business during his college years, he spent the first 15 years of his career working for national chains, then another 10 in food distribution. It wasn?t until Black met and befriended Nick Heddings, owner of Arizona Pizza Company in Tucson, that the gears were set in motion to allow Black to make the leap to ownership, spurred in part by Heddings's support and pizza recipe. Black and his wife, Mary, kept the concept simple: a limited menu centered around tasty, New York?style pizza. They resolved to be fanatical about their customers? experience and to create a welcoming, neighborhood feel. To further that goal, Black and his family remain active with local schools and organizations to this day.
Their focus on quality and friendliness has paid off. Of Jimmy & Joe?s signature "Serious Slice," blogger Michele Laudig said?as part of the Phoenix New Times? 100 Favorite Dishes series in 2010?"It's super thin and crisp on the bottom, with puffy, chewy edges." Each gigantic slice is cut from the 24-inch Big Jimmy, arrives on its own metal pan, and, like a celebrity?s engagement ring, is bigger than the average person's head. As testament to its food?s deliciousness, the restaurant has won multiple awards, including the Reader Pick for Best Pizzeria in the East Valley Tribune's 2011 Best of East Valley.