In 1993, a few entrepreneurs transformed the basement of a Minneapolis apartment building into an Italian restaurant. It became the first Buca di Beppo. The owners of that inaugural location soon found themselves riding a wave of popularity and marinara sauce as they opened new restaurants across the nation. Today, the eatery occupies 99 locations nationwide, from downtown San Francisco to Times Square, New York.
At each location, chefs maintain the northern and southern Italian flavors that made the original so popular, adding only a few American twists. They also supply family-style servings, which help make Buca di Beppo a favorite place for families and friends to gather in large, hungry groups. The chefs bake up batches of Cheesy Bread Florentine, a colorful combo of spinach, roma tomatoes, and garlic sprinkled over Italian bread and sealed in place with fresh, melted cheeses. For entrées, they prepare dishes with an eye toward quantity, both of portion and choice; they whip up Veal Parmigiana, Baked Ziti, and classic Italian-American staples like Ravioli and Lasagna. And in keeping with the convivial atmosphere, they also serve truly decadent desserts. Their Mt. Vesuvius Dark Chocolate Cake erupts with melted chocolate, and their Colossal Brownie Sundae towers with six scoops of ice cream and tiers of sundae trimmings.
By the age of ten, Mulberry Street Pizzeria owner Richie Palmer already had some game in the kitchen. He could make mashed potatoes, meat balls, and marinara sauce—all thanks to techniques and recipes he learned at his mother's side. He always knew he was destined to open a restaurant, he just didn't know where or when. Fate finally struck one night, when, out of curiosity, he peered into a boarded up bakery near his home in the Bronx and found it contained an old, majestic brick oven. A short time—and a call to an oven mechanic—later, he opened his first restaurant, Modern Pizzeria, to great success.
Fate would strike again during a visit to LA, when an old friend convinced Richie to bring his business model—and his mother's marinara recipe—to the west coast. Mulberry Street Pizzeria opened in 1992, and since then, the franchise has grown to encompass four locations, each slinging slices of authentic NY-style pizza. Besides classic cheese slices, diners sink their teeth into pizzas topped with eggplant or chicken parmesan, barbecue chicken, or pesto and sundried tomato, and Mulberry Street even sells its pizza dough and sauces to-go, so customers can recreate their favorite pies at home.
When catering parties and special events, Roma Italian Deli's staffers enter hoisting trays of sandwiches, cannolis, and tiramisu. At Roma's sit-down eatery, visitors can have a tasty party of their own in the dining room or outside on the breezy patio. The menu begins with an antipasto salad layered with cold cuts, fresh veggies, and a blanket of Italian dressing. Hearty subs stuffed with meats, such as genoa salami or prosciutto, furnish bellies alongside a choice of soup or salad, while fettucini noodles tossed in creamy marinara sauce serve as a bed for grilled sausages or an ugly wig for freaking out blind dates.
The founders of zpizza think of their pies as edible art and imbue each slice with things that are good for you, from organic flour and tomato sauce to rich Wisconsin cheese from grass-fed, hormone-free cows. Innovative topping combinations create a menu of distinctive pizzas such as the Tuscan with cremini and shitake mushrooms and the curry chicken and yam with mango chutney. Classic cheese and pepperoni pies also emerge from the oven with distinctive crispy crusts, which are hand-thrown each day using regular, whole wheat, or gluten-free dough.