Dotting the Texan landscape with pizzerias like so many pepperonis in a hopeful meat-lover's garden, Goomba's ‘za joints bake up New York–style pies with ingredients from Costanzo's Bakery and Sorrento cheese. Dough made daily from scratch lays the groundwork for such classic toppings as italian sausage, mushrooms, artichokes, sweet or hot peppers, and anchovies. Pasta specialties such as cheese manicotti and baked ziti swim—like an eccentric millionaire—in a house-made tomato sauce infused with fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil, and a selection of calzones, salads, hot subs lends rest to the pizza weary. Daily lunch specials quell midday tummy rumbles from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and most locations offer both dine-in and carry-out fare.
Although they both hail from the Mediterranean, pizza and falafel don't often appear on the same menu. Diners at Rome's Pizza, however, might be prompted to wonder why—it turns out it's quite possible for one kitchen to carry both dishes off nicely. In a 2004 review, the Current's Alejandro Pérez praised the pesto pizza's "light, crispy crust and full-bodied flavor" and the falafel sandwich's "hot, crisp patties."
This juxtaposition isn't the only surprise on the extensive menu. Sure, you can get red sauce and pepperoni atop your pie, but Rome's specializes in white pizzas slicked with olive oil, herbs, and smoked garlic. Strombolis and calzones fold in on themselves to make for a hearty meal or a high-powered alternative to a water balloon, and sandwiches and pasta display the same love of big portions and off-the-beaten-path ingredients. On the Mediterranean side of the menu, there are also staples such as dolmas, hummus, and gyros.
Bottles of red and white wine line floor-to-ceiling racks in each room of Luce Ristorante e Enoteca. The restaurant's selection is so voluminous and varied that it has earned the Notable Wine List Diners’ Choice Award from OpenTable. The Zagat-rated restaurant holds very good to excellent ratings across the board, and has picked up other awards from OpenTable, including Best Ambiance, Neighborhood Gem, and Outdoor Dining. That ambiance includes stone columns inset with glowing lights that flank vibrant paintings in the main dining room, where waiters deliver housemade potato gnocchi in a gorgonzola-cream sauce, or wild mushrooms scattered across housemade pizza dough. Outside, cement pillars hold up a wooden-lattice roof on the patio, and a fireplace proffers a nice place to warm hands before patty-cake marathons.
Spicy pomodoro, saffron cream, gorgonzola-mushroom demi-glace—the sauces at Scuzzi's Italian Grill blanket the restaurant’s classic Italian entrees of smoked chicken, tender veal, and seafood. All entrees, including a 12-ounce rib eye, chicken medallions, and grilled jumbo shrimp on a rosemary-stem skewer, join tangled heaps of pasta that is never prewound onto forks. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are available as well.
Diners feast on these creations in the dining room amid corinthian pillars and arches and photos of Italian architecture hanging on sunny yellow walls. Over at the bar, four high-definition televisions entertain tipplers sipping specialty creations such as limoncello martinis. Outside, as the sun sets and a crane hoists the moon into the sky, lanterns illuminate wrought-iron patio tables and potted fronds.
Chef Jeff Foresman has been creating eclectic dishes for hotels across the country for the past 25 years. Inside Zocca Cuisine d'Italia's kitchen, he transforms local produce, cheese, and meats into Italian food including oversize veal meatballs and steak cacciatore.
Nestled inside the Westin Riverwalk Hotel, the ground-floor eatery sweeps open onto the river. Sun flits past the towering cypress trees that lean over the river and shade patrons on the patio. During nice weather, folding glass walls open up to let in warm breezes and the weeping of meteorologists who predicted thunderstorms. Wooden beams spanning the ceiling and copper accents drench the interior in warmth, and beneath them, servers dispense hand-tossed pizzas and lemon-crusted whitefish.