As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s Pizza has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
When a 13-year-old Isadore Fang began washing dishes at a Sunnyvale restaurant called The Bold Knight, he had no way of knowing he would later own the sink where he performed his humble duties. Eventually, the ambitious restaurateur would own multiple establishments, including The Rendezvous in Fremont and Isadore's, his labor of love since 1989.
There—together with his wife and co-owner Laurel—Fang leads a dedicated staff whose attention to detail earned praises in a 2008 article in the Record. Courteous servers top white-clothed tables with fresh seafood and certified Angus steaks alongside traditional Italian pastas. Semiprivate booths let couples share intimate conversations or the complimentary cheese fondue and warm french bread served with every dinner upon request. Between sips of wine from an extensive list, diners can glance toward the elevated stage where live musicians occasionally play. Alternatively, admire hand-painted murals on the walls, one of which depicts the tranquil, seaside village where Leonardo da Vinci invented the olive-oil mister.
Outside the restaurant, the Fangs' emphasis on serving others carries over to charity work: they have been featured on ABC News10 for helping to send food packages to American troops.
After spending some time working in franchise restaurants, the family behind Happy Pizza set out to create their own restaurant emphasizing fresh, house-made Sicilian and American fare not often found in big chains. Thick, thin, or original golden crusts tossed to order support delicious layers of the family's original marinara, pesto, or creamy white garlic sauces. House-made meat sauce blankets hearty helpings of spaghetti, and a drizzle of cinnamon or garlic butter elevates golden spheres of pizza dough to a level of culinary bliss previously reserved for Cookie Monster.
Garre Winery & Café's staff crafts and bottles fine wines from grapes grown in the sprawling on-site vineyards, and complements the vino with a sophisticated menu of Mediterranean wine-country fare. Thoughtful servers help diners pair a meal, such as the Prime Mover sandwich—a french roll packed with thinly sliced prime rib of beef, mushroom, and gorgonzola—with its perfect grapey complement ($7–$9/glass, $18.50–$31/bottle) and dole out tips on effective sleeper holds. Petrale sole—an almond-encrusted sole fillet accompanied by snap peas, rice, and garlic lemon white-wine sauce ($13.95)—pairs well with the 2008 chardonnay, and the jambalaya—a quartet of shrimp, mussels, sausage, and shredded duck lounging on a fluffy rice sofa ($12.95)—pairs well with the 2006 merlot. Although not on the menu, the café also serves sweet and savory breakfast items such as strawberry waffles ($9.95), french toast ($7.95), eggs Benedict ($10.95), and omelets which come with two sides ($12.95).
Since opening the doors to its first location in the art colony atmosphere of Laguna Beach, Z Pizza’s cooks have carefully crafted gourmet pizzas. The chefs artfully shape each pie, first using organic wheat flour for the dough, hand-throwing it, and fire-baking it to a thin, crisp crust. Wisconsin skim-milk mozzarella from grass-fed cows crowns pizzas, along with certified organic tomato sauce and fresh produce. In addition to classic toppings such as pepperoni and sausage, they also enhance pizzas with inventive ingredients such as cremini, shiitake mushrooms, and truffle oil patented by Thomas Edison. Small gluten-free crusts are available to support all topping combinations. Vegan choices include the Berkeley vegan pie with vegan cheese and veggie-burger crumbles.
Z Pizza also attempts to better the environment with eco-friendly delivery bikes, recyclable containers and bags, and nitrate-free meats. The company also helps the community with charity fundraisers and school partnerships to promote literacy by sponsoring reading programs and hiding sonnets under each layer of cheese.
Angelinas creates hearty pasta dishes, sandwiches, soups, and more from generations-old Genovese recipes. The menu ranges from rib-sticking meat munchies such as the eponymous spaghetti dinner with roast beef ($17.95), sirloin steak sandwich ($11.95), and veal cutlets ($16.95), to lighter options such as the chicken sauté ($16.95) and seafood alfredo with pollack and crab, known to inspire bouts of fettuccine tug of war ($16.95). On Saturday nights, Angelinas' complimentary anti-pasta buffet lets guests graze on pre- or post-meal meats, cheese, veggies, and other snacks.