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.
The first Cool River Pizza opened more than 10 years ago with a mission to serve handcrafted pies made from fresh ingredients and California cheese in a family-friendly environment. All of the dough is made fresh daily and each pizza sports Cool River's homemade sauce accented with more than seven herbs, spices, and umlauts. Over the years, Cool River Pizza has grown from a solo outfit to a family of restaurants in California and Indiana. Inside each location, televisions illuminate dining rooms packed with long wooden tables and board games for families to play while waiting for their orders.
The founding family behind Pizza Bell starts each of their pies with their grandmother's dough recipe. Whole-milk mozzarella and Pizza Bell's signature sauce then invite toppings to form such creations as the All Meat Fantastico, the Garlic Chicken Supreme, and the Spring Veggie. To augment the circular sundries, Pizza Bell keeps a salad bar stocked with a slew of fixings and serves up toasty meatball subs straight from the oven. For dessert, sweet teeth can swan dive into cinnamon sticks or apple and raspberry twisters, whose recipes were discovered by playing Chubby Checkers records backwards.
It is not just the pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas that keep guests coming back to Pete's Restaurant and Brewhouse and Original Pete's—the handcrafted beers also play a major role, quenching thirsts with flavors ranging from the Uptown blonde’s light layers of honey to the highly hoppy profile of the Skinner’s Horse IPA. Pete’s team keeps meals in balance by offering food-and-beer-pairing suggestions, assuring diners that the Midtown ale harmonizes with fish tacos and that the Old Town red—a malty, medium-bodied amber ale—improves coordination for slam-dunking meatballs.
For more than 30 years, the chefs of De Vinci’s Elk Grove have been hard at work perfecting the traditional Italian recipes that stock their deli counter. They begin every morning with their hands floury, crafting doughs that will form the base of housemade foccacia breads, cheese-filled ravioli, and custom sandwiches. Joined occasionally by a fluffy ravioli mascot in a toque, staff combine dishes into prearranged packages ready for the family dinner table or parcel out single dishes by the pint, quart, gallon, or 10-gallon hat.
In 1968, a decade after moving from Carlantino, Italy, to the United States, the Guerrera family opened its first restaurant. Today, all three Roma's Pizza and Pasta locations boast family members behind the counter and Old-World recipes on the menu. Tony Guerrera can still be found in the kitchen tossing the dough used to build Roma's specialty pizzas, which range in intensity from the elegant Bianca made with oil, garlic, and cheese up to the mega meat-combo pie piled with seven types of meat. A slate of hearty pastas hewn from similarly traditional ingredients gives diners an opportunity to show off the retractable forks scientists implanted in their hands.