"Sorry, can you hold on a sec?" Jobi's Pizza owner Mark Hinckley attends to a delivery phone. He's efficient and friendly. Upon returning, he graciously apologizes and continues his story. "Well, we all have day jobs. This is something fun to do at night." The "we" Mark is referring to is himself and his two business partners, Joe Kuftack and a man named O'Brien. It was the combination of their names that spawned the restaurant's curious moniker—Jobi's. "We work for engineering companies," Mark explains. "I work for architecture, the other two in military civil service." Maybe it's this background in creating something from nothing that explains the success of the restaurant's hand-tossed pizzas and made-from-scratch wing and pasta sauces. However, Mark believes that it's something more immediate that brings customers in the door. "They're supporting a local business. When regulars come in, sure, it's the quality. But here you can feed a family of four for under $20. It's a tough economy, and we want to help." Through the floor-to-ceiling restaurant windows, night is settling in, and the tables are filling up for dinner. The red-and-white-checkered tablecloths slowly populate with hot sandwiches, gooey specialty pizzas, and whole-grain pastas. Looking around at the wood paneling, smiling faces, and pizza ovens aggressively wagging their tails, there's a palpable feeling of friendliness in the room. Mark believes that comes from a place that larger chains can't access. "One of the people that works here––the one who painted the Jobi's logo on the wall—he's an airbrush artist. Wintertime, he works at the pizza place. The rest of the year, he works airbrush on the ocean," Mark says proudly. "We can do things like that. We're very family oriented."
Though flavorful Italian cuisine is at the core of Cogan's Pizza, taste buds aren’t the only sensory receptors that perk up when visiting the vibrant eatery. The interior provides a visual feast with huge chandeliers casting subtle twinkles across pressed-tin ceilings and walls covered with posters and music memorabilia. The music motif also engages ears and vocal cords with regular live performances and karaoke.
At the bar, more than 30 beers flow from a lineup of seasonally rotating taps, each carbonated with the perfect number of bubbles to wash down cheesy and meaty pies. For patrons who adhere to a more plant-based diet, the cooks can also top crusts with faux meats, soy cheese, or an evil aunt’s favorite orchid. Pasta dishes, hot sandwiches, and subs stacked with roasted chicken, italian sausage, or roast beef round out the menu.
When a pair of former Virginia Beach lifeguards came up with the idea to open the first Chicho's Restaurant in 1968, they had one goal in mind: use nothing but fresh ingredients to make the best pizza they could. Decades later, this simple philosophy has grown into a statewide franchise where every topping is freshness and every pizza is hand tossed. A flavorful layer of marinara, garlic and herb, or hot and spicy sauces cover traditional and thin-crust pies scattered with more than 20 toppings in specialty and build-your-own combinations. Boneless chicken bites and wings soak up 10 different sauce varieties, including Cho's fire, garlic parmesan, and teriyaki. After two-handing a 5-ounce burger or hearty sub, guests can improve hand-eye coordination or get rid of cursed quarters by playing the games in Chicho's arcade.
It's rare to hear the words "gourmet" and "kid-friendly" in the same sentence, but that is exactly what Pie-tanza strives to be. Indeed, adults and kids can both enjoy the novelty of sitting at the counter that surrounds Ed McKee and Karen Waltman's open kitchen and watching as chefs hand-stretch Neapolitan-style dough, slather it with chunky tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, and slide it into the 600-degree wood-burning oven. It's the oven that makes these pizzas so authentic, producing the crispy, chewy, bubbly thin crust that is the hallmark of a true Neapolitan-style pie. Familiar enough for younger diners, the pies can also be made a little more refined, thanks to grownup-friendly gourmet toppings such as rosemary chicken and fresh basil, or tri-colored peppers and kalamata olives. The restaurant’s other authentic Italian eats include hearty baked pastas and sandwiches, which feature hot toasted sub rolls or fine leather wallets stuffed with slow-cooked meatballs, roast turkey, or prime rib and cheddar cheese. Of course, no Italian meal would be complete without dessert, so diners should save room for mini chocolate-dipped cannoli or a java-chip brownie sundae topped with crushed dark-chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Long before she became the owner and executive chef at Europa Italian Cafe & Tapas Bar, Michelle Williams cut her teeth in the restaurant industry as a hostess and a cocktail waitress. Ambitious from the start, Williams soon finished a rigorous chef apprenticeship program, became a sous chef, and learned to cut onions so expertly that everyone nearby would weep tears of joy. Today as a founding member of the Richmond Restaurant Group, she oversees a slew of unique local eateries.
At Europa Italian Cafe & Tapas Bar, Williams and her cooking staff blend dozens of Spanish tapas with classic Italian pastas and seafood. The restaurant's signature paella mixes scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams, and fish to harmonious ends, and the meat paella alters the classic recipe, replacing seafood with chicken, chorizo, and lamb sausage. More than 50 bottles of European and American wine—as well as housemade sangria—complement the dishes.
If the murals in Tuscany Ristorante Italiano's romantic dining room didn't tip you off to the eatery's Italian influence, the scents coming from the kitchen would. In there, chefs sauté Gulf shrimp, cuts of veal, and fillets of fish before tossing them with the house's pasta and sauces. They also craft traditional thin-crust pizzas using their own freshly made dough, basil, and natural cheese to capture traditional Italian flavors. The shop opens its doors from breakfast onward and begins building light breakfast dishes as well as bistro sandwiches and salads that burst with spinach, grilled chicken, and goat cheese, just like a farmer's piñata.