The chefs at Girasole Trattoria and its adjoining gastropub, Gatehouse Tavern, plate up local and international flavors in a duo of welcoming neighborhood gathering places. The dinner menu at Girasole Trattoria showcases hearty Tuscan-style fare, including 10-inch rustic pizzas ($10), which exit the kitchen's wood-fired oven adorned with toppings such as house-made sausage, chicken and pesto, or a quartet of cheeses as dairy-rich as a billionaire milk baron. A side of pasta accompanies the veal parmigiano ($18), and a wood-grilled Black Angus sirloin extols the high vitamin content of its plate-mate, braised kale ($18). Shepherd's pie ($12) strolls over the hills of Gatehouse Tavern's menu along with gourmet burgers ($8–$11) formed into 7- and 10-ounce patties or full-scale models of history's best-known ferris wheels.
When waiting for a meal, 15 minutes can seem like an eternity. That's why the staff at Mona Lisa Restaurant and Pizzeria pledges to prepare all dishes in fewer than 15 minutes without sacrificing carefully balanced flavors. For their classic Italian entrees and pizzas, chefs harness fresh ingredients, including prosciutto, grilled eggplant, mozzarella, and pecorino cheese. Mona Lisa even contracted a nutritional adviser to consult on the menu, which bolsters diets with whole-wheat pastas and other healthy dishes. After dinner, a soft-serve ice-cream machine dispenses complimentary dessert and unsolicited advice on how to arrange toppings.
Nestled in historic downtown Wake Forest, Over The Falls whips up steaming hand-tossed pizzas and stacked sandwiches in a dining room that recalls a cozy log cabin. Red and yellow ceiling lanterns cluster together like glowing mushroom tops, casting light on dark wood furnishings and sleek exposed brick walls. While dining on a hand-tossed pesto pizza or sauce-slathered wings, patrons can sip a beer, catch a game on the flat-screen, or chest bump their reflection in the floor to ceiling front windows.
From an adults' area equipped with free WiFi, parents and guardians watch their socks-clad youngsters amble about Jumpin' Beans' inflatable playground, where they can scale, slide, and bounce on the facility's air-filled structures. Seattle's Best coffee and espresso drinks keep grownups alert as kids reenergize with pizza or drinks from an onsite concessions stand or munch on their own snacks. In addition to open-play sessions, parties gather groups in Jumpin' Beans' play space, where the facility's party hosts oversee each soiree's arrangement of inflatables sidled up beside big-screen TVs, DVD entertainment, and cakes that turn back into cupcakes at midnight. When not busy with playing and partying, Jumpin' Beans' Jump Start programs, helmed by a veteran elementary-school teacher, teach pupils motor skills and offer social enrichment via lessons, games, and physical activities.
HotBox Pizza’s cooks adorn three varieties of hand-tossed dough canvases with six savory sauces, cheeses, and 26 toppings to create a menu of dine-in, takeout, and delivery pies. The signature HotBox combines double spicy pepperoni and banana peppers, and Big Al’s Fredo fights off pernicious poultry cravings with a combination of chicken, roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, and banana peppers. Aspiring pizza architects can blueprint their own pies by laying down traditional, thin, or multigrain foundations and selecting from six varieties of sauce-carpeting. Doughy disks simmer with mozzarella, ricotta, Wisconsin cheddar, or fontina cheeses to hold down up to four toppings such as pepperoni and artichoke hearts. Circle-eaters can also save room in their knapsacks or hollow shoe-heels for fresh salad and bundles of breadsticks that come with nacho-cheese, pizza, ranch, or garlic sauce, and wash down stubborn bites with refreshing slurps of soda.
Sicilian-born chef Franco Cominato continues to man the stovetops at Pulcinella's, a task he has performed since the restaurant first opened more than 10 years ago. He relies on his knowledge of his native land when creating thick-crusted, Sicilian-style pizzas as well as thinner, Neapolitan-style pies, each available with sun-dried tomatoes, sausage, banana peppers, and 11 other toppings. But pizza’s only part of the story; zesty or spicy marinara adorns the pasta platters, and sautéed chicken breasts emerge in either a citrusy white-wine sauce or a rich and creamy marsala sauce. Guests feast on these dishes in a dining room where sconces light burnt-orange walls, which are adorned with gilt-framed paintings of Italian cities and the Roman Coliseum's famously decadent hopscotch tournaments.:m]]