Samuel Mancino's Italianate empire extends throughout the Midwest, each outpost stocked with a menu of fresh-baked grinders and pizzas loaded with hearty ingredients. A troika of ham, hard salami, and spicy italian sausage powers the signature italian grinder ($6.49 for an 8"), spurred on to its task of filling bellies by green pepper, onion, and melted mozzarella. Mancino's chefs toss dough by hand to give it a fluffy texture and one bittersweet taste of freedom before it meets its fate as a foundation for pizzas laden with fresh, gourmet toppings such as chicken and garlic, or ham, bacon, and pineapple ($15.99+ for a large). For dessert, piping-hot breadsticks return in sugary eveningwear as sweet Cinna-Stix ($5.99).
Rulli’s culinarians dish up pizzas, pasta, and seafood dishes born from recipes central to southern Italy, serving patrons in their 25-year-old dining area at their Middlebury location or at their newest spot in Elkhart. A range of appetizers, such as 12 broaster-style chicken wings accompanied by dunk tanks of barbecue, ranch, or vidalia onion sauce, pave the way for heartier main courses or Stooge-level food fights. Velvety ricotta, parmigiana, romano, and provonello cheeses comprise the lasagna’s melty strata, which trundle italian sausage toward forks on fragrant avalanches of marinara and signature sauce. Rulli’s pizza, which has been served at the Elkhart County Fair for two decades, bristles with inventive toppings such as spaghetti and meatballs.
Vivid Italian artwork and murals from local artist Rocky Weaver pepper the dining room, a delightful prelude to the neighboring Rulli's Bella Luna sports bar’s fun neon signage, clacking pool balls, flickering high-definition TVs, and live music. Foam-flecked taps line the full-service bar boasting a selection of robust wines, which nicely complement rowdy bands wailing or grape stomping live atop a well-appointed stage.
Antonio's Italian Ristorante stuffs hungry stomachs with pastas, pizzas, strombolis, a variety of wines, and other authentic Italian dishes. Guests can commence a journey through the expansive menu with an appetizer of pepperoni-and-mozzarella-stuffed bread sticks ($4.50). After properly preparing the palate, culinary matchmakers can try an entree of chicken stromboli, a mélange of grilled-chicken-breast strips, tomatoes, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese snugly enveloped by fresh pizza dough ($6.95). A disk jam-packed with mozzarella, parmesan, feta, prosciutto, fresh basil, olive oil, and thinly sliced tomatoes takes shape as the prosciutto and pomodoro pizza ($14.99), like a popular rock band forming from a throng of bored investment bankers.
Since 1969, thin-crust pies have emerged from Z-Place Pizza’s oven crowned with custom combos of 15 ingredients, including banana peppers and chicken. Over time, Z-Place’s culinary team has even created its own specialties, including a variation of the Hawaiian pizza that swaps its custom-crafted pizza sauce for barbecue.
Along with favorites such as chicken-parm grinders, Z-Place’s cooks supplement their pies with some less common pizzeria dishes. Rather than grill or deep-fry, they opt to broast wings, fish, and pork chops. They even craft nine riffs on the baked potato, including versions with pizza and bacon-cheeseburger fixings. Feasts unfold inside Z-Place's booth-lined dining room, whose back wall is filled with arcade classics for pre- and post-meal gaming.
General Manager Nino Porpiglia oversees his family’s culinary legacy, laying out his mother’s traditional Italian-American feasts in the restaurant building built by his father more than 20 years ago. Hearty plates of veal, chicken, fish, steak, and pasta come flanked with house-made bread, and Old World sweets, including tiramisu and spumoni, add pleasing punctuation to dinner’s end. A wine list featuring more than 25 wines by the bottle details vintages ranging from J.J. Muller’s steadfast riesling to Joseph Phelps cabernet sauvignon ’05, which boasts a 90-point rating from Wine Spectator. Inside the romance-tinged dining room, painted murals of San Roberto and Fiumara stand guard as the bar’s signature martinis add glitter to conversations held from the comfort of red leather chairs.