From within the coal-fired oven at Dino's Cucina, a menu of gooey pizzas, seafood dishes, and Italian favorites emerges to sate sauce-seeking appetites. Diners select from Dino’s three specialty pies or perform pizza alchemy, combining such high-quality ingredients as italian sausage, kalamata olives, and prosciutto to create a custom dish or edible portrait of William Henry Harrison. House specialties tackle hunger pangs with an assortment of chicken, seafood, and eggplant entrees, and wrangle noodle noshers with traditional and whole-wheat pastas. Between bites, patrons sip beverages from Dino’s full bar, check scores on flat-screen TVs, and tune out from workday hassles—such as deadlines and overly affectionate office supplies—with live entertainment every weekend.
The secret that has brought the Centrella family its restaurant success is an easy one to remember: keep things simple. In 1958, Vincenzo and Barbara Centrella left Naples for New York and opened Presto's as a way to introduce their community to the fresh, simple, stripped-down cooking style of their Italian ancestors. Today, the couple's son John and his childhood friends carry out the family mission and welcome patrons to Presto's with a menu heavily populated by the eatery's two namesakes—including a baked-ziti pizza, which marries the two dishes in a state-sanctioned ceremony involving a flaky pie, saucy penne, and two kinds of cheese.
A whimsical sculpture of chefs tossing a 3-D pie sits above Old Tappan Pizza's range and pizza ovens, which bake its signature Rothlisberger pie, topped with sausage, cheesesteak, lettuce, tomato, and a secret-recipe dressing. The pizza factory also prepares ready-to-go slices, and a pasta station lets customers top linguini, rigatoni, and other noodles with tomato sauce and garlic. From the café's green-checkered tables, one can dine while keeping an eye on the large wall-mounted television, ideal for watching the big game or an Azerbaijani reality show.
Inside the Garden State Plaza mall lies a gateway to the past, where flickering flames illuminate the charred interior of an oak-burning pizza oven, and the aroma of bubbling sauce made with freshly crushed tomatoes mixes with wisps of Frank Sinatra's silky voice. The charm that surrounds the rituals of Italian cooking drifts into Papa Razzi's dining room from an open-air kitchen, where cooks bustle around steaming pots of pasta. The culinarians use only fresh and imported ingredients when cooking, just as Old-World chefs did before they took jobs fixing the cleaver-wielding robots that would replace them.
Behind a wood-accented, 15-foot bar, mixologists sling a list of libations that includes mimosas, sangria, and wines selected to complement meals. In the dining room, fresh flowers sit atop white tablecloths, and celebrity photographs line the walls, reminding guests of treasured nuggets of pop culture.
At Biagio’s Ristorante, chef Jimmy Perides bakes individual pans of housemade lasagna and tosses imported and gluten-free pastas that earned the restaurant its Zagat rating. He puts his own mark on the menu with the steak ala chef, a new york sirloin steak crowned with cherry peppers, roasted garlic, and shitake mushrooms. Servers deliver wines from a selection of 50 handpicked bottles, which are often uncorked at seasonal tastings or splashed around at annual “wine fights.” The restaurant’s robust wine collection won it a 2010 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. A gurgling rock fountain stands at the entrance of the restaurant, welcoming patrons into the main dining area and adjacent wine room, and a flickering fireplace casts a warm glow over terracotta walls.
At Forero's New York Gourmet Pizzeria, chefs cobble fresh ingredients into a menu of pastas, sandwiches, pizzas, and Italian specialties. From their brick oven emerge pans of ultra-thin, whole-wheat, and gluten-free crusts bearing bubbly mozzarella and Forero's signature pizza sauce, with gourmet toppings such as ricotta, rib eye, or sun-dried tomatoes. Appetizers blend Italian and Mexican favorites before ushering in entrees where veal gets top billing and specialty pastas such as fettuccine Alfredo and italian cheese manicotti call out from the menu's pages like sirens to salivary glands. With take-away and complimentary delivery services, meals meet their destinies within the comforts of one's home or at a hunting cabin, where one can claim to have just caught a fresh pizza.