As a boy, Bob Quintana’s first bite of pizza came fresh from the kitchen of his Italian neighbors, the Marones. Inspired by the authentic taste, he and his family began baking their own pies with herbs and tomatoes from their garden. Bob’s early encounters with Italian food burgeoned into a career at various local pizzerias, which eventually led him to open Li’l Nick’s Pizza with his wife in 1978.
Named for his then two-year-old son, the eatery was truly a family affair, with Bob's mom Ruby in the kitchen whipping up italian sausage. Today, Bob and now-adult Nick continue to rule the restaurant, where staff members create sauce, dough, and meatballs from scratch. Though their menu still flaunts staple pizzas, pasta, and sandwiches, it has expanded to also encompass Mexican tacos and burritos. The eats fuel conversation in two dining rooms, as well as at a recently installed bar with a 60-inch flatscreen TV filled with 60-inch-tall actors.
Chefs at Barroco Grill craft Colombian street fare from scratch, nabbing glowing reviews from Cleveland Scene and a nod from Cleveland Magazine’s Best of 2011 list. The signature arepas—which Cleveland Scene lauds as “hot, corny, and crisp”—hug melted mozzarella and succulent meats inside a pocket of all-white corn batter. Chefs also drizzle plates with creative flourishes such as wasabi coleslaw and peanut cream sauce. Beneath the dining room’s exposed wooden beams, snippets of brick walls peek out from behind artwork by local artists and high-functioning house pets.
With a signature pizza size called the Monster, you’d expect Pudge Brothers Pizza to be more focused on quantity than quality. But in fact, the chefs create their signature varieties of hand-tossed pies by blending together the flavors of three sauces, a range of meats, and fresh veggies. From within sizzling ovens, chefs pull out creations such as the Jersey Girl—a pizza featuring italian sausage and green peppers—or the White Delight—a ham, chicken, and garlic-sauce combination. Pies range in size from 10 inches to 18 inches, with a range of garlic bread, wings, and cinnamon bread to fill in a meal. The shop also offers delivery service, ensuring clients can have a hot, hearty meal when time is short or when the paparazzi won’t leave their front yard.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
Organic Pizza Company lives up to its moniker by working directly with local, eco-conscious grain growers and building a menu based around certified-organic ingredients. The pizza makers craft their crust with organic white flour and brewer's grain from Great Divide Brewing, sealing in taste with a selection of more than 30 toppings such as gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto, and arugula, which also dot fresh salads. Take-and-bake pizzas line Organic Pizza Company’s freezers, letting customers heat them up at home or over a neighborhood trashcan fire when sharing with friends. Organic Pizza Company strives to give back to the community by raising funds for the Metro CareRing, a hunger-relief organization that provides food, transportation, and other services to people in need.
Borriello Brothers Pizza didn't just copy New York-style pizza—they imported it. Owned by New York natives, the pizza joint pays tribute to the city's staple, craftting their pizzas with attention to detail. Their sauce comes from California tomatoes, they only use 100% real whole milk mozzarella cheese, and they layer their pizzas with sausage made from prime cuts of pork. The result is a pie that grew out of original New York recipes, just as the city's skyscrapers sprout from cracks in the sidewalks. In addition to traditional NY-style pizzas, they serve Sicilian crust pizzas, and feature signature pies with toppings such as Genoa salami, sliced steak, and baked ziti. The menu also incorporates calzones, pastas, and other Italian specialties.