Café Corleone's cooks transport the rich culinary landscape of Sicily to the United States through mouthwatering Italian pizzas, pastas, and desserts served in a warmly lit space. Head chef Alongi dazzles taste buds with a menu of seafood, steaks, and flavorful sauces made from seasonal ingredients. Inside, pictures of old Italy pepper the walls and tables frame house-made pizzas and elegant desserts with a dressy-casual outfit of checkered tablecloth. In addition to enrapturing palates with plates of fresh Sicilian fare, Café Corleone keeps eardrums entertained with live music from Ron Nardo and Terry Anfuso, who delight audiences each Saturday night with their renditions of jazz standards, Rat Pack hits, and dubsteb remixes of The Sound of Music soundtrack.
Pizza shapers at the family-owned Pappadoz eatery ornament freshly baked crust canvases with signature house-made tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and a slew of gourmet ingredients. Specialty pies showcase barbecue-chicken breast or a medley of vegetarian toppings, and large calzones envelop mozzarella cheese and gourmet fixings like a warm parka zipped around a chilly parakeet. Freshly sliced 10-inch subs and pastas provide flavorful sustenance for pizza renouncers, and smoothies eschew added sugars in favor of natural fruits. Customers can perch upon stools within the cozy shop, connecting to complimentary WiFi and using a charging dock to keep their cell phones, laptops, and electronic tie racks working briskly.
When owner Frank White took over this Downey eatery—then called Granata's Italian Restaurant—in 2011, the Granata family had already been serving Italian cuisine there for more than 54 years, according to the Downey Patriot. Today, White still plucks recipes from the family cookbook but has also added his own touch with a new menu of hot and cold Spanish-style tapas. Made with gourmet ingredients such as fresh clams, spanish piquillo peppers, and rich serrano ham, the new plates are small enough to be shared with friends or slingshotted spitefully at enemies. The chefs also use locally sourced ingredients for classic Italian meals whenever possible, festooning linguine carbonara with fresh sweet peas and veal parmigiana with rich tomato sauce.
In the renovated dining area, blue pendant lamps light the full bar and surrounding cherry-wood tables and chairs. Flat-screen TVs share wall space with murals of the Venetian canals where Leonardo da Vinci first learned to jet ski.
When it came time for the team at Johnny Carino’s to come up with some new recipes, they began rifling through their personal cooking histories. Executive chef Chris Peitersen took his first kitchen job at a barbecue joint when he was 14, so he was primed to create Italian baby back ribs. By infusing brown sugar barbecue sauce with balsamic vinegar imported from Modena, he’s given the marinade a more acidic bite than typical barbecue sauces. As the ribs slowly roast and char on an oak grill, he bastes on his creation before finishing the dish with a dusting of parmesan.
The ribs are one of Carino’s many menu items that follow the restaurants’ approach of classic Italian preparations modified by forward-thinking flavor combinations. Diners will find a Black Angus burger capped with mozzarella and fried pepperoni, or sautéed tilapia spiced with garlic and jalapeño. Other signature dishes include the 16-layer lasagna, Skilletinis that sizzle with spaghetti and a choice of meat, and tiramisu made from scratch.
Amalfi Ristorante's ties to the entertainment industry are almost as strong as its ties to traditional Italian fine dining. The restaurant sits next door to the famed ACME Comedy Theatre and beneath Room 5 Lounge, which hosts shows by up-and-coming local musicians and comics. The entertainment at Room 5 comes with a side of history: jazz legend Nathaniel “Nat” Cole's band assembled there in 1937, when the building was still known as Swanee Inn.
Even with these connections to comedy and music present, Amalfi Ristorante's chefs remain solely focused on the refined Old World cooking that they prepare for diners. Homemade pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas topped with everything from prosciutto and mixed mushrooms to shrimp and spinach exemplify this commitment to Italian culinary traditions. However, the chefs also feature a small number of contemporary American dishes, such as Cajun-style seared tuna and a half-pound burger on a brioche bun.
The simple elegance of Amalfi Ristorante's dining room mirrors the chefs' willingness to incorporate rustic influences into a refined atmosphere. Exposed wooden ceiling beams complement the warm earth tones of the tan banquettes as well as the cream-hued linens that adorn each table. Thanks to its scattered candles and flickering fireplace, the space maintains a soft and intimate glow long after sunset.
From its generations-old recipes to its renowned singing waiters, Miceli's Italian Restaurant is steeped in tradition. The father of the current owners moved to California after World War II, bringing with him two brothers, two sisters, and a host of family recipes from Sicily. Beginning in 1949, they helped to introduce pizza to the old Hollywood crowd in a boisterous space with a detailed mural of a rural Italian scene. Celebrity sightings became a Miceli's tradition; the restaurant has been a rumored hotspot for stars past and present including Lucille Ball, the Beatles, and Marilyn Monroe, who loved pizza and helped to teach America that some people like it hot.
Joe Miceli now owns and operates two locations with his brother Frank, a trained chef. Stained-glass windows add to the eatery's welcoming family atmosphere as diners sit around tables in ornate wooden chairs. A collection of wine bottles hangs over tables loaded with specialties such as pizza with bay shrimp and fresh garlic or creamy pesto fettuccine with a signature romano-cheese sauce. As they deliver bottles of wine from as nearby as Napa and as far away as Tuscany, the wait staff sings classic Italian arias, show tunes, and all nine verses of the birthday song.