Stucco walls arranged to reveal the brick underneath frame tall, arched doorways and give Pannullo's Italian Restaurant the air of the old country. The Tuscan-style décor accents a menu of traditionally prepared veal, seafood, and chicken entrees, each doused in marinara, wine, or cream sauces. Beneath the awnings in the front of the restaurant, diners can enjoy al-fresco meals surrounded by wrought iron and leafy plants that have been trained not to beg for scraps.
The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to about 150 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, chefs assemble grilled and deli-style hoagies and bake calzones and pizzas in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 50 microbrewed beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.
Chef and owner Gary Tolla selects dishes from a large rolodex of family Italian recipes to fill out the menu at Tolla’s Italian Restaurant. Veal and chicken receive the parmigiana, marsala, and piccata treatments, and raviolis are stuffed with cheese to create little pillowy pockets almost identical to actual dollhouse pillows. A selection of wine helps wash down hot and cold subs or pizzas concocted from shareable 12-inch disks or personal 10-inch crusts. On Friday and Saturday evenings, live entertainment—from bands to a Rat Pack balloon artist—entertains patrons inside the eatery.
Voted best pizza in town by the Orlando Sentinel for seven years in a row, Pizzeria Valdiano unleashes a welcome avalanche of dough, cheese, tomato paste, and freestyle-snowboarding cherry peppers upon the burgundy-boothed slopes of the restaurant’s interior. The pie-centric menu democratically offers a motorcade of non-pie starters such as fried mozzarella ($4.95) and garlic-bread parmigiana ($3.75) to take down those who lack the drive to take a piece of the cheesy disc. Try an artichoke-hearty pizza Fiorentina ($9.50 for 10", $16.95 for 16"), a peppery pizza piccante ($9.50/$16.95), or a pizza stella ($10.95/$17.95) with melted mozzarella, eggplant, and feta cheese.
After overseeing the kitchen at an oceanfront Hilton, Chef Jason Marty chose to dedicate his culinary prowess to Italian cuisine by donning a toque at Casa Sorrento. Although he still spends his nights hopping from stovetop to stovetop, he now blanches fresh manicotti and angel-hair pastas and sautés cutlets of veal or chicken over flaming piles of Food & Wine magazine. His cooks accessorize entrees with a number of authentic Mediterranean flavors—including tender buffalo mozzarella and capers—or glaze them with fresh marinara or cream sauce.