Brooklyn Pizza Works is a two-time recipient of Orange County Register's Best Pizza award, and its staff has adorned hand-shaped dough with fresh toppings since 1979. More than a dozen specialty pizzas sprawl across texture-imparting stainless-steel screens within a convection oven, which can cook up to 25 pizzas in six minutes, the same number of pies a hot laptop can cook in six years. Signature circles arrive loaded with toppings such as crushed garlic, canadian bacon, and marcella wine. The kitchen team concocts each slice with whole-milk mozzarella sprinkled atop house-made crust and sauce. In addition to pizza, 12 varieties of stuffed calzones and classic Italian entrees such as eggplant parm, lasagna, ravioli, and a plentitude of pastas satiate palates. Brooklyn Pizza Works can also supply picnics, graduation parties, and going-back-to-law-school celebrations with eats from the catering menu.
Bonafede-family matriarch Anita started JoJo's Pizza Kitchen more than four decades ago, and her discerning taste for ingredients is still identifiable in the menu. Though her son Joe, who napped on flour sacks in the back of the restaurant as a child, now runs the eatery, fresh basil and plum tomatoes grown in Stanislaus County still release aromas that hint at sun-soaked furrows. Through a dining room window, guests catch glimpses of chefs tossing freshly risen dough for pizzas or smaller chefs for their adorable giggles. They grate fresh parmesan cheese as wine cooks slowly down with mushrooms on the stovetop and chicken marinates in lemon and garlic. Servers bustle past, filling glasses with house wines or draft beers.
From founder Bill Larson’s first quaint pizza parlor, which he opened in 1959, Round Table has grown to more than 500 stores, which sprinkle across seven states like pepperonis across a sizzling pie. Self-proclaimed purveyors of “the last honest pizza,” Round Table cooks make dough from wheat grown on family farms in Idaho. That dough is rolled from scratch every day, in every restaurant, to pair with premium meats and fresh-cut veggie toppings.
Wood-paneled walls give the Fullerton location an old-school feel, which contrasts with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and robot chefs to replace the outdated steam-powered ones. The dining room’s ceiling fans whirl the steam from oven-baked pizzas in sizes from single-person smalls to 16-slice extra-larges that feed up to five. Besides create-your-own options, Round Table dishes up specialty pies named for medieval court characters such as King Arthur, Guinevere, and Frank, the little-known castle custodian.
Head Chef Ray brings more than 20 years of culinary expertise to the kitchen of Papa Pilo’s, where he champions a menu of Italian recipes that won CityVoter's Best Italian prize in 2011 and 2012. Thin-crust, New York–style pizzas don toppings such as fresh tomatoes and meatballs, and specialty pies include the breakfast pizza with eggs, bacon bits, onions, canadian bacon, and a snooze button. Papa Pilo’s also whips up dishes such as chicken parmesan, fettuccine in spicy fra diavolo sauce, and meat lasagna with ricotta, romano, and mozzarella.
Chef Luigi and the kitchen magicians at Luigis D Italia import Italian flavors to tongues with a menu of pastas, pizzas, and authentic entrees. Culinary compadres can savor the meeting of meat and grapes in the chianti-braised short ribs ($17) or hoist their forks into orecchiette pasta with house-made italian sausage ($12). When held to anxious ears, stuffed shells fill auditory canals with sounds of the Mediterranean sea and trickles of sauce ($14). White clam pizzas ($14 for small; $17 for large) motivate guests to dive for edible pearls, and meatball sandwiches ($9) cradle succulent spheres in a bready embrace. Diners can accompany meals with a bottled brew or glass of CK Mondavi white zinfandel ($5.95), and desserts (all $5) such as cannoli, tiramisu, and ice-cream tartufos encourage patrons to tap into their second stomachs.
Grab a bagel ring for all 12 fingers ($10.95 a dozen), or grab an individual for a baby bracelet ($1.14 per bagel). Many toppings, cream cheeses, and spreads are also available. Although Bagel Me!'s name is both direct and delicious, the menu expands beyond the realm of the round. Breakfast items such as gooey cheddar and egg melts served alongside cinnamon baked apples ($4.19) and freshly blended smoothies ($4.39) will cause smiles at sunrise. Afternoon diners can hang fangs on tri-tip steak sandwiches such as the jalapeno-pineapple pairing, loaded liberally with caramelized onions, Tillamook cheddar, and monterey jack cheese ($7.49). Or fork up a variety of starters, such as Irish nachos based in French fries and topped with bacon, onions, cheddar and jack cheeses, and lucky wishes ($5.79).