La Villa Pizzeria & Restaurant
Maurina Branchinelli wakes up early to prep ingredients in La Villa Pizzeria's kitchen. The mother of the restaurant's current owner is known to make sure her pomodoro sauce has the right amount of olive oil and even hop behind the line to help sauté during the dinner rushes. This love of food runs throughout the Branchinelli family, from Maurina's husband, Benito, to her brother, Gino, who opened the family's first restaurant in 1955. The Zagat-rated restaurant has thrived since opening in Queens in 1982, enough to expand to two locations in Brooklyn.
Inside their kitchens, chefs stoke wood-burning ovens to bake more than 19 varieties of pizzas, including Neapolitan- and Sicilian-style pies dressed with whole-milk mozzarella and a specialty San Marzano tomato-and-basil sauce. Each location has a spacious dining room where patrons can split appetizers of homemade meatballs, dig into plates of sautéed Nature veal marsala, and down a rich shot of espresso before a long night of wondering whether they paid the phone bill.