Familial warmth is at the core of Lanie and Alex Ciocca’s quaint Italian restaurant in historic downtown Richmond. A wedding photo of the brother-and-sister team’s parents greets visitors to Italian Maid Cafe—chosen because of their mother's nickname—but it’s the menu of comforting Italian cuisine that truly introduces diners to the Ciocca experience. Growing up in Pittsburgh, the pair dined on pasta and sauces made by hand, and their dishes afford customers the same luxury. Chef Alex sautés veal scaloppini with red onions, mushrooms, and wine, and he marinates the Southwestern-inspired Italian-lime chicken breast in lime vinaigrette before grilling it and giving it a massage with cilantro sauce. The kitchen's rotating selection of specials and housemade desserts always presents tasty complements to cappuccinos and lattes.
Each day, the chefs at Pepperoni's Pizza's eight locations crush premium tomatoes into sauces, roll out homemade dough, then cover the freshly baked pies with natural mozzarella. Diners can build their own creations from more than 30 toppings, including bacon bits and pineapples, or opt for more than 10 specialty pizzas such as the New Yorker, smothered with heaping amounts of sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Their menu also sates hearty appetites with more than 20 oven-baked subs, as well as local favorites such as calzones and smokey BBQ Buffalo wings.
Named after its owners' son, Preston's boasts a menu loaded with classic, hearty American pub fare. Like a fine haberdashery, an eclectic roster of 13 sauces gives traditional and boneless wings a full closet of unique jackets ($6.99 for six; $9.99 for 12), such as the sweet-meets-smoky Wango Tango Habanera BBQ and the tangy, chili pepper-infused sweet asian chili. Queso Dippers hide hot cheese under a tortilla-chip coating ($6.99), while a wave of marinara and mozzarella splashes down upon Meatball Sliders ($8.99). Live music on Saturday nights entertains diners not busy gazing into the pixilated eyes of plasma-screen TVs or fawning over the Monkey Bites, battered and deep-fried orbs of bananas foster accompanied by vanilla ice cream ($5.99).
At BerriBlends, self-serving dessert composers create custom frozen yogurt masterpieces. First, self-directed guests select tart or sweet yogurt flavors ($0.43/oz.). Dessert designers then cloak their cold foundations with walls of chocolate, berries, and other fresh toppings, much like a carpenter building a delicious house that can be disassembled with a spoon and strategic sweet tooth. Those who pursue healthy lifestyles can choose from a plethora of wholesome frozen-yogurt varieties, such as fat-free, low-calorie, diabetic-safe, lactose-safe, pro-biotic, and pro-American. BerriBlends also concocts several smoothies and coffee drinks.
T.G.'s To Go's menu of homemade, ready-to-go meals satisfies groups of any size with homestyle casseroles, comfort foods, and side dishes. Trays of meatloaf, stuffed manicotti shells, and almond-topped chicken with wild rice vie for shopper's attention in the fresh and frozen coolers, with a small portion of any entree ($20) feeding a family of four or a touring kazoo quartet. Tubs of specialty salads such as black-eyed-pea and mandarin-orange ($3.50–$4.50/person) stand ready to act in a supporting role to any meal, and corn chowder and mushroom bisque ($10–$15/quart) warm bellies and fill soup-lover's bathtubs.