A four-tiered stone fountain welcomes visitors to Papa J’s, a 35-year-old restaurant whose food, decor, and family friendliness conjure a classic Italian ambience. Their chefs use recipes passed down to Ray Anthony, grandson of “Mama J,” aka Antoinette Giraldi, who inherited them from prior generations of her Italian family. The team reads these culinary blueprints to cook calzones and hot sandwiches with fillings of meatballs and cheese or bake pizzas with mainstay toppings such as mushrooms and pepperoni. The kitchen team can even stuff their pies with ricotta—the safest place to store cheese apart from a Roth IRA. Beyond Italian staples, Papa J's Italian Restaurant presents an array of seafood including shrimp and salmon.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
Under the supervision of an experienced chef at Woody’s Tavern, crackling logs not only give pizza dough a crispy crunch, but also create complex, smoky flavors. Chefs top pizzas with specialty combinations, such as the California Dream's basil pesto and artichoke hearts or the Pep Pep Pepperoni's roasted poblanos and jalapeños, and use gluten-free crusts and big, round carrots for those with dietary restrictions. Customers can enjoy the slices by the pie or sample a variety at the shop’s featured all-you-can-eat salad, soup, and pizza bar. Chefs also make space in their wood ovens to slow cook racks of ribs and large shrimp doused with barbecue sauce. These dishes and their hearty half-pound burgers pair well with the 16 drafts on tap, which diners can enjoy during both the happy hour during the week and the reverse happy hour that composes the last hour the restaurant is open.
For the last 50 years, Bova’s Italian Restaurant has created Italian meals. They make every dish, including giant calzones, from scratch. Pastas, pizzas, and sandwiches present savory options for disparate cravings. And for the family who can agree on only two things—pasta and curfew—the menu also includes family-style meals until closing time at 9 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday and 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
The flavor maestros at 5 J's Italian Dining compose a menu of authentic Italian pastas, sandwiches, specialty pizzas, and meat-centric entrees. Diners may select an accompaniment of meatballs or sausage for classic marinara-drenched pastas, such as three-cheese ravioli ($9.50) or gnocchi ($9.99). Chefs freshly prepare 5 J's luscious lasagna ($11.99) daily, layering ground beef, sausage, ricotta, mozzarella, basil, and garlic the same way Italian fashion designers do during wintertime. Otherwise, patrons can grab hold of one of the sandwiches, including a meatball sub ($5.99) or italian beef ($5.50), or divvy up a large white pizza ($10.99), which eschews tomato sauce for a more traditional combination of mozzarella, tomatoes, and herbs.