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Lexington Ky Restaurants


Your Guide to Fine Dining

Joe Bologna's

Bella Notte

Mellow Mushroom

Pizza would seem to be a simple food, a round doughy pie crust covered with cheese and other toppings, then baked in a brick oven. When the peasant women in the hills outside Naples evolved the first Pitsa, which used only mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, they never dreamed their creation would become a worldwide favorite. Today, everyone has their own ideas of what kind of crust they want, what kind of cheeses, and what kind of toppings. Lexington has 37 pizza outlets, some of them chains with a dozen locations, each with its own marketing appeal. We have thick, thin, cheese filled and toasted crusts. We have every kind of cheese imaginable. We have 103 kinds of toppings, some quite common like anchovies, pepperoni and sausage, some more imaginative, like zucchini, smoked salmon and jalapenos. But as we tasted our way across the Lexington pizza landscape, we realized most people cheat themselves by ordering only from home delivery outlets. Most of the very best pizzas we found were at sit down restaurants, where you can order carryout but have to pick it up yourself. And, of course, eating at the restaurant means you can take full advantage of the rest of their menu, meaning drinks, appetizers, soups, salads, and desserts. If you're in town staying at one of the central hotels, you're within walking distance of Joe Bologna's and Mellow Mushroom and an easy drive to the others.

Joe Bologna's is synonymous with Lexington Pizza. Joe opened the town's first pizzeria back in 1972 on Euclid Avenue, catering to UK students. By 1989 he had outgrown the original location and moved into an abandoned church. The conversion to a restaurant is worth a visit just to see. The bar is where the altar was, these are the original 1891 Eastern Kentucky pine floors, and Joe's is one of the few restaurants in America with 41 stained glass windows. But the main reason to visit Joe is his pizza. He's still there, and it's still great. You can order the crust you want. Most people order the thin, and it's excellent, very crisp, perfectly baked. But if you want yours a little or a lot thicker, just tell them. With four decades of students now bringing their children back, Joe's is a matter of tradition. Two of those traditions are the Fried Banana Peppers and the Breadsticks. The sticks are drowned in garlic butter and the banana peppers are crisp and delicious. Most people consider them the best in town. The All Time favorite pizza at Joe's is the Lite Supreme, a thin crust light on cheese and heavy on toppings. It has homemade sauce, onions, green peppers, hot peppers, green and black olives, zucchini slices, shredded carrots and tomatoes, mushrooms, pineapple, and grated romano cheese. Or there's the Meatball Pizza, a medium crust piled high with sliced meatballs, marinara sauce and mounds of mozzarella sauce. The Hawaiin is a thin crust with ham, green peppers, pineapple, barbeque sauce and mozzarella cheese. 120 West Maxwell. Four blocks from Vine Street.

Bella Notte is an outstanding Italian restaurant but many people never think of ordering carry out pizza there. However, its Margherita is wonderful. It's just basic mozzarella, marinated roma tomatoes, basil with medium crust, but the very best ingredients are used, and it's baked in a brick oven to just the right crispness. If you're a little more adventurous, the Barbequed Chicken Pizza features wood fired grilled chicken with smoky barbecue sauce, red onions, smoked gouda and cilantro. There's the Original, Bella Notte's take on the Naples Pitsa that started the whole Pizza phenomenon. The Original contains black olives, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, red onions, mozzarella and provolene cheeses. Finally, there's the Quottro Formaggio, a white pizza (meaning tomato free) featuring roasted garlic, olive oil, asiago, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan cheeses. Each is $9. One of the advantages of picking up your pizza at a top restaurant is you can include one of their appetizers in your order. We highly recommend the Bella Original Bruschetta, an array of wood fire charred peasant bread, basil pesto, roma tomatoes, fresh basil and warm gorgonzola. From downtown, take Upper / Limestone / Nicholasville Road out past Fayette Mall. Turn right at the Ford Dealership, then make the first left onto the service road. Bella Notte is the third establishment on your left.
Like any good classic restaurant, Portabello's does not try to outclever its rivals. There's nothing fancy here, and the kinds of pizza are exactly what you can get at any other top Italian restaurant. But Portabello's does an excellent job of making its pizzas fresh and baking them in its wood oven so it has attracted a loyal following. They come for the Rustic, with its prosciutto, Italian sausage and pepperoni. They come for the Chicken Bacon and Spinach Special (that's grilled chicken, crispy bacon, sauteed spinach, red onions and fontinella cheese). And they come for the White, with its fresh tomatoes, red onion, fresh basil, fontinella and Romana cheese. If that's not enough, Portabella's also offers Veggie, BBQ Chicken, Pesto and Primo Pizzas. If anybody in your group does not want pizza but wants a closely related taste, they can order four Stromboli and three Calzones. Being a full scale restaurant, there are great salads, soups and appetizers. 115 Locust Hill Drive. 266-6836. From down town, drive out East Main / richmond Road until you come to Locust Hill Drive. Turn left, and one block from the traffic light look left for Portabella's. This is several miles from Rupp Arena, so if you phone in your order, then head out, you should arrive just about as they pull it out of the oven.
Puccini's is another pizzeria which grew into something more. It has become quite a popular neighborhood restaurant with a full menu, drink list and daily specials. However, Puccini's was serving pizza before any of those other items, and it still does a fine job of it. Specialties begin with the King of Hearts (artichoke hearts, mushrooms, bacon, black olives and capers). There is the Cactus Delectus (yellow and red bell peppers, chorizo sausage, chiles, cilantro, and jack cheese; the Twice Baked Pizza (new potatoes, bacon green onions, smoked gouda, and buttermilk herb dressing); and the Razorback (pepperoni, smoked sausage, bacon, basil and garlic). But perhaps the best item on the menu is the Shrimp Santori Pizza (sesame, chili oil, red onions, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh basiil. The usual price range is $7.60, $13, and $17 for small, medium and large. For non pizza lovers at your table, Puccini's offers the finest Calzones in town, various pasta dishes, and a Hot Italian Sub. Chevy Chase Place. East High Street. From downtown, head East on High until you enter Chevy Chase, pass Euclid Avenue, and see the Liquor Store. Turn right. Puccini's is third down the row in Chevy Place.
The Mellow Mushroom is a 1960s Pizzeria, a taste of what your grandparents experienced. The House Special features pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, onions, green pepper, shrooms, black olives, tomatoes, bacon, ham and cheese. There's a Mighty Meaty, exclusively meat pizza, heavy with pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, ham and bacon and just skipping all that other stuff. The MegaVeggie offers sun dried tomatoes, spinach, onions, tofu, green peppers, shrooms, black olives, fresh tomatoes, broccoli, feta, banana peppers, and artichoke hearts. There are Gourmet White, Pesto, Jerked Chicken, Hawaiin and BBQ Pizzas; Calzones, 15 kinds of Hoagies, and Pretzels.
Of all the pure home delivery places, Donato's is the best. It's pricier than its rivals, but what's a few dollars when you want good pizza?? Donato's is not into gimmicks. It doesn't offer cheese filled crust, extra thick anything, beer baking, folded crust, double toppings, or double deep dishes. But its Marghareta and Chicken Spinach Mozzarella pizzas are the best tasting we've found among the home delivery outlets in Lexington. And there's more. If any of your group are not quite in the mood for pizza, but want something similar, Donato's offers five kinds of Strombolis, nine kinds of Hot Subs, and two kinds of Hoagies. We particularly like the Roast Veggie Sub. There are also Wedge Fries and a Three Cheese Garlic Bread you can't find anywhere else. 728 East Main. 269-5700. About a mile East of downtown.
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