Take a chicken breast. Stuff it with ricotta cheese, sausage and spinach. Then bread it, pan fry it and top it with meat sauce. Add linguine, bread and salad and you have one of Zappitelli's Pizzeria's most prized specials, available on the weekends.
"It's pretty healthy," joked general manager Justin Macumber. "But it's non-stop busy."
Zapitelli's Pizzeria is known in Lake County for its large portions.
"Portions are obscene. Two people can easily share one dinner and have leftovers," writes one Urbanspoon reviewer.
"Alfredo! ... doesn't get better than this," writes another.
Macumber says the sauce is what sets Zappitelli's apart from its Italian competition. "We make (it) in a 30-gallon kettle, a batch at a time. And it's our sauce that people love."
The restaurant opened 28 years ago in Mentor, originally just as a pizza shop. Now it also serves pastas, subs and salads. Zappitelli's opened a Painesville location at 1820 North Ridge Road two years ago.
Macumber has worked for owner Anthony Zappitelli for 16 years. He first got involved because he loves the bustle of the business. Born in Seattle, he lived in San Antonio before moving to Mentor-on-the-Lake.
"You always have something to do in this business," he said. "There is always a personality you have to deal with, and it's a challenge. I love creating food, and we try to create, with research, some different specials every week."
For example, this weekend the specials are barbecue ribs, veal arribiata and beef tenderloin tips.
Pizza prices are standard for higher-scale pies — $6.75 for small, $9.50 for medium and $12 for a large plain. Add $1 to $1.50 per topping.
Macumber said the higher prices come from the Italian importer that supplies fresh ingredients, and the three cheeses that Zapitelli's grates itself.
"You can buy $10 and $5 pizzas, sure," he said. "But you're going to lose the taste."
Specialty pizzas ($9.25 to $18) provide some unique combinations, like Mexican — taco beef, cheddar, provolone, bell peppers, pepper rings and more — and artichoke — a white pizza with olives, onions and mushrooms.
Wine and beer are served in Mentor and there is a full bar in Painesville.
Zapitelli's also offers a catering service, but has no hall.
"We see the same people over and over again, and the servers know most people by name," Macumber said.
When asked if he had anything else to add, Macumber said, "We have the best Italian food in Lake County."