Bountiful—located in southern Davis County and just around a 15-minute drive from Salt Lake City—isn't recognized as one of the nation's culinary capitals. However, if you make the effort to scour beneath the franchise-filled surface, you'll find some excellent eats. Bodacious Bountiful highlights include, in this correspondent's opinion, both Utah's best pizza and best cheesesteak. Curious?
If there is a better Indian restaurant here than Royal India, I've yet to find it. Many readers are likely familiar with the original location in Sandy (10263 S. 1300 East, 801-572-6123). But fewer might know of the Shanthakumar family's second Royal India in Bountiful (55 N. Main, 801-292-1835, RoyalIndiaUtah.com). With a menu that spans the culinary spectrum from northern India to the south, diversity is the keyword here. "From scratch" is a term thrown around in many establishments, but this restaurant has been doing it since opening. Curries and even items like cheeses and yogurts are made freshly each day. Tandoor-baked breads such as onion kulcha and peshwari naan are perfect for soaking up sensational sauces and curries like vindaloo, saag and kurma. As an added bonus, there's free parking out front.
If you're a Philly cheesesteak fanatic, head over to Vito's (100 S. Main, 801-953-8486), where I dare say you'll find Utah's best. Vito Leone accepts personal checks and cash only, so come prepared, or make use of the in-house ATM. The restaurant's only open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, and sometimes runs out of sandwiches by 1, so try to come early. Vito serves up 10 different types of Philly-style sandwiches. For me, the classic cheesesteak with tender, perfectly seasoned, thin-sliced grilled beef with green peppers, onions and provolone ($8.50 for a seven-inch, $13.50 for a 14-inch) is as good as it gets. I've eaten in all the high-profile Philadelphia cheesesteak emporiums like Pat's, Geno's, Jim's, Tony Luke's, etc., and I can honestly say that this one ranks up there with any of them.
Bountiful Greek Café (353 S. Main, 801-683-8942, BountifulGreekCafe.com) isn't breaking any culinary boundaries, but if you're in the mood for Greek mainstays at fair prices in Davis County, this is the place. The thick, juicy Greek burger (a mix of beef and lamb) is excellent at $8.79, and I really like the chunkier-than-normal texture of their crispy lamb gyro meat. Rice and spuds come lightly seasoned with lemon, and french fries are made from scratch. Chicken and lamb kabobs ($5.89 each) are lovingly marinated before hitting the grill; keftedes—a minty mélange of braised lamb-and-beef meatballs—are bathed in a tangy tomato-garlic sauce. Be sure to save room for the tooth-tingling sweet baklava ($1.75).
City Weekly and Devour Utah contributor Amanda Rock turned me on to Boba World (512 W. 750 South, 801-298-3626, BobaWorld.Blogspot.com), and the first thing I'll say about it is that it's about lots more than just boba. Technically, it's just across the Bountiful border, in Woods Cross, but let's not nitpick with food and drink this great. Boba World specializes in what they call "chewing drinks"—chunky, refreshing, smoothie-style beverages with fruit-forward flavors like mango, peach, passion fruit, taro, coconut, almond, honeydew and red bean ($3.50-$4.50). But the biggest surprise is the array of Chinese foods on the menu, and especially the top-notch Shanghai-style stir-fried "fat" noodle dishes.
I've saved the best of Bountiful for last. Those who know me know that I am nothing if not fanatical about pizza. And, I like pizza in a range of styles: Chicago, California, New York, New Haven, etc. But when push comes to shove, my very favorite, deserted-island pizza style would be Neapolitan. This is the Italian type of pizza that you find at places like Settebello, From Scratch, Flatbread, Pizzeria 712, Jack's and a handful of others. They are simple pizzas that require top-notch ingredients and technique, since you can't hide inferiority under gobs of cheese and sauce: thin crust pizzas, with slightly charred and bubbled dough. In its truest form, the Neapolitan pizza is nothing more than sauce, cheese, crust and fresh basil leaves: the classic Margherita. The pizzas are always cooked in wood-fired ovens.
The best Neapolitan-style pizza I've tasted in Utah is at Bountiful's Ti Amo (515 W. 2600 South, 801-294-5180, TiAmoPizza.co). In Italy, uttering ti amo to someone means you are deeply in love with them. Just ask the establishment owners. Long before Mauro and Gloria Bonfanti moved here—in Marina di Pisa on the Mediterranean west coast—Mauro shouted at his would-be wife, "Ti amo, Gloria!" They would eventually marry, have three children (their two sons work in the restaurant) and bring fresh, Italian pizza flavors to Utah.
Mauro cooks his pizzas at around 600-650 degrees Fahrenheit in a wood-fired brick oven imported from Italy. He is a master pizzaiolo, and rarely takes his eyes off of the pizzas baking in his small oven, occasionally rotating them to cook evenly. The dough is made with local wheat flour, water, salt, yeast and extra virgin olive oil, yet it simply tastes better than most; it has flavor as well as perfect texture. The sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes, of course, giving it sweetness to balance the tomato tang. And fresh, whole-milk mozzarella imparts a creamy, rich flavor and texture. All I can say is, ti amo, Ti Amo.