By Heather Hoch
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By Laura Hahnefeld
By Laura Hahnefeld
One evening's special appetizer of portabello and greens cuts through the darkness as well. A giant, meaty, marinated mushroom has been grilled until tender, and stuffed with chunks of spicy, fennel-rich sausage and provolone kissed with sweet, caramelized onion and fresh herbs. With a bowl of creamy butternut squash soup and some dessert, this could make a meal.
Farrelli's isn't shy about the portions of bruschetta, either. The Tuscan dish stars two large pieces of thick grilled bread, drizzled with quality olive oil and mounded with garden-fresh tomato, moist buffalo mozzarella rounds, and chopped red onion. The marinated mushrooms served atop a side of greens are particularly excellent.
While other starters aren't as stunning, they're pretty fine. A quesadilla gets points for not stinting on the grilled chicken breast, filled with cheeses, black beans and green chiles, and sided with sour cream and from-scratch pico de gallo. Nothing wrong with the crab gratinee, either, a platter-sized crock of creamy, bubbling cheese and crab, subtly spiced and comforting when scooped up with French bread.
14202 N. Scottsdale Road, #114
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Category: Movie Theaters
Region: North Scottsdale
Baked Brie a l'orange: $7
Tuscan bruschetta: $6
Garlic herb popcorn: $5
Hamburger and fries: $8
Portabella and havarti sandwich $8
Prime rib: $18
Shrimp scampi: $21
Chocolate hazelnut bombe: $5.50
Flourless chocolate torte: $5.50
The only true disappointment is the calamari fritti, the squid tender but fishy flavored, the breading too soft. The nibbles are revived by a vibrant marinara dip, hot and chunked with fresh tomato and herbs. A second side of cilantro pesto is too sweet, though.
Farrelli's is a find for the budget-minded. A selection of hearty sandwiches for $8 to $10 means a couple of cheap cinema fans can score an entertainment-and-eats coup for less than $20 bucks each, including the price of the ticket.
A basic burger is juicy Angus beef on a chewy sourdough roll, sided with seasoned, skin-on spuds. The mighty mushrooms used on a previous appetizer show up again, this time paired with creamy havarti on a toasted roll, topped with fresh greens, vinaigrette and roma tomato. A chicken sandwich features a marinated breast grilled and served on a sourdough roll with crisp cole slaw.
Better meat would help the roast beef sandwich, though. The filet mignon medallions are chewy, requiring too much work under a mantle of Oxford herb cheese and small-spirited horseradish on a toasted French roll.
Given such generally high standards, it's surprising that Farrelli's entrees aren't better. Suddenly the food turns banquet, here either under-flavored, or over-flavored with that aggressive seasoning that suggests hiding a mid-quality product.
A signature dish called chicken Farrelli has all the character of chafing-dish food. While it's stocked with a generous amount of lightly-breaded poultry, the tenders are mealy and sautéed in the same 24-seasoning garlic-herb butter used on the popcorn. But it doesn't work at all with the chicken, even with the addition of white wine and shavings of Parmesan. Mix-ins of artichoke hearts and mushrooms are fine enough, but sides of steamed vegetables and rice pilaf are awful. The institutional scoop of wild rice flecked with carrot is bland, and the squash, string beans and baby carrots are masked with too much herb, resulting in an unpleasant finish.
An average cut of prime rib has been overcooked and is riddled with so much gristle and fat that cutting it is a challenge. I leave almost half on my plate, focusing instead on garlicky mashed potatoes that soar when swirled with a little au jus and a side of horseradish.
I'm at a loss as to why a special of meatloaf Napolitano is so miserable, given its promising-sounding description of layered ground veal, pork and beef with Lyonnaise potatoes and mushroom duxelle under espagnole sauce. But the enormous slab is chewy and completely tasteless, and a side of mashed potatoes is this time stripped of the great garlic depth.
Lasagna, on the other hand, oddly suffers from too much flavor. It's meaty with sausage and beef, but oh-so-sweet and crippled with shovelfuls of fennel and pepper. It arrives tepid, so we send it back for a rendezvous with the microwave.
The shrimp scampi is the best. There's still little pulse to the Farrelli butter sauce, but the medium-size shrimp are satisfying, nicely partnered with earthy oyster mushrooms. Still, with entrees priced from $12 to $22, Farrelli's can't compete with out-of-theater dining options.
Happily, the desserts sparkle. A chocolate hazelnut bombe is rich and rewarding, an ample dome of frozen mousse glazed in dark chocolate and topped with biscotti. The flourless chocolate torte is more than competently done, the fudgy slice anchored by a dark crust and dusted with powdered sugar and raspberries.
Two other companies have submitted plans for opening supper-club cinemas in the Valley: Harkins Theater's Premiere Club at Loop 101 and Scottsdale Road; and ArcLight, the luxury theater affiliate of Los Angeles-based Pacific Theaters, with a venue planned for Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard.
Dinner and a movie is a long overdue concept. And if Farrelli's can work out the entree inconsistencies, it's a concept definitely worth keeping around.