When catering to the taste buds of the masses no genre of food is a bigger culinary crowd-pleaser than Italian -- thinly pounded meats, hand-rolled pasta, rich and zesty sauces paired with red and white Tuscan wines, and oh, did we mention all the cheese?
Sorry, Phoenix, better check your no-carb New Year's resolutions at the door, because we're about to dish on the 10 best Italian restaurants in the Valley.
Nina Vincent has a way with food. So much so that the Italian specialty chef has managed to open four Valley locations in her 20-plus years in Phoenix. As Tutti Santi's Scottsdale/Kierland location is a lesser-known destination with lots of regulars, guests can be sure to spot some familiar faces as well as some very familiar dishes running in and out of the kitchen. Some favorites include the linguine con vongole, the pollo Parmigiana, and melt-worthy ravioli alla Nina.
An Italian restaurant list without Bianco? Please. Though many great ideas have come out of Chris Bianco's head and kitchen, our favorite by far has been his opening more Phoenix locations -- well, okay, that and the bread. No longer in fear of a long wait, Bianco's Trattoria at Town and Country has become as much a hotspot for lunch as it has for dinner, thanks to simple, quality dishes like the rustichella spaghetti and the pappardelle Bolognese made hearty with grass-fed beef and Parmigiano reggiano.
Tomaso Maggiore has established his ranking in the Valley's restaurant hierarchy thanks to more than 35 years in business and, more important, some pretty amazing gourmet Italian fare. At Tomaso's, indulgence is key, with a multi-course meal of antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti, cortorni, insalata, fruita, and dolci served in conjunction on a monthly or seasonal basis. That's not to say that patrons will be left wanting on any given night at this Phoenix restaurant. Some safe but satisfying bets are the Vongole Linguine & Slow Roasted Tomato, Pollo alla Milanese, and Bolognese Ravioli.
If you're looking for old-school Italian -- okay, make that 1980s Italian -- Avanti is a culinary blast from the past. The restaurant, with its black-and-white color scheme, features neon lights, a live piano bar, and enough celebrity photos on the wall to attest to its heyday. But appearances can be deceiving, and though the décor may be outdated, the flavors in the restaurant's long-enjoyed dishes are not. Avanti keeps it on the traditional American-Italian side with staples like spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine alfredo, chicken parm, and meat or veggie lasagne.
Andreoli Italian is grocery at its most gourmet. The deli-dining hybrid serves up house-made specials for lunch, dinner, and carry-out including mushroom ravioli with large fresh chunks of porcini mushrooms, and white truffle sauce as well as a daily rotation of meaty entrees and hearty soups. If you're looking for where the real Italians go for their authentic fix, Andreoli Italian Grocer is a good start.
For the more adventurous eater, Crudo is a good jumping-off point. The restaurant and bar tucked away behind the Gaslight Shopping Center in Arcadia describes itself as offering "modern Italian" and "progressive mixology," which equates to a small-plated selection of crudo dishes like raw albacore tuna with apple, black garlic, and truffle oil; cotto dishes like gnocchi with roasted coppa, carrots, and pickled endive; mozza such as the burrata with pancetta vin and arugula; and lati (sides) including the very popular crispy pig ears.
At Franco's, it's easy to forget three things. One, that you were ever in Old Town Scottsdale. Two, that you're not actually part of this guy's family. And three, that you were ever planning on avoiding carbs. At Franco's Italian Cafe it's not uncommon for compliments of the kitchen to make their way to the table such as fresh sliced, meats, cheeses, and if you're really lucky, dessert. Between the extensive list of specials added to the menu daily and the menu itself, it's nearly impossible to make an executive decision at this dinning establishment. But rest assured, whatever you choose, you'll certainly be enjoying it that night and possibly for lunch the next day.
Cuttlefish may be new in town, but it certainly knows how to make an entrance -- from the décor featuring stationary Vespa seating with Italian license plates to the actual plates serving up coastal Italian fare. At Cuttlefish, creatures of the sea reign supreme on the menu, which is why hungry patrons should be inclined to order some of the staff favorites like Clam Chowder Pot Pie, Wreckfish, and Linguine Nero. But if fish isn't your favorite, never fear, the Pan-Roasted Chicken and Seared Porkbelly hardly fall short.
DeFalco's may have made its fame from sandwiches on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, but that isn't to say dinner doesn't also do the Scottsdale corner restaurant and deli justice. For a casual night out, guests can order at the counter and eat in the cozy dining area situated in the back of the store. Our pasta favorites include the spaghetti and meatballs and the baked ziti served more creamy than cooked with a rich blend of cheeses and sausage.
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If you can get past the lackluster strip mall location and the cheesy sign that reads "As Seen on Food Network," Giuseppe's on 28th is an absolute gold mine of good eats. While the place is small we recommend bringing as many dinner wingmen as you can because you'll be ordering everything from the suppli di riso (risotto rice balls stuffed with smoked mozzarella) and fresh burrata with arugula to the wild boar ragu, the famous veal osso buco, and ricotta cavatelli with rapini. They also have some spectacular desserts like fresh-made tiramisu but we doubt you'll have room for that.