Chow Bella's 9 Most Dramatic Moments in the Phoenix Food Scene in 2012

Oh, the drama in the Phoenix food scene. Don't lie -- you live for it. So do we. And while there was nothing quite like the Tina's Ethiopian Cafe Debacle of 2011, 2012 did include quite a few over-the-top gems. Let's take a stroll down memory lane together, shall we?

See also: - Everybody's a Critic, But Some Are Better Than Others. And Yeah, That Smarts. - Chow Bella's 9 Most Dramatic Moments in the National Food (and Drink) Scene in 2012 - What Will the Top Food Trends for Phoenix Be in 2013?

Chris Bianco Changes Up the Kitchen at Italian Restaurant, But Is That Enough?

What, trouble in the Bianco Empire? Say it isn't so! Or better yet, come sit by us and let's dish. This spring, the locals were bitching and moaning over so-so service at Chris Bianco's latest addition, Italian Restaurant. Nikki Buchanan had something to say about it.

Bianco insists that it wasn't a bad review that prompted the split (our own Laura Hahnefeld wrote a positive "First Taste" column in January), but there's no doubt word on the street has been mixed. I've heard personally from more than one unhappy diner. On social media, reports are that service is horrible, and the portions are small for the price, although the latter complaint is contested by a handful of food-lovers who say they've left Italian Restaurant full and happy.

These same people have sworn the house-made pasta is terrific. One of them is John Mariani, who visited Phoenix last week while on assignment for Esquire magazine. Not that his experience was entirely sanguine. In a phone interview, he adds, "The place was more than half-empty when we got there, and the service was lackluster, at best."

Lackluster service? For John Mariani?? I've been on restaurant visits with this guy, and the service he receives is accommodating to the point of painful obsequiousness. So if Italian Restaurant's servers can't muster up a smidge of hustle and good cheer for a national writer, God knows how the Average Joe is being treated.

Bianco has some work to do, and he knows it. The arrogant you're-lucky-to-be-eating-here attitude some of his servers portray should be Job One. And if he does the food he loves, we'll probably love it, too. -- Nikki Buchanan

See also: - Bianco's Italian Restaurant: Low-Key, Fabulous Food, and Sipping the Olive Oil Is Acceptable - Chris Bianco Finds New Chef (Who Shares His Philosophy) for Italian Restaurant

Citizen Espresso Bar Owner Calls it Quits; Letter Says She Was Forced By Her Investor/Mom to Leave

Keeping it all in the family was perhaps not the wisest decision for this espresso pulling duo....

Here's one family table we'll consider ourselves fortunate not to be sitting at over the holidays.

Tiffany Dew, owner and operator of Citizen Espresso Bar, has called it quits. The reason? She says it's her investor, Sherry Dew, who also happens to be her mom.

Dew purchased the coffee shop on Central Avenue just south of Camelback in February. Formerly Lola Coffee, where Dew was a longtime employee, she changed the name to Citizen Espresso Bar and continued to use Lola's house-roasted beans but brought in changes of her own, such as a new espresso machine and making homemade baked goods on site.

Now, just over two months after opening, it appears the proverbial shit has hit the family fan.

Today, a letter was posted on Citizen Espresso Bar's Facebook page reading:

"This message is to let you all know that Tiffany and her incredible vision for Citizen Espresso Bar and our community is no longer.

As of last week, Tiffany was threatened and forced to leave her own coffee bar for the last time by her investor = mother.

The amazing morning team assembled has also been terminated and so has the in house baker and baked goods. Your new Citizen owner / operator will now be souring [sic] you fine Costco and Fry's baked goods a portion of the week.

Tiffany and I want to thank all of you for your support in what we truly felt was an amazing opportunity, vision, and concept for the community... and we were just getting started.

There is much to this disgusting story -- but for now know our hearts are broken by someone we trusted and approached to partner in the creation of Citizen.

Love, Tiffany and Mitzie" -- Laura Hahnefeld

See also: Mom/Owner of Citizen Espresso Bar Responds To Daughter's Facebook Accusations

Downtown Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar to Close May 12

We may never know the entire back story behind the decision to shutter the Downtown Phoenix Public Urban Grocery and Wine Bar -- but the news it was closing shook the local food scene hard.

Friday afternoon, Dan Klocke, board president of Community Food Connections -- the group that runs the Downtown Phoenix Public Urban Grocery and Wine Bar -- announced the grocery will close May 12.

Calls and messages Friday to executive director Cindy Gentry and others associated with the grocery have not been returned, but there's already a "Save the Market" Facebook page. -- Nikki Buchanan

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