The Parlor is not any ol' pizzeria. Named Arizona's Best Pizza by the Food Network last year, the restaurant is no stranger to awards, and it's also known for its modern design aesthetic, which is warm, inviting, and maintains a cool vibe without shoving chic down diners' throats. The same can be said about the menu -- case in point, the Agnello pizza with housemade lamb sausage, olive tapenade, goat cheese, mint pesto, and Marcona almonds. It might sound a little fancy to those who usually stick to pepperoni, but the flavors blend to produce a deliciously rustic result. The Parlor also is hosting a series of summer dinners, each with a menu crafted for select wine, beer, or cocktails. And did I mention that the restaurant has an on-site garden to grow herbs and vegetables?
So there are many reasons to like the place, but of all the press it receives, there's never mention of the dessert offerings. The pizza is incredible, the sandwiches are satisfying, and the drinks are mean. But is the final course worth ordering? There are quite a few options to choose from, including standards like Chocolate Cake and standouts like Grape & Olive Oil Cake, so we taste-tested both to get a good overview of The Parlor's sweet offerings.
The Grape & Olive Oil Cake has summer written all over it. The olive oil pound cake doesn't have much flavor, and it's more dry than it is moist. But that's not a bad thing as it makes the perfect base for everything else: smashed red and green grapes, strawberry rhubarb jam, and whipped ricotta. The grapes are dominant, but would be too sweet and one-dimensional without the strawberry rhubarb jam. Together, the flavors are bright, sweet, and earthy. The whipped ricotta helps to tie everything together while being more present, slightly more savory, and drier on than tongue than whipped cream would be. Overall, this dessert has quite a few flavors layered together, and each one plays its part marvelously.
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As for the chocolate cake, served with Italian dark cherries and vanilla crema, it's sumptuous yet classic. The cake is very rich and will satisfy any dark chocolate craving. The dark cherries and mound of whipped cream essentially make it a Black Forest cake, although it wouldn't hurt to have even more cherries (it never does). There's nothing special about this cake, but there's nothing bad about it either. If you're in the mood for chocolate cake, it will certainly suffice -- and will even beat out most of the competition.
While The Parlor has won plenty of awards, it probably won't be winning any for its dessert selection. The two we tasted were really good, but neither had the unique signature of an unforgettable pastry chef. That said, it does appear that the dessert courses for the summer pairing dinners are, as expected of an exclusive menu, a notch above the daily offerings. The dinner featuring Odell Brewing Co. will end with Sweet Corn Zeppole with butterscotch and spiced mascarpone, and the Arizona Stronghold winery dinner includes a Plum Crostada served with honey thyme ice cream. Or, you might wander in on a day with a dessert special, such as Pistachio Cheesecake with Orange Marmelatta. No matter what dessert you try, at the very least, you will not be disappointed.