We spin the globe and search for otherworldly spots to expand our eating horizons around the Valley. The Place: Times Square Neighborhood Italian Restaurant 2602 West Deer Valley Road www.timessquareaz.com
The Setting: Fancy is not a word used to describe the atmosphere of Times Square, but considering that the Italian restaurant neighbors a Waffle House and a Castle Megastore, that shouldn't be much of a surprise. The recent opening of a second location at Seventh Street and Union Hills Drive helped to spread out the dinner rush that often overcrowded the small space, but the combination of bar seats, booths and tables means that you can generally find a spot to sit and eat without too much of a wait. Though there aren't any bells and whistles, the come-as-you-are nature gives it a casual vibe without seeming trashy or disgusting. It's the kind of place you could go after a Little League game or on a date and it'd be fine either way.
The Food: If you're going to judge an Italian restaurant based on its red sauce, it's hard to beat Times Square. Whether you're there for the pizza, the fried mozzarella appetizer or the chicken parmesan, anything covered in cheese and sauce is delicious. Seafood dishes such as the linguini principessa, fried calimari and fresh clams were robust with flavor without tasting fishy, and the calzone we tried was as good as any pizza place we've had. Even the foot-long garlic bread that's served with the entrées is crisp and flavorful without being too greasy or overpoweringly garlic-flavored. We've heard breakfast there is good too, but that doesn't shock us since it's tough to find anything to dislike on the menu.
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The Reason We Love It: For our money, Times Square is one of the best Italian restaurants in Phoenix. If you're looking for New York-style Italian food without dropping over $20 per plate (for most things), it's worth your time to find the unassuming building off of Deer Valley Road or stop in at the previously mentioned new location. The portions are big, the food is heavy, and a good portion of our favorites are fried and smothered in mozzarella and sauce, but sometimes that's just how Italian food is done best.