That's Italiano
The owners of That's Italiano pride themselves on the fact that everything in the tidy, exposed kitchen is made on the premises. In fact, they claim to do everything on-site "except butcher the chickens."

But who's squawking? The tantalizing menu lists everything you'd expect to find in an Italian mom-and-pop operation -- 13 pastas and eight entrees, plus salads, focaccia, pizza and calzones. It's got all our favorites, from spaghetti topped with thin-sliced homemade sausage and mild tomato sauce goosed with fresh, whole-leaf herbs; to chicken parmesan with breast pounded so perfectly thin we could slide it under a door. Pillowy-crusted pizza's another pleaser, topped with handmade mozzarella so silky it looks like butter above our favorite "special" toppings of sausage, ham, salami and prosciutto.

The eatery's packed with the friendly charm you expect in a neighborhood trattoria, with crisp white and blue tablecloths, a seaside mural and clouds painted on the ceiling. Italian acoustical music fills the air, and there's even live talent on weekends.

The owners aim to please and do their best to honor our special requests. Just hold the flying feathers, please.

Have any doubts about the quality of the cuts at Harris'? You can meet your meat, proudly displayed in the aging coolers off the restaurant's entry. All the Certified Angus Beef is dry-aged on the premises for 21 days.

The soothing, Southwestern motif here might not instantly scream "steak house," but wait until your meal arrives. There's nothing light and fluffy about these mesquite grilled slabs. Our favorite is the Harris' steak, a New York sirloin served bone-in for optimum, juicy flavor.

And while other steak houses may put the squeeze on customers for side dishes, Harris' knows a real steak house serves the potatoes, too. Entrees include fresh vegetables as well, thank you very much.

For just a buck or two more, you can customize your cut of beef, enjoying it blackened, peppercorn crusted, Roquefort glazed, or smothered with caramelized onions and mushrooms.

Cowabunga!

Readers' Choice: Outback Steakhouse

Mangos Mexican Cafe & Bakery
When made correctly, a chimichanga is a wicked indulgence of crisp shell and juicy innards. Mangos knows this. It also knows that for a killer chimi, the staples, including the hubcap-size flour tortillas, must be freshly made. Equally important is meticulous deep-frying. The shell must be good enough to eat on its own, and never hidden under buckets of sauces, melted cheese or olives stuck with tiny paper Mexican flags. Scoops of fresh guacamole and cool sour cream are appropriate accouterments, and Mangos serves them alongside its chimichanga.

There can be no compromising on meat, either. Mangos does it well with succulent pork, the hearty chunks swimming in tingly green chile verde sauce; or as chile rojo, with red sauce kicked up to an even higher octave.

The crowning touch to a cherished chimi? Ice-cold chopped greens, tomato and fresh jalapeo. Long live the Mexican-American invasion.

Reata Pass
This funky cowpoke cantina has been slinging steaks since the 1950s, dished up chuck-wagon style with all the fixin's -- tossed salad, baked potato, beans and squishy rolls.

In true saddle-tramp style, there's nothing fancy to speak of here, just an honest, mesquite-grilled slab of juicy, marbled-for-flavor beef. The 14-ounce New York steak hits the spot just fine, although ravenous urban cowboys might opt for Reata Pass' signature two-pound T-bone.

For Wild West buffs, Reata Pass' history is almost as delicious as its grub. Originally a stagecoach stop on the way to Fort McDowell and Prescott, it maintains portions of the old 1880s stage road. The landmark's since been featured in a number of movies (including Bob Hope's Cancel My Reservation) and old-timers still talk about the special chair former owners had to construct for "Tom Ton," a 500-pound regular.

No longer located out in the boondocks, the onetime desert hideaway helped introduce several generations of tourists to Arizona hospitality. It's a tradition that Reata Pass continues today -- but out-of-towners will have to take your word for it that the place was once surrounded by virgin desert, not acres of look-alike custom homes.

Need to stock up for your next Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes? The angel-kissed golden crust of the bread churned out seven days a week at Willo is a real miracle in itself.

This small boutique bakery uses no sugar, meat or dairy products in preparing its heavenly roll call. We're especially partial to Willo's cranberry-hazelnut rolls and bread, generously studded with moist, sun-dried cranberries and large, crunchy chunks of toasted hazelnuts. And we'd even crawl on our bellies like you-know-who to get to Willo's divine kalamata olive bread, available in two loaf sizes, not to mention its only-on-Sunday onion rye.

With Willo's celestial manna, who needs Devil Dogs?

Readers' Choice for Best Bakery: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Greekfest Restaurant
Diana Martinez
The Greeks had a word for it. And after dining at Greekfest, so do Arizonans: Delicious!

What makes Greekfest so great? For one thing, owners Susan and Tony Makridis don't hold back on flavors, tempting us with dishes heavily perfumed by aromatic olive oil, lemon, garlic, dill, mint, oregano and other herbs.

The variety of dishes is a mouth-watering romp through the Greek countryside. Whether you're in the mood for oktapodi skaras (grilled octopus in cabernet sauce), shrimp saganaki (with feta, pine nuts and kalamata olives) or exohiko (lamb with Kasseri cheese in phyllo), rest assured the Makridises will work their magic for you.

Waiters wish you "Eis hygeian" -- to your health -- when pouring your wine. And when our saganaki arrives, the mild kefalograviera cheese is soaked with brandy, then, as it's flamed at our table, all the nearby waiters shout a hearty "Opa!"

How's that for gilding the baklava?

Readers' Choice: Greekfest

Short of driving three hours to Nogales, La Purísima is the most authentic south-of-the-border-style bakery you're likely to find.

Among its straight-from-the-oven offerings are pan dulce, a traditional slightly sweetened bread. Other Mexican taste-tempters include libros and orejas fashioned from flaky puff pastry and sprinkled with sugar, fruit-filled empanadas (including pumpkin and pineapple), galletas (cookies) frosted with eyeball-searing hot pink icing, and seasonal Day of the Dead pastries.

Should all this kitchen handiwork touch your inner mamacita, the bakery also carries fresh masa, savory corn dough that can be used to make your own tamales, sopas and chalupas.

Sportsman's Fine Wines & Spirits
"It doesn't matter how a wine is drunk, as long as you are."

So said legendary culinary writer M.F.K. Fisher. She was kidding. Great wines are serious stuff, and no one knows that better than the oenophiles at Sportsman's.

The Staff here is the most knowledgeable in town. We've never been able to stump them, even when it comes to arcane vintages. All the fancy labels are here, like Romanée-Conti and Yquêm (France), and Trockenbeerenauslese (Germany), as well as rare sherries, vintage ports and champagnes.

Sportsman's also has the largest selection of wines in the Valley, and if what you want isn't on the shelf, someone will get it for you. If money is an object, the staff at Sportsman's will help you find a luxurious choice for the few pennies you have to rub together. If you're not sure what you want, you can sample more than 60 wines by the glass at the tasting bar.

We'll drink to that.

Yusef's is the one-stop-does-it-all shop for exotic Middle Eastern cooking ingredients -- so essential if you're in the throes of planning a big Ali Wood-style bash.

Though it may be short on veiled belly dancers, Yusef's does manage to cram in hundreds of fresh, frozen, canned, bottled and dried supplies your regular grocer would never dream of stocking in a thousand and one Arabian nights.

Like bulk packages of powdered sumac and Jordanian zaatar, a classic spice combo of thyme and sesame seeds used with pungent olive oil for warm pita bread dipping (Yusef's offers a nice selection of oil and various ethnic breads, too). Or kadaifi, shredded phyllo dough used to make Middle Eastern desserts just like Aunt Arpina used to whip up.

In fact, it's doubtful there's anything Yusef's doesn't carry in the way of hard-to-find North African and Middle Eastern culinary components -- except, maybe, bleating, ready-to-slaughter lambs for shish kebab.

Schreiners Fine Sausage
Kyle Lamb
Better cancel that flight to the Bavarian Alps you booked because you're craving authentic, homemade European-style sausages. They're being stuffed and cranked out right here in the Valley by Schreiner's, whose funky smokehouse store has remained virtually unchanged since it opened in 1958.

On the off chance you can't find anything you like from more than 100 different international recipes owners Gary and Nancy Schiller use regularly (including ones for Polish kielbasa, German brat and bockwurst and Hungarian kishke), give Schreiner's your own secret recipe. For a price, you can get brats just like Grandmutti used to stuff. Or you can opt for Schreiner's special line of low-fat, high-flavor chicken sausages that rival its fat-filled kind.

And what to do with that wildebeest you shot on your last African safari? No worries -- Schreiner's will even make fresh or smoked sausages from any prepared game you deliver to them.

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