When we were kids, we couldn't stand liver. Then we discovered foie gras, and now we can't get enough. Of course, this isn't just your everyday liver, but a type that's been a prized delicacy since Roman times. The goose variety that's served here has been force-fed until the bird's liver weighs as much as two pounds. Bad news for the goose, good news for us.

Though Valencia Lane changes its menus with the seasons, its foie gras shows up regularly, and is always prepared simply. One of our favorite preparations here has it expertly seared, partnered with a few thimbles of flavorful pineapple chutney, dots of tart 100-year-old balsamic, and a little hill of radish sprouts. It's a remarkable explosion of complementary textures and flavors that has us licking the plate. Long live Valencia Lane's liver!

It's 1 a.m. on the weekend, and the bars have closed. We're hungry -- and nothing helps soothe a martini-molested belly like pizza. No problem; we've got Slices, serving until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. We could scarf a whole pie, but would probably regret it in the morning. Instead, we'll go by the slice, selected from a variety of 19-inch rounds. We order piece by piece; these suspects are unusually large and filling, and often just one or two slabs will do us. Thin-crusted and tasty, the slices are salvation to our overimbibing -- a potato, bacon and Cheddar concoction, baked eggplant with roasted red pepper, chicken parmigiana and the best: meatball pizza. Sometimes you've just got to grab a slice of life and savor it.

Pizza isn't fast food. At least not in the eyes of chef Chris Bianco. A co-founder of the Valley's only Slow Food chapter, Bianco supports the European-inspired ideal of using only ingredients available from local artisan producers.

This means select produce from boutiques like Victory Farms, an organic empire that produces amazing micro mizuna, a salad green that tastes of mild mustard; micro arugula, a joyously bitter salad green; and, of course, the tastiest, most tempting tomatoes of which a pizza could dream.

Whatever the topping, each pie is fired in a wood-burning oven. It's worth the wait, and wait you will -- this bistro is packed every night, with no reservations accepted.

Here's wishing all men pizza on Earth -- straight from Pizzeria Bianco.

When you're really hungry, don't mess around. Get a large pie from Western Pizza. The 18-inch monster will leave you pushing back from the table, gorged, happy, and with enough leftovers to feast on for a few more meals. At almost three inches thick and tipping the scales at close to 20 pounds, these pies tackle even an offensive lineman's appetite. We're not sure how this place makes money, piling on the toppings for its Western Round-Up -- mushrooms, pepperoni, salami, ham, peppers and onions under an entire cow's worth of mozzarella for $18.50. There's no going to bed hungry, either. Western Pizza stays open until 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 1 a.m. other days. It even delivers late, too, from 32nd to 64th streets and Thomas to McDonald roads.

New York-style pizza is a precise pie. It needs to be huge, as big as a bicycle wheel. Its crust must be thin and foldable. It needs to be baked fresh, and just the littlest bit greasy. It can only be basic -- red sauce, mozzarella, and traditional toppings (no barbecue chicken or pesto potato need apply). And, it must, absolutely must, be available by the slice all day long.

At 4 Brothers, we can count on having more than a half-dozen varieties displayed in their pans on the long order counter. Our favorite is the Napoli Special, loaded with spicy Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers and extra cheese. Slices get a quick warming in the oven (not a microwave), and a couple of bucks later, we're on our way, humming a sausage-scented "New York, New York" under our breaths.

Goats in Scottsdale's posh Fifth Avenue arts district? It's true, except these curried critters reside in stew pots, waiting for the next guest to order them off the menu at Callaloo. Perhaps the most abundant comfort food to be found in the Caribbean, goat stew is a classic one-pot meal designed to disguise the tough chew of animals aged past their usefulness. The stewing allows flavors and textures to merge, enhancing all the ingredients. Here, the goat meat is a quality cut, braised in chunks, seasoned and simmered in a thick, pleasantly gritty curry with morro (pigeon peas and rice), bits of bacon and plantains. Topping it all off is a fistful of callaloo, steamed taro root leaves that resemble bitter spinach. There's no question: Callaloo has got our goat.

It's true that a boot on a bun probably would be fun at Dawg n' Bergs, a place full of funky, friendly atmosphere. Here's a neighborhood joint at its finest, hidden behind a Circle K but packed with regulars who actually apologize to the cook when they can't spend more time (and money) there. "Busy nothing!" is the warm reply. "You gotta eat!"

We do our part, lured in by Dawg n' Bergs ravishing Italian beef. It's a masterpiece built on lotsa juicy, tender meat bathed in peppery jus, a soft cornmeal-dusted sub roll, and a few slivers of our choice of hot or sweet peppers. It's a two-fister, and when we're finished, we're full.

We gotta eat. And when we're eating Italian beef, it's at Dawg n' Bergs.

We can never pass up pasta, delicious and delightful in any of its hundreds of whimsical shapes. Should we ever forget why we love it so, one trip to Leccabaffi reminds us.

Soft pasta in this quiet, upscale eatery is homemade, lovingly cranked out by real Italians. Sauces are fashioned from scratch and married with straight-from-the-homeland-style ingredients. Spaghetti and meatballs? For shame. Instead, we're feasting on authentic pappardelle con salsiccia casareccia e pisellini (a mouthful that means pappardelle with homemade sausage, tomato and peas). We're nibbling on gnocchetti, semolina based instead of flour, then baked, sautéed and coated with a vibrant blend of fontina and Gruyère cheeses. And we're feasting on fettuccine, egg noodles tossed with lobster, organic tomato, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

In Italian, Leccabaffi means "lick your mustache." In English, it means "lick your plate."

This is the stuff all sausages should be made of -- homemade European-style tubes crafted from recipes unchanged by Schreiner's since 1958. And with more than 100 varieties, there are no missing links here. We're partial to Polish kielbasa, German brat and brockwurst and Hungarian kishke, although sometimes we take the high-health road and go for low-fat poultry models.

Schreiner's, we salute your sausages.

The only thing better than a good hot dog is a double dog -- twice the pleasure, you know. And Luke's has both on its menu, all pure juicy beef, and served in classic Chicago style. These tasty pups come tucked in a fresh poppy seed bun, and slathered with yellow mustard, chopped onion, and neon green relish. The capper? A sport pepper, sliced tomato and a whole pickle, sprinkled just so with celery salt. Unwrap the white paper bundle and find a delicious extra: mounds of crispy, salty, crinkle-cut fries. At just $2.85, it's an affordable meal any day of the week. And that double dog? It's just a buck more. We're in puppy love.

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