Tesoro Ristorante Italiano
Jamie Peachey
There's nothing wrong with a little downsizing. Filomena and Anthony Di Franco, former owners of the popular but defunct Molise, sold their original restaurant and opened this charming nook two years ago. It seats fewer than half the guests that Molise once did, but that only means you'll get more attention from Filomena herself, along with daughter Ania and son Maurizio, who work in the cozy, rustic dining room.

Back in the kitchen, Anthony and daughter Sonia are cooking up a storm, using recipes from all over Italy, including the Di Francos' native region of Abruzzi. Look for simple, flavorful preparations, perfectly cooked pastas, and light sauces. None of the dishes will hit you over the head with richness — the Pernod cream sauce on the escargot ravioli tastes delicate, and even prosciutto and melted mozzarella don't overwhelm the succulent, sage-kissed saltimbocca. Spinach and ricotta-filled crespelle, and lasagna made with thin, homemade noodles, are also memorable.

You may finish your plate and feel perfectly content, but make way for dessert. After one bite of the luscious tiramisu, you'll thank us.

Zinc Bistro
David Holden
Zinc Bistro is as seductive as any restaurant you'd find in the City of Lights. Bright and airy by day, with abundant windows, high tin ceilings, crisp white tablecloths, and ample patio seating fit for an afternoon of people-watching, this stylish boîte transforms into an intimate, candlelit dinner destination come sundown. Grab a stool at the restaurant's namesake, a sleek, 25-foot zinc bar, for raw oysters on the half shell, Gruyre fondue, or a cheese platter, or shimmy onto a lipstick-red banquette and get a look at the full menu. Chef Matt Carter's creations successfully walk the fine line between traditional bistro fare and innovative French-inspired dishes — everything from classic moules frites and steak au poivre to spinach-goat cheese ravioli with oxtail and black truffles. When you're ready for your second wind, go for some French press coffee and chocolate soufflé, made with premium Callebaut chocolate. You'll leave feeling giddily satisfied, but sooner or later, don't be surprised to find yourself wanting more. At Zinc Bistro, infatuation is a given.
GreekTown Restaurant
Lauren Cusimano
Okay, so it's perched on North Seventh Street instead of a rocky cliff by the Mediterranean, but this white-washed taverna is still a great place to find homestyle dishes just like gia gia used to make. We're not sure if there really is a staff of busy Greek grandmothers in the kitchen at GreekTown, although the food sure tastes like it was made from time-honored recipes. Traditional favorites like saganaki (flaming cheese), stuffed grape leaves, and marinated octopus make up the appetizer menu, while entrees run the gamut from Old Country staples like souvlaki and moussaka to more contemporary Greek-style dishes like veal sautéed with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and white wine sauce. Add that to a friendly, festive atmosphere where wine flows at a Dionysian pace, and you'll be shouting "Opa!" before dessert rolls around. Just don't try throwing any plates.
Black Forest Mill German Restaurant & Bar
New ownership and a fresh makeover have re-energized the former German Corner restaurant, which reopened as Black Forest Mill earlier this year. With a spacious bar area (where there's a sports bar vibe), cozy dining rooms with curtain-draped booths and dark wood paneling, and even a small dance floor (there's live accordion music on Friday and Saturday nights), it's a refreshingly unpretentious — and welcome — addition to the increasingly upscale Arcadia neighborhood. From wiener schnitzel (veal cutlets) to Rheinischer sauerbrauten (Rhineland-style wine-and-vinegar-marinated sirloin with raisin sauce), the menu is chock full of old-fashioned German favorites. Entrees are available at lunchtime, too, but there's plenty of lighter midday fare, including goulash soup and bratwurst sandwiches. Of course, happy hour's the best time to go, when the beer is flowing and the workday's behind you. Relax, order up a frothy German brew, and give a nod to the cute, costume-clad fräulein across the room. Who needs Oktoberfest? The simple things in life are worth celebrating at Black Forest Mill.
Dragonfly Vietnamese Kitchen
Looks generally aren't everything when it comes to Vietnamese restaurants, which can range from bare bones to dive-y. And that's fine by us, as long as we get our pho fix. But when there's a good-looking newcomer, we notice. Dragonfly has a charming, relaxed cafe atmosphere that sets it apart from a lot of its competitors, but it's more than just a pretty face. The food here is phenomenal — fresh, beautifully presented, and bursting with memorable flavors. Goi cuon, filled with moist, smoked halibut, are a welcome variation on traditional spring rolls, and the summery shredded papaya salad is the perfect balance of tangy, sweet, and spicy. As for the pho — steaming bowls of rice noodle soup that are a Vietnamese staple — Dragonfly's herb-filled broth tastes just right.
Somehow the stylish folks at Swaddee have managed to dress up a run-of-the-mill strip mall space and make it feel like a treasure, with Thai artwork in gleaming jeweltones, and pretty patterned slipcovers to disguise the chairs and booths. The food is all about splendor, too, with fragrant flavors like basil, coconut, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger. We're so crazy about the roasted duck curry — a rich stew of moist duck meat, pineapple chunks, and tomatoes swimming in savory red curry — that we'd slurp it straight from the dish if we weren't afraid of being caught behaving badly. There's a lot in the way of seafood (try pla lard prik, crispy catfish zinged up with red curry and basil), as well as noodles, half a dozen kinds of soup filled with fresh herbs, sautéed dishes packed with vegetables, and tangy salads like larb, a spicy mix of ground beef, chili, red onions, mint leaves, and lime juice. And no matter how much we stuff ourselves with spicy goodness, it's always nice to finish with something sweet. When it's in season, mango with sweet sticky rice is our favorite. Oh, if only every neighborhood ethnic place were half this tasty, or half this cute.
Super Dragon Restaurant
Who cares if Phoenix doesn't have a real Chinatown? Even though we might have to drive a little further to find it, we still have killer Hong Kong-style food at Super Dragon, an institution whose reputation goes well beyond its north Phoenix address.

Unlike the typical Chinatown dive, the atmosphere here is soothing and immaculately clean, but the flavors are just as authentic (minus the MSG) — heaps of pan-fried chow fun noodles with a vaguely smoky fragrance, rich Cantonese roasted duck, and sizzling rice crust soup. And Super Dragon's specialty dish, House's Chicken, is to die for: a platter of crisp, golden fried chicken slathered in chile and scallion-flecked garlic sauce. Sure, they have safe bets like moo goo gai pan, too, but go for the unusual offerings, like cold jellyfish. After all, you probably won't find this stuff at your neighborhood Chinese place.

Hodori
Meagan Mastriani
Looking for a hot ticket to spicy Korean cuisine? Try Hodori. Tucked into one of the East Valley's best strip malls for Asian cuisine (also home to Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, as well as a small Korean grocery store), this no-frills eatery feeds a savvy crowd that's hungry for authentic Seoul food at reasonable prices. Hodori doesn't skimp on the panchan, those delightful small plates that prep the palate with a variety of flavors and textures, from peppery kimchi to soothing chilled bean sprouts. You could practically make a meal out of those, but hold out for generously sized main dishes like still-sizzling bulgogi (marinated barbecued beef), bibimbap (beef, vegetables and egg on top of rice), or one of Hodori's nuclear-strength tofu soups, served in super-heated bowls that keep 'em sputtering and nearly boiling over as you dip into their chili-red broth. Hodori really knows how to bring the heat.
Sushi Ken
Lauren Saria
We first found out about this recent addition to the Ahwatukee dining scene from several friends who raved about it — and all of them are Japanese. Kinda says something about a place, doesn't it? Of course, you don't need to be a Nippon native to figure out what a find Sushi Ken is. We love the casual, unpretentious atmosphere, the glossy, photo-filled menu (which makes us drool every time), and the easy-on-the-wallet prices. (Dinner combos for under ten bucks? Hai!) So far, we haven't tried a single thing we haven't liked here, and although we stop by every chance we get, we still haven't even come close to exhausting our options. Dream it up, and Sushi Ken has it covered: soba and udon noodle soups, broiled marinated cod, korokke, yudofu, chicken katsu, and sushi galore. They have nearly two dozen kinds of sake on hand, and they even serve honest-to-goodness, hard-to-find Japanese desserts like mitsumame and anmitsu. Forget about light rail; if we had our way, we'd head to Sushi Ken by high-speed bullet train.
Indian Delhi Palace Cuisine of India
From crisp, white tablecloths and ornate Indian décor to the incredible, complex aromas wafting from the kitchen, everything about Indian Delhi Palace hints at a good meal to come, even before you crack open the menu. And sure enough, once the royal feast kicks in, you'll be dazzled by the flavors here — smoky chicken tikka masala, luscious lamb korma, and vibrant palak paneer (creamed spinach with cubes of cheese) are just a few of the standout dishes, which we like to wash down with a frothy yogurt lassi. As for the buttery garlic naan, it's simply fantastic, probably worthy of its own "Best of" for a perfect balance of crisp and doughy textures (not to mention how handy it is for cleaning up every last drop of curry on our plate). And come dessert time, try the creamy rice pudding or some syrup-soaked gulab jamun, even if you think you don't have room. A meal this tasty can't end with anything less than a food coma.

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