Pasta Erbe Aromatiche at Franco's
Your first visit to Franco's Italian Cafe in Scottsdale might be intimidating. The menu is pretty much entirely in Italian and nothing has descriptions. I almost made the mistake of simply going with something recognizable, but was fortunately persuaded by my server to order the Pasta Erbe Aromatiche instead. The dish features handmade strozzapreti pasta, a longer version of twisted cavatelli, with a fragrant sauce made with white wine and just a touch of cream. You can smell the herbs as soon as the plate arrives in front of you, making for a complete sensory experience that shouldn't be missed.
Roasted Bone Marrow at The Local
I'm a big fan of how much offal chef Chris McKinley has worked into his menu at The Local and one of my favorite dishes so far has to be the roasted bone marrow. It's nearly impossible to go wrong when you're combining the flavors of super rich, buttery, slightly mineral bone marrow with bits of crispy bacon. Spread the marrow and bacon over the accompanying garlic crostini and you're pretty much in heaven. To me, it strikes a perfect balance with its glamorous presentation but approachable, even familar, taste. I'm happy to report that McKinley says this dish isn't going anywhere though he hopes to change the menu regularly.
Boricua at Republica Empanada
It's been a while since I had a chance to dine at Mesa's Republica Empanada, so when my family was visiting from out of town and asked to have dinner there I happily obliged. I'd forgotten how addicting good their wheat flour empanadas can be, particularly the Boricua. The savory pastry features a filling of pernil, or slow roasted pork, and arroz con gandules, or rice with pigeon peas. The rice combines pigeon peas and ham hock, which then gets cooked in sofrito sauce made of onion, tomato, garlic, and other seasonings. The result is a surprisingly complex and filling little empanda. Just make sure to save room for an order of the fried plantains too.
Doughnut with Maple Glaze and Bacon at Fractured Prune
I'm no bacon fanatic, though I do think in certain circumstances it can be a delicious addition to a dish. This is one of those cases. It all starts with the fact that Fractured Prune -- the brand new shop in Chandler that lets you customize your doughnuts as you order -- serves seriously awesome cake doughnuts. I can appreciate a pillowy doughnut too, but I think that the heavier cake variety does a much better job standing up to the sweet maple glaze and bacon. What's more, Fractured Prune doesn't skimp on quantity or quality of bacon. You get a full layer of smokey bacon chunks atop your fresh doughnut making for a sinful breakfast or near-perfect dessert.