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Carefree Restaurant Pizzicata Named Arizona's First Certified Pinseria

Federico Venturini and Viola Tagliaferri, shown with son Diego, own Pizzicata, Arizona's first certified "authentic pinseria."
Federico Venturini and Viola Tagliaferri, shown with son Diego, own Pizzicata, Arizona's first certified "authentic pinseria." Webefood
For a few years now, pinsa — a rustic pizza with crispy yet light and airy crust dating back to the Roman Empire — has been trending across Europe and from San Francisco to Brooklyn. And the real deal is available right here in Arizona at Pizzicata Ristorante Pizzeria in Carefree.

The restaurant recently was certified as the state's first “authentic pinseria” by the Authentic Roman Pinsa Association, which is devoted to promoting and protecting pinseria owners and pinsaioli, or pinsa makers, who follow the traditions of this ancient artisan specialty. There are only about five certified pinserias so far in the U.S. and roughly 20 elsewhere in the world, according to the association.

Pizzicata’s owners, husband and wife Federico Venturini and Viola Tagliaferri, moved from Umbria, Italy, to the Valley in 2018 and opened Pizzicata in September 2019. A year later, they opened Pomodoro Italian Grill & Seafood in Cave Creek.

“We started with the idea because I knew that in Arizona there was not a pinsa place,” Venturini says. “It is very popular in Italy, so we decided to follow this kind of concept.”

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Pizzicata's patio allows for al fresco dining.
José Pacheco Photography
As the certification proves, they maintain a certain protocol in creating pinsas. While pizza uses only wheat flour, pinsa requires a mix of rice, soy, and wheat flour from Italy, and the dough is 85 percent water. It’s fermented for a minimum of 72 hours, as opposed to a few hours or a day for regular pizza.

And instead of being rolled and stretched, it’s pressed and pinched — pinsere is the Latin word for “pinch,” Venturini explains. All of this creates a lighter crust with more air bubbles that remains crisp on the bottom.

“It doesn’t get soggy,” Venturini says. “It’s crispy, and fluffy in the middle.”

Unlike Neapolitan pizza, which tends to get gummy after 10 minutes, pinsa holds up well for takeout or leftovers. Just heat it up on the stove in a dry frying pan and it’s back to new. “Even cold, it’s still good,” Tagliaferri says.

Pinsa also has fewer carbohydrates than regular pizza, Venturini says, meaning it doesn't feel as heavy and is easier to digest.

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Pizzicata's Capricciosa pinsa includes tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, Italian sausage, artichokes, ham, olives, and extra virgin olive oil.
Don’t get any ideas that it’s a health food, however. It can come with all the same cheesy, meaty toppings as any other type of pizza. One of the favorites at Pizzicata, the Capricciosa, has tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, Italian sausage, artichokes, ham, olives, and extra virgin olive oil.

It's not just the dough that sets Pizzicata apart. Their sauce is slightly more acidic than normal and not boiled down into a paste.

“We make the sauce different from [an] American pizza place,” Venturini says. “We don’t cook the tomato. When you put the sauce in a hot oven it cooks the sauce. The sauce doesn’t need to be stressed so much.”

The certification isn’t the first time the couple has received recognition for their food. Last fall, an episode of the Italian food and travel show Little Big Italy named Pizzicata's sister restaurant, Pomodoro, the “most authentic restaurant in Phoenix," bringing with it a spate of local publicity and a bump in business from Italian tourists.

Although “authentic” can mean many things — one of the most popular pizzas in Italy is topped with sliced hot dogs, for example, Venturini says — the couple aims to recreate a traditional Italian experience for anyone who’s visited the country.

For example, in Italy, “usually you don’t see the owner talking and sitting at the table” having a glass of homemade limoncello, Venturini says, adding that they want to share their culture and hospitality with everyone.

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Pizzicata has a full bar serving beer, Italian and California wines, and cocktails.
The couple first discovered the Carefree and Cave Creek area eight years ago. A friend from their hometown moved here, and after a two-month visit, they fell in love with it. They sold their restaurant in Gualdo Tadino, Umbria, to move here and pursue the American dream.

Venturini and Tagliaferri left their family and roots to come to Arizona with their son, Nicolo, who is now almost 10. Their second son, Diego, was born here a little over a year ago. They began Pizzicata with an Italian-American friend and business partner Phil Igneri. Lorenzo De Canonico, a friend from the couple's hometown in Italy, now works as their manager and does marketing and social media.

The group is planning to open a third restaurant, probably in Mesa, in September. The menu will be similar to Pizzicata’s, featuring pinsa, pasta, salads, and desserts, and possibly Neapolitan pizza as well. Through the new restaurant, the couple hopes to introduce their Italian culture, and certified authentic pinsa, to more customers throughout the Valley.

Pizzicata Ristorante Pizzeria

7212 East Hum Road, Carefree
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Geri Koeppel is a professional writer, voracious reader, devoted traveler, and an amateur cook, wine drinker, birder and tennis player. She's lived and worked in Detroit, San Francisco, and Phoenix.
Contact: Geri Koeppel

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