Chef Chat: Joe Aiello, Aiello's

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When Valley diners want New York Italian food but don't want to leave Phoenix, Aiello's provides a slice of Manhattan here in town.

Brooklyn-born Joe Aiello owns the 2-year-old restaurant, where he whips up East Coast Italian-style food, just like he grew up with in his Italian family.

"We weren't watching football, we were eating and drinking all day," Aiello, who owns Aiello's with his wife, Myrah, says. "As young as I can remember, I was in the kitchen."

Both Aiello's sets of grandparents were from Italy, and the family hand made everything--pasta, sauces, mozzarella and even wine.

He took that knowledge with him to the Hyde Park location of the Culinary Institute of America, where he was part of the inaugural class at that location, after dropping out of business school.

"For me, it was an epihpany," Aiello says. "It was everything I wanted to do, and I didn't know they had schools like that."

After graduating, Aiello went on to own about half a dozen restaurants in Manhattan. He says his wife wanted to move out here, since she had danced with Ballet Arizona. After their kids grew older, he left his job as regional director for dining services in retirement communities in the Southwest and decided to open up a new restaurant, Aiello's.

Nicki Escudero
Joe Aiello

"It was like getting back on a bicycle," Aiello says. "I didn't miss a beat."

And his new restaurant has become a neighborhood favorite, regularly selling out of pizzas from the recently launched "back door" pizzeria (he only makes 50 a day during lunch time.) He's also got customers raving about the hospitality--he'll often come out and talk to diners throughout the night.

Aiello has thoughts of possibly opening up a bakery in the front space of his building, and while he misses New York, he's glad to call Phoenix home now.

"Phoenix's dining scene, as far as I'm concerned, is tops," Aiello says. "Things start here and wind up going to New York. Phoenix is very innovative."

For a recipe of Aiello's Chilled Zabaglione, check back on Chow Bella tomorrow.

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