The Spot: Cibo
603 North Fifth Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85003
The Hours: Cibo’s happy hour is offered throughout the restaurant from Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Perfect For: Date night, dinner with the family, or grabbing a bite before the game or concert downtown.
The Interior: Imagine you own a little bungalow in downtown Phoenix – the kind that was built in the early 1900s, with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and plenty of charm. Now, imagine you take out all of your furniture, fill the rooms with tables and chairs, and stick a bar and wood-burning pizza oven where your TV used to be. Sound good? That’s what Karen and Tony Martingilio thought, too. They fired up the oven, added some twinkle lights and some of Tony’s own artwork, and faster than you can say “pizza margharita,” they had their very own slice of southern Italy in downtown Phoenix. The house and its surrounding patio are – in no uncertain terms – adorable, but it’s the warmth of the people and the authenticity of the food inside that make the place magical.
The Food: Like the restaurant itself, Cibo’s happy-hour menu is deceptively small. Lovers of the restaurant’s Neopolitan pizza will be disappointed: The closest item on the happy-hour menu would be the straccetti ($4), strips of pizza dough topped with tomato sauce, Parmesan, and basil. But if you don’t have your heart set on a pie, allow the kitchen to woo you with other Italian staples, such as arancini ($4), rice balls with a mozzarella center; polpette ($6), meatballs served with crusty bread; or gnocchetti sorrentina ($6), potato dumplings served with marinara, melted cheese, and fresh basil.
We ordered the arancini and the polpette, and were delighted to discover that the servings were large enough to feed a small family. The arancini came in a basket of four and were the size of golf balls. The polpette were equally generous. The three meatballs looked like baseballs and could have been fielded using each slice of bread as a mitt. We finished the evening with an order of Palline 2.0 ($3), a warm basket of deep-fried dough balls, sprinkled with sugar and accompanied by a ramekin of Nutella and a few skewers for dipping.
The Drinks: The drinks on happy hour at Cibo are no-frills: You have your choice of house wine ($4 a glass) or a bottle of Peroni ($2.50). The good news is that they know their wine, so the house red is a plummy Montepulciano and the house white a crisp Friulano. The bad news is if you’re looking for cocktails, you’re paying full price. Our Peroni Nastro Azzurro, with notes of hoppiness and barley malt undertones, paired perfectly with our polpette and arancini.
Conclusion: A visit to Cibo is like dropping in on an old friend. The food is classic and consistent, the service genuine, and the atmosphere charming.
Don’t Miss: The light, crispy arancini. Or the palline 2.0. Or anything that comes in ball form, really.
Skip This: Parking meters and one-way streets. Use the complimentary valet service in Cibo’s back lot, so you can get to your table faster and stay there longer.
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