Citizen Public House chef to open Scottsdale restaurant. Meet Beginner's Luck | Phoenix New Times

Beginner's Luck from The Gladly and Citizen Public House team, to open mid-February

Restaurateur Bernie Kantak is opening an all-day concept in Old Town.
Beginner's Luck will replace Piccolo Virtù, which closed in Scottsdale on Dec. 10.
Beginner's Luck will replace Piccolo Virtù, which closed in Scottsdale on Dec. 10. Geri Koeppel
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Editor's Note: This article was initially published on Jan. 30 and updated on Feb. 5.


When Piccolo Virtù announced its closure in Old Town Scottsdale late last year, chef and owner Gio Osso teased that a new restaurant would take over the space.

Fellow restaurateur, chef and James Beard Award semifinalist Bernie Kantak is now set to launch a new all-day restaurant in the space by mid-February. Beginner's Luck will be Kantak's third restaurant.

He and his In Good Spirits Hospitality Group run The Gladly in central Phoenix, which celebrated a decade in business in 2023, and Citizen Public House, a Scottsdale staple since 2011.
click to enlarge Chef Bernie Kantak.
Chef Bernie Kantak is set to open his third restaurant this February.
The Gladly

Looking to grow with an all-day spot

With Beginner's Luck, Kantak and co-owner Andrew Fritz have the opportunity to stretch.

“I’ve wanted to do brunch and lunch (at Citizen Public House) for a while but the kitchen is too small," Kantak says.“(Beginner's Luck) gives Andrew an opportunity to play with a coffee program; it gives me the opportunity to do brunch and lunch and a little more space for dinner."

Kantak and Fritz say they want to bring something that's missing from Old Town Scottsdale.

“I felt like there wasn’t anyone that was doing specialty coffee with a chef-driven, ingredient-driven food program, right here in the heart of Old Town,” Fritz says.

Kantak says he's looked at "probably a million spaces," that didn't stand out for the hospitality group's next concept. Then, he approached friend and fellow restaurateur Gio Osso about the building in the alley just off Main Street.

“I was like, I’ve been wanting to do lunch down here for a while, why don’t you let me at it?" Kantak says.

After announcing that Piccolo Virtù had served its last customers in December and that the space had been sold, chef and owner Osso said he had "mixed emotions." The restaurant, while open for less than a year, had drawn raves, including being named Phoenix New Times' Best New Restaurant in 2023.

Kantak says he, like Osso, is hopeful Piccolo Virtù will return at some point, noting that Osso's eateries are where he sends folks seeking recommendations.

Menu draws on 'well-traveled comfort food'

Beginner's Luck is inspired by Stationæry, a Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, coffee shop that evolved into a neighborhood restaurant. For Fritz and beverage director Kurtis Williams, great coffee is key.

“I got really hooked on coffee culture and the third wave coffee culture," which focuses on lighter, more balanced roasts and terroir-driven beans, Fritz says.

Guests will be able to start their day either by dining in or grabbing coffee and pastries to-go. Coffee options will include traditional cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and drip coffee made with beans from Phoenix roaster Moxy Coffee Co. Speciality coffee drinks will include mesquite-vanilla and orange blossom-honey lattes, Fritz says.

Boozy daytime sips will be “bright, crushable, easy-drinking cocktails," Fritz says, such as a sorbet mimosa, chile margarita and mezcal-based paloma. 

The food menu has been crafted by Kantak, and chef de cuisine Benjamin Graham will oversee the kitchen. The restaurant will serve new American-style brunch, midday and dinner menus.

“I’ve done well-traveled comfort food pretty much all my life, and that’s what it is," Kantak says.

For brunch, expect kolaches, French toast and egg dishes, including Kantak's take on shakshuka, which will infuse Korean spice with gochugaru, along with eggplant and farmer's cheese.

The chef's infamous chopped salad will also be served at Beginner's Luck. The salad, which is composed of artfully plated rows of smoked salmon, pearl couscous, arugula, pepitas, asiago cheese, currants, dried sweet corn and marinated tomatoes, has been named one of Phoenix’s most iconic dishes and even has its own Facebook page.

"To have an opportunity to put that in the hands of people walking around the streets every day is something I’ve wanted to do for a while," Kantak says.

The kitchen will also feature slow-roasted meats, including in protein bowls. One will update a dish Kantak served at last year's Devour Culinary Classic, which included a base of blue corn mush, roasted Iberico-Duroc pork and pickled vegetables. Another dish, perhaps part nod, part poke to former tenant Osso, will be porchetta.

"Gio swears that his porchetta is better than mine," Kantak says. “I’m throwing down a challenge to him."

Some of the midday dishes will transition to the evening menu, which will also include seafood, Schreiner's Linguisa sausage with ratatouille and Steak Fritz, which will get a coffee rub.

Coffee and tea will also be infused into tipples like an espresso martini and a "Chairish," or Chai-Irish coffee. Fritz is curating a global wine bottle list and the menu will shift from those lighter daytime drinks to "bolder, deeper, comforting flavors," including old fashioneds and Manhattans.

The interior will be stylish and eclectic, encouraging a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, according to a press release that announced the new restaurant.

With their first crack at breakfast, Fritz came up with the name, "hoping for a little beginner's luck."

But, the hospitality group isn't stopping yet. Kantak teases that In Good Spirits has other ideas, or may look to expand their existing restaurant concepts to other parts of the Valley.

"Something else might be down the road as well," he says.

Beginner's Luck

Opening in mid-February
7240 E. Main St., Scottsdale
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