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Cuoco Pazzo Brings the Roman Beast Feast to Old Town Scottsdale

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Cuoco Pazzo is Italian for "crazy cook" -- and it's the name of Chef Peter DeRuvo's newest venture in Old Town Scottsdale. Crazy, sure --  crazy smart, crazy inventive and crazy fun. And we got to experience it last week at Cuoco Pazzo's grand opening.

DeRuvo -- most recently of Prado -- found a space with the right vibe, had it blessed by Tibetan monks, and brought nine of his staffers from his last kitchen to introduce them to his "Romanesque" vision where foods like whole roasted pigs take center stage. DeRuvo was dismantling a pig when we arrived last Thursday night.

Learn about the theatrical beast feasts after the jump.

artner Mario Rana (who also owns Mad Chef Gastropub in Ahwatukee) invited us to sample the antipasti; we especially loved the crostini with thinly sliced beef with pickled shaved onions. The roast beast (pig) stuffed with local greens, ground fennel sausage and Arizona braised beans was impressive, simple and comforting. 

Crispy soft arancini is always a welcome menu item; this one was made with saffron, peas, mozzarella di buffalo and a Calabrian chili romesco sauce. We found the crispy ribs with sapa and crushed peanuts tender and flavorful, we could have devoured the whole platter.

A long library of cookbooks sat on the half wall separating the cozy but open dining room and kitchen. Gilded Moroccan-style printed red wallpaper covers the walls along with red brick with one very large chalkboard presenting the special menu items. The regular lunch menu is more simple than the dinners, consisting of pastas, salads and sandwiches. There's also a small bar featuring local craft beers, extensive wine list and house made infusions and cellos - as in limoncello and various inspired flavors.

The Roman authority on cuisine, Apicius, who lived sometime in the first century, wrote about such unusual ingredients as camel heels and flamingo tongues. Considering that, you might not be shocked to find out what Cuoco Pazzo has up its sleeve. In addition to some of the more unique items on the dinner menu (like grilled beef heart), DeRuvo touts "in-house beasting" to order. 

This is where you call ahead and share what whole animal you and your party would be interested in sharing. He will source your whole duck/goat/lamb/rabbit/etc. and will have it ready (spit roasted, for example) for you and your group to devour upon arrival. The only animal that might be a challenge is a whole cow; however, he did say a ¼ cow might be possible. There will be 3 courses using the other parts of the animal (soup, pasta and entree) plus dessert.

They also make all pastas from scratch and will show you how to do it. DeRuvo is offering cooking classes that will begin with an espresso at the restaurant, move to a stroll down to the Old Town Farmers' Market where DeRuvo will show you how a chef selects ingredients and then he'll take you back the restaurant and cook with it. These seasonal cooking courses are planned monthly. Three course tasting plus espresso are included in "the stroll" course and are priced at $45 per person.

Other whimsical offerings include an abbondanza family-style menu, and in the future, a Three Little Pigs dinner with a trio of pigs prepared three ways, and an Italian-style Peking duck meal with a crispy whole roasted duck and crepellas.

While DeRuvo shared with us his vision and plans for the restaurant, he kept interjecting that this restaurant "is for the people, it's not for me." It felt good to hear that someone who has earned the right to an ego, doesn't have one. He's simply interested in creating a good time for his friends and guests. He'll take care of the food and we take care of letting our hair down and living like the raucus Romans by lounging and lusting over beastly feasts of Italian food and drink.

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