A.Skip over to Olives Big City Italian on North Saguaro Boulevard, overlooking the eastern foothills of Fountain Hills. Signatures include baked-on-site focaccia and olive bread with pesto, "pastabilities" (create your own pasta plate), "drunken calamari," deep-dish pizza, and tiramisu served in a martini glass.
Q.My husband has asked to go out to eat either Peking duck or osso buco for his birthday. Do you know of a local restaurant that serves a great version of either one?
A.Acqua e Sale at 44th Street and Camelback has wonderful osso buco, plus lots of other terrific Italian dishes. It's a beautiful special occasion place, too. For duck, try Bamboo House on Fifth Street and Thunderbird. There's lots of the bird to be had here, including Peking of course, but also prepared Szechuan Crispy, Yui-Shan (boneless with vegetables), roasted with scallions and sautéed in brown sauce, or roasted with ginger.
Q.I need to plan a small party (30 people) but don't have a big budget. Some of the restaurant room-rental fees have my jaw dropping! Any suggestions?
A.Most rental fees are applied directly to your food/drink bill. But if you're nervous, call Ibiza Cafe at Scottsdale Road and Camelback. The cute restaurant is available Sundays and Mondays with no rental fee, available for groups of 20 to 75. Ibiza serves delightful tapas (Spanish appetizers), terrific sangria, beers, wines and cocktails. Just ask, though, and they'll put together a custom menu.