From 1989 to 2017, the southwest corner of Mill Avenue and Alameda Drive in Tempe was Riazzi’s Italian Garden. This was a Tempe-famous, family-owned Italian restaurant that originally opened in 1945 at 15th Avenue and McDowell Road, relocating once more before landing on lower Mill Avenue.
When the red-sauce joint closed in 2017, a ripple was felt through the neighborhood. Not to be dramatic, but it was weird to see the Riazzi’s sign removed, the corner eatery dark. Then, a new restaurant took over, though not much changed, food-wise. The spot became Quartiere, Italian for “district” or “neighborhood,” later in 2017. It was overseen by Erick and Rochelle Geryol and was part of the restaurant family behind Boulders on Broadway, Boulders on Southern, and Spokes on Southern.
Recently, our food critic Chris Malloy sat down with Justin Evans and Tony Fatica of The Theodore — the October-opened beer room on Roosevelt Row — for a chat (coming soon).
Evans co-founded The Wandering Tortoise in 2016, where Fatica bartended. Then, in 2019, came The Sleepy Whale in downtown Chandler and The Theodore in downtown Phoenix. Both new projects are taprooms with mostly beer, which is chalked onto a carefully selective menu.
But now there's a third project.
The Golden Pineapple is due to open at 2700 South Mill Avenue in February 2020, but the sign is due to go up in January. The team behind Pineapple will be Evans, Fatica, and Todd Oltmann — currently the general manager at The Sleepy Whale.
"We were introduced to the Riazzi’s building and fell in love!," Evans says in an email. "Stand alone, giant space, lots of parking, large kitchen, beautiful patio, and that amazing tree out front! It fits our mold!"
However, don't expect to walk into the same old restaurant. Evans says they plan to remodel the restrooms, tear down some dividing walls, build a new bar, bring in some pool tables and furniture, and add some garage doors — just to name a few things.
The guys snagged Chef Dell Morris from Proof at The Four Seasons, meaning there will be a chef-driven menu with a Southwestern bent. "He is from Arizona and grew up eating Southwestern-inspired meals," Evans says. The Golden Pineapple will most likely offer brunch Thursday through Sunday, and work with local purveyors like Chula Seafood and Nelson's Meat + Fish for its seafood component.
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That means for the first time, a Justin Evans project will not be BYOF — bring your own food — as with The Wandering Tortoise, The Sleepy Whale, and The Theodore. However, the new spot will still start with "the."
So not only will there be food (and good food from the sound of it) at the new spot, there will also be cocktails. The team is currently securing a beverage director/mixologist coming to lead the cocktail program. Evans will continue to lead the beer and wine program, which is on par with the other locations. "We want every program within GP to complement each other," Evans says, "and be the best we could dream of putting together."
The Golden Pineapple will be located just north of a well-worn intersection in Tempe, Mill and Southern avenues, meaning they'll be neighbors will other watering holes like Yucca Tap Room, Time Out Lounge, and Monkey Pants. "We are familiar with all of those places and hope that we can be another stop on the list," Evans says. "They all are staples and have history in Tempe and the Valley, that we respect!"
For more information, see The Golden Pineapple's Facebook page.