Il Bosco Pizza: Cozy, Date-Night Dining With a Four-Wheeled Past

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When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Il Bosco Location: 7120 East Becker Lane, Scottsdale Open: Over two months Eats: Artisanal pizza Price Point: $11 to $30

Looking for a new date night idea? Il Bosco just might do the trick.

Once a mobile artisanal pizza business run by Bill and Gina Forrest, Il Bosco, has moved (as of mid-June) from a wood-fired, dome-top Valoriani oven on four wheels to a small restaurant on Becker Lane near Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard.

Decidedly different from the HandlebarJ country bar, its oftentimes noisy next-door neighbor, Il Bosco's unassuming, tiny building easily could be missed. Which isn't such a bad thing when it comes to intimate getaways for those in the neighborhood -- especially ones that serve up tasty handcrafted pizzas along with low lights, wine, and bottomless olive trays.

On Il Bosco's modest menu (see below), there are a handful of pizzas, a couple of antipasti and salad dishes, and a small selection of wine and drinks including beer and sugar cane soda. A specials board hanging from the ceiling features the day's pizza, salad, and starter.

For starters, there are three satisfying meatballs al forno ($6.50), nicely seasoned, topped with fresh Parmesan, and resting in a pool of chunky, slightly sweet sauce.

But beware when it comes to the insalate.

Although wonderfully fresh, my beet salad, a special from the board and featuring flavorful raspberries, beets, and goat cheese, seemed undeserving of a $7 price point given its side-salad size. Next time, I'd skip it for a second appetizer.

On the flip side, Il Bosco's pizzas are a real value. Ranging from $8 to $11 and incredibly tasty, Forrest fashions them from naturally risen dough, describes their crust as "Neo-Neapolitan style," and tops them with first-rate ingredients (think San Marzano tomatoes and hand-pulled mozzarella.) My pie, called the Carmela ($10), came topped with a bright tomato sauce, cheese, lightly seasoned sausage, fresh spinach, and flavorful caramelized onions. Its fluffy crust paired nicely with the fresh ingredients and kept the pie on the light side.

In the evenings, when it opens for dinner, Il Bosco's small, 20-something seat interior of dark wood is dimly lit with a few hanging lights and the glow from the pizza's fire and kitchen. There's a comfortably quiet sensibility to the place, with the sounds of Italian music playing low in the background while owner Bill Forrest easily and effortlessly moves from greeter to server to pizza maker -- and always with a close eye on the complimentary olive trays to ensure they don't go empty.

For those in the mood for artisanal pizza in the daylight hours, Il Bosco plans to open for lunch in October. Sounds like the perfect time to try out the patio.

Il Bosco 7120 East Becker Lane, Scottsdale 480-335-8680 www.ilboscopizza.com

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday


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