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: Noble Eatery Location: 2201 E. McDowell Road Open: Less than a week Eats: Small plates, lunch Price: $15 and under
Chef Claudio Urciuoli has plenty of fans. Thanks to his time at notable Valley restaurants such as Noca, Pizzeria Bianco (formerly Italian Restaurant), and Prado, the chef has earned a reputation for doing simple, rustic Italian cuisine remarkably well. The only problem for those many fans has been that the last two years or so, Urciuoli been focusing his energies on baking bread with Noble Bread partner Jason Raducha.
Well, as of earlier this week the chef's back in the kitchen, albiet a small one. The duo behind Noble Bread have opened a small lunch spot called Noble Eatery, where Urciuoli is crafting simple Italian fare of exceptional quality.
The new restaurant offers diners a concise selection of soup, small plates, and sandwiches. According to the chef, the menu at the small lunch-only restaurant will reflect what produce is available from supplier Bob McClendon and what proteins the chef's able to get his hands on. Some dishes will change every few days, while others may change slightly based on what ingredients are available that day.
For now the duo of small plates ($6), or "Bites," includes a colorful dish of grapefruit, marinated celery, and Castelvertano olives. The combination of salt, sugar, and fat makes for a beautiful balance of flavors. Similarly, a warm plate of roasted romanesco, petitas, and breadcrumbs offers warm flavors that only highlight the mild, sweet flavor of the produce.
A simple salad ($6) featured Mizuna greens, a mild Asian mustard green, paired with crisp crimson apples and radicchio. A simple dressing of oil and touch of salt gave just the right balance of bitter and sweet.
These produce-based small plates Urciuoli calls his take on the idea of Spanish tapas and can therefore be ordered in alone or as a pairing with a larger dish. With such an affordable price point, we like the idea of ordering several to share with your dining partner as a starter course.
One of our favorite bites had to be the smorgas ($9), an open-faced sandwich not unlike Danish smørrebrød. Urciuoli says this dish will often feature seafood, in this case pieces of King crab over a creamy layer of canellini beans with just a touch of paprika on Noble's nine grain bread.
In the future the chef says he may feature ingredients such as scallops and hake.
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For the two sandwich options at Noble Eatery, Urciuoli is using a special bread made using four types of flour and fermented for 36 hours. The result is a mild and softer bread than Noble Bread fans may be used to -- though these thin sandwich breads make a perfect base for the chef's rustic creations.
The Creminelli ($9) sandwich combined Creminelli cotto salami with creamy mozzerlla, and spicy cherry peppers for a lunch that's feels both luxurious and simple at the same time. Neither the bread nor the ingredients overpowers one another, leaving plenty of room to appreciate the high quality of each.
To finish with something sweet the restaurant offers a slice of toasted Noble country loaf dressed in extra virgin olive oil and hazelnut and Sicilian pistachio nut spread ($4). As with everything on the menu, Urciuoli creates an uncomplicated plate that celebrates each ingredient and leaves you wanting more.