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: Nook Location: 3623 East Indian School Road Open: Over two weeks Eats: American, pizzas Price: $11 to $30 per person
Nook, the little pizzeria and American eatery from the former owners of Amaro Pizzeria & Vino Lounge in North Scottsdale, is the latest entry to pop up on the still-hot stretch of restaurant real estate on Indian School Road between 36th and 56th streets.
Tucked into Arcadia's Gaslight Square, the bustling strip mall at the corner of Indian School Road and 36th Street, the restaurant joins such notable spots as Crudo and Beckett's Table. But unlike its chef-driven neighbors, Nook seems to want to be just a nice neighborhood spot for pizza and perhaps a glass a wine. And if that's what you've come for, it is.
Nick LaRosa (formerly chef de cuisine at HMSHost, the airport food-service company where he helped open many of the new restaurants at Sky Harbor's Terminal Four) oversees Nook's mostly Italian-minded lunch and dinner menus, which feature dishes such as Chilean mussels, bruschetta, and pizzas, as well as entrees like veal picatta over housemade capellini.
The restaurant's bar responsibilities, which include a 50-bottle boutique wine list, fall to sommelier Matthew Wohleb (Amaro Pizzeria, Kazimierz World Wine Bar).
You'll want to skip the beer-braised pork butt bruschetta ($12), four slices of not-so-crunchy bread served at a temperature less warm than you might prefer and covered with a sugary barbecue sauce and an equally sweet fleshy pink dollop of coleslaw that effectively snuffs out what little flavor there is to be had in the meat.
But then there are the Neapolitan-style pizzas. Eight 12-inch varieties of red and white pies with perfectly salted crusts -- charred and crisp at the rim and thin and soft everywhere else -- topped with ingredients like spicy sopressata, roasted tomatoes, and a house-pulled mozzarella that's pretty much perfect. You could do worse than to have the latter lighting up the Porco e Funghi ($14), a very good pizza of sweet sausage, heady mushrooms, Parmesan, and basil.
Desserts come compliments of Tracy Dempsey Originals, and the most imaginative of the bunch might be the Chocolate Salami ($9). A kind of charcuterie board of revolving treats, it might contain a dollop of homemade crème fraîche, fruity biscotti, sweet "tapenade," and slices of decadent chocolate "salami" with bits of coconut to mix and match as you please.
Nook's welcoming corridor-style space filled with comfy booths, a lengthy bar, and loads of natural light make it easy to settle into -- as does its staff. Friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient, along with the pizza, they're the best thing about the place.
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I'm looking forward to popping by for dinner soon.
This post has been edited from its original content.
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