Pasta noodles layered with cheese and smothered in fresh tomato sauce: Nothing is more comforting than a plate of homemade lasagna. The classic Italian dish is easily found at restaurants in the Valley, and to be honest, there are some places that should just leave it to the chefs who really know what they're doing.
Instead of popping that over-priced frozen lasagna into the oven, read who we think has the best lasagna plate in our latest showdown.
The Setting: Created by celebrated chef Chris Bianco, Pane was originally opened as a to-go only sandwich shop with fresh baked bread and homemade mozzarella. Now the menu has expanded to include antipasta, salads, pasta dishes, pizza and dessert. The restaurant is low key with a modern rustic atmosphere.
The Good: We ordered the lasagna al forno, which comes with crushed tomato sauce, beschemel -- a white sauce made with butter, flour and milk -- and parmesan. Bright red tomatoes surround the modest mound of lasagna with a few leaves of basil on top. Each pasta noodle was thick, but in a way that didn't give us that heavy feeling that can often come from lasagna. A bit of sweetness came through as an aftertaste, which was a nice surprise. It didn't take us long to completely clean the serving of lasagna.
The Bad: One question that popped up: Where is the cheese? Parmesan has a bold flavor, but doesn't give that gooey feel to pasta dishes. We ditched the basil leaves that were on top as they didn't do much to enhance the dish.
In The Other Corner: Tutti Santi by Nina
The Setting: As you walk into Tutti Santi's, right away you can feel that classic Italian ambiance. The restaurant is dimly lit, with high ceilings, large chandeliers, wine bottles used as decorations, and a mirrored wall. Getting waited on by a server with a genuine Italian accent also adds to experience. The menu at Tutti Santi's is larger and pricier than Pane Bianco's, and they're known best for their veal and, of course, lasagna.
The Good: The homemade lasagna is made the way most are familiar, with ricotta cheese, ground sirloin, and covered in a layer of mozzarella cheese and homemade tomato sauce. The sauce was chunky, adding a bit of texture, and with every bite cheese was pulled out in a long strand between our mouth and the fork. The lasagna dish did everything to remind us of why we love to indulge in layers of pasta and cheese. It was filling and hearty with the addition of ground sirloin.
The Bad: Despite being chunky, the sauce was not spectacular like we'd hoped. It wasn't a letdown, but because the lasagna itself was such a standout, we expected the same from the sauce.
The Winner: Coming to a decision between the two Italian restaurants was difficult as both gave stellar performances. We loved the light, yet filling dish from Pane Bianco, but the cheese performance at Tutti Santi's won us over in this battle.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.