From gelato to high-end Japanese beef to an old friend returning with new digs, the Phoenix area restaurant scene always seems to be expanding. Here's three recent openings, with vastly different menus, that we think you're going to like.
7140 East Main Street, Scottsdale
Freshly pressed cones at Gelato Cimmino
Mario Cimmino just introduced a kind of gelato unlike any in metro Phoenix. Sandwiched between four art galleries on each side, Gelato Cimmino opened in Old Town Scottsdale in mid-October. Cimmino is from Naples. His goal with Gelato Cimmino is “to bring the exact same taste you can get in Naples over here.” He uses lemons from the Amalfi coast and strawberries from Acerno's forests, hazelnuts from Giffoni Valle Piana and walnuts from Sorrento, apricots from trees below Mount Vesuvius. These are the kind of ingredients that power some of the better gelaterias in Italy’s third biggest city. Cimmino mixes his gelato to an uncommonly smooth, creamy consistency that elevates two of Cimmino’s top-shelf flavors. The first is Cimmino Rock, an intense blend of chocolate, hazelnut, and cookie bits. The second is one of the best frozen scoops of any kind in town: “almonds & orange.” This flavor has the heady perfume of almond paste and a lush, long, spellbinding citrus note totally defanged of its acidity, like what you get from cassata or candied citron studded in Sicilian-style cannoli.
The new Welcome Diner's terrific trio: the hurricane cocktail, gumbo, and pork and grits (in the background).
929 East Pierce Street
The new Welcome Diner opened in August, two blocks south from its old Garfield location. Diners will recognize many favorites from the old, like burgers with bread-and-butter pickles, with bacon jam, with jalapeño relish. Red Bird chicken, the juicy flesh jacketed in a crackly fry and tucked into biscuits with gravy and cheddar, honey and mustard. Shrimp toast is a welcome addition to the new menu. Shrimp are pickled in a solution that unites a few vinegars. Before this, though, the heads are removed and turned into a cream sauce, which is piped via whipped cream chargers onto gently toasted bread. Pickled shrimp goes on top, sprinkled with bits of pickled celery, onion, and bell peppers. The treatment seems to bring out the fragrant essences of shrimp, the bites of toast as light as radio waves. Pies here are legit, just like at the old spot. Lemon chess pie is essentially just a really good lemon square ballooned to more vertical, three-dimensional proportions. The new Welcome Diner is well worth visiting.
Finestre Modern Gastronomy
Assorted vacuum-packed cuts of Japanese wagyu at Finestre
3603 East Indian School Road
David Duarte cooks many things at his new restaurant, Finestre Modern Gastronomy, which exists fully inside of The Market at Jennifer’s in Arcadia. Duarte specializes in riffing with elite Japanese beef. “I am the only one in town who has whole steer wagyu,” Duarte says. He goes through a San Francisco source, obtaining large segments of wagyu. This allows him to cook with all kinds of cuts. Wagyu strip. Wagyu plate. Wagyu brisket, short ribs, and shank. Wagyu fat, carved from meaty hunks and used to sauté vegetables and to flavor all his desserts. His five-course tasting menu begins with wagyu surf and turf. It moves into a wagyu raviolo
(single ravioli), wagyu bao bun, wagyu Bolognese lasagna, and ends with a tableside wagyu tasting, raw and torch-kissed cuts razed from the animal by the blade of the chef himself. There are other places to get Japanese wagyu in the Valley. But nowhere will you find wagyu as maniacally prepared and as wildly remixed as at Finestre.