First Taste

First Taste: Chef Gio Osso's Newest Scottsdale Restaurant Serves Food for Thought

Vitello with tonnato sauce at Piccolo Virtù, a new Scottsdale restaurant that opened in December 2022.
Vitello with tonnato sauce at Piccolo Virtù, a new Scottsdale restaurant that opened in December 2022.
When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, 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 — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

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Chef Gio Osso recently opened his third restaurant in Scottsdale.
Heather Gill Photography
Gio Osso is celebrated as one of the Valley’s top fine dining chefs thanks to his flagship restaurant, Virtù Honest Craft in Scottsdale. His less formal spin-off just up the street, Pizzeria Virtù, has been a hit as well, serving wood-fired pizza, pasta, and arguably the Valley’s best burrata dish.

Now, he’s hit a hat trick with his latest concept, Piccolo Virtù, which opened in December 2022.

This latest restaurant is meant to be a kind of middle sister to the first two. While Virtù Honest Craft offers a three-course prix fixe menu with optional supplements and the pizzeria has a more casual and approachable air, Piccolo Virtù beckons to people who’d like to share a few à la carte plates but still be wowed.

That said, the dishes range from dainty crudo appetizers to an entire suckling pig. An order can be configured as a light meal for two or a feast for a group, but no matter what comes out, the ingredients, flavors, and presentations are sublime. The menu changes frequently to keep things interesting for repeat customers as well as staff.

This is literally food for thought — the dishes make diners ponder what they’re eating and truly appreciate the care that goes into them, from sourcing to execution.

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The patio at Piccolo Virtù is an oasis from the bustle of Old Town Scottsdale.
Geri Koeppel
The restaurant is located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, across the street from the Rusty Spur Saloon and set back behind shops selling $10 sunglasses and hats. However, it’s tucked away from the tourists-and-clubs chaos, with a serene, expansive patio featuring black metal chairs and white manufactured stone tabletops. While the patio seats 44, the indoor dining room holds only 24 seats and eight barstools, along with a totally open kitchen.

On a recent visit, dinner included a salad, appetizers, and a couple of pasta dishes. The 55-ounce Bistecca Fiorentina ($295), the whole Branzino ($135), or Costoletta (veal chop, $62) were a little beyond our budget, but for anyone planning a splurge meal, this would be the place to go, based on these first tastes.

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Branzino crudo is served with fresh focaccia.
Geri Koeppel
The adventure began with a Branzino ($23) crudo in a warm sesame oil broth topped with crispy shallots. The delicate fish was enveloped by the slightly nutty bath and accented by a gentle oniony crunch. The crispy, airy homemade focaccia was the perfect vessel to soak up the sauce so that none went to waste.

Also presented with the Branzino was the Vitello ($25), paper-thin slices of veal carpaccio with caper berries and tonnato — a popular Italian-style mayonnaise made with tuna. While the veal could’ve been a tad more rare, this was an admirable example of this traditional dish due to the marriage of silky meat bathed in creamy tonnato with a subtle kiss of fish. The sourness of the capers added a welcome dimension without being overpowering.

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Raddichio served with pecorino, oranges, and bread crumbs bursts with balance.
Geri Koeppel
Next up was the Radicchio ($21), sturdy purplish leaves lined with sections of petite arance, a type of sweet orange, pecorino, and a smattering of mudicca or bread crumbs. The cheese’s earthy notes and slight saltiness danced well with the bitterness of the radicchio. The tang of the oranges offered citrusy notes and the bread crumbs provided texture, echoing the crunch of the leaves.

Both pastas were luscious, but the better of the two we tried was Carbonara '22, Osso’s take on spaghetti carbonara ($34). The square chitarra noodles are made with grano arso, or burnt wheat flour, which creates a visually exciting black color. The dish is further jazzed up with candied pancetta, garlic mudicca, and a dollop of uni, or the edible portion of spiky sea urchin.

A study in balance, this pasta emerged as the favorite dish of the night, thanks to its blend of textures and complementary flavors. The noodles offered nearly imperceptible smoky, nutty notes, ideally matched by sweet yet smoky pops of diced pancetta. The uni literally melts on the tongue, bringing a whiff of ocean brine and a buttery element.

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Pasta with vodka sauce comes highly recommended at Piccolo Virtù.
Geri Koeppel
The server really sold the Vodka ($32) pasta dish, explaining that the tangy, retro-style tomato cream sauce is a hot ticket in the culinary world these days, and she’s confident Osso’s is the best. It definitely could be, due to the complexity and richness of the sauce delivered on the ideal vessel of paccheri, a tube-shaped pasta, but it wasn’t as thrilling as the carbonara. And it was topped with slices of prosciutto that gummed up into a heap in the sauce.

Despite details this new restaurant will no doubt work through, this was a magical meal that showcased imagination, quality, and craft. The drinks list was typically thoughtful, like Osso’s other locations, and heavy on Italian wines and spirits. The servers were knowledgeable, patient, and seamless; it’s obvious the chef knows how to attract the best of the best, from the front of the house to the back.

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Piccolo Virtù's interior is cozy, with a welcoming bar.
Geri Koeppel
No matter whether you want to drop in simply for a plate of Osso's famous octopus and a glass of wine or indulge in a multi-plate romp that’ll whisk you away to the Old World countryside for an evening, Piccolo Virtù will deliver something spectacular.

Piccolo Virtu
7240 East Main Street, Scottsdale
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Geri Koeppel is a professional writer, voracious reader, devoted traveler, and an amateur cook, wine drinker, birder and tennis player. She's lived and worked in Detroit, San Francisco, and Phoenix.
Contact: Geri Koeppel

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