Top Five Phoenix Food Stories of the Week

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Every week, there's a cornucopia of Phoenix food news, features, and reviews to report here at Chow Bella. If you're like most people, you probably just don't have the time to get to all of it. It's kind of like those burgers at Old Town Whiskey; it just won't all fit in your mouth ... or in this case, your day. So, here's a recap of some of the top stories from the week that you may have missed.

Todd Sicolo Dishes on Grant Achatz and His Short-Lived Las Vegas Marriage

Todd Sicolo T. Cook's at Royal Palms Resort & Spa 5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix 602-808-0766 royalpalmshotel.com

Todd Sicolo is a little picky about his fruit -- apples, pears and cherries in particular. Raised in upstate New York by food-focused parents who had a garden, canned their own tomato sauce and turned apples into apple butter, applesauce, apple everything, he grew up appreciating honest food made with fresh ingredients. By the time he was 10, he was cooking with his grandmothers and by 15, he was peeling potatoes for the restaurant his dad and uncle had recently founded. After high school (which he hated, but who didn't?), he knew he didn't want to work in the family business, so he applied to the CIA, the only school Sicolo says would admit him without an SAT score. He took it seriously and performed well, taking a gig at an allegedly haunted B&B upon graduation.

After zigging at a small-scale operation, he zagged to The Quilted Giraffe in New York, where he learned about game before the cold weather got to him and he signed on with a yachting company in Florida, doing private dinners as well as high-volume banquets up and down the inner coast. His next gig was at the Hyatt in Coral Gables, followed by the Boca Raton Resort & Club, where his job as executive chef tournant brought something different every day.

Read part one of the Chef Salad interview with Todd Sicolo here.

And here's part two of the interview with Sicolo.

--Nikki Buchanan

L.A.'s Grilled Cheese Truck Makes Phoenix Debut This Weekend

It's a new year for food trucks in the Valley, and the mobile kitchen scene's newest (and cheesiest) entry comes straight from the City of Angels.

Since 2009, The Grilled Cheese Truck has been roaming the streets of L.A., serving up grilled cheese sandwiches, natch, along with soup and tater tots. It's been staggeringly popular since launching and it's won numerous awards, so this year, owner and founder Dave Danhi, a chef for years in some of L.A.'s most notable restaurants, decided the time was right to expand. And Phoenix is the first stop on his list.

"There's something about the people in Phoenix that makes the city a snapshot of America," Danhi tells me, explaining why Phoenix was his first city of choice for expansion. "Plus, it's close enough to L.A. that I can manage the business. And the hot summers make it a good test market for my online ordering system."

At a recent First Friday, Danhi tells me, he tasted some great street eats in the form of fry bread and goodies from Old Dixie's Southern Kitchen. One thing Danhi has not been excited about are the city's regulations regarding food trucks. "More extreme" than they are in L.A., many seem outdated, and Danhi says he'd like to work with the city on improving them.

You can catch the premiere of The Grilled Cheese Truck in Phoenix this weekend at the Street Eats Food Truck Festival at Salt River Fields. For a schedule of upcoming Valley gigs, follow The Grilled Cheese Truck on its Facebook page.

--Laura Hahnefeld

Jobot Duo to Open Vegan/Vegetarian Diner in Bragg's Pie Factory: And Yes, There Will Be Pie

The stigma around vegan food is that it doesn't taste good. The hard truth about downtown's Bragg's Pie Factory building is, after the 1960s, it never had any pie. Liam Murtagh, chef at Jobot Coffee Shop, downtown's late-night coffee and crepe house, hopes to change both.

Murtagh's teamed up with his wife, Emily Spetrino-Murtagh, and fellow Jobot staff member and line cook Dana Stern to start Bragg's Factory Diner. Set to open in late February/early March, the restaurant will serve American diner food, vegetarian- and vegan-style, in the retail space of Bragg's Pie Factory, the former pie factory turned art galley at 1301 Grand Avenue. And, yes, there will be pie.

--Laura Hahnefeld

Humble Pie Celebrates 5th Anniversary Jan. 15 with Half-Off Pizza at All Phoenix Area Locations

Humble Pie is turning 5 (aww) and to celebrate they're giving a gift to you.

On Tuesday, January 15, the locally owned pizzeria with currently 5 metro Phoenix locations (the sixth Humble Pie at Stetson Village is set to open sometime during the week of the restaurant's anniversary) will be offering all of its wood-fired pizzas at half price. This offer is one-day-only at all Humble Pie locations and only for dine in customers.

This isn't the first time the guys at Humble Pie have offered their special anniversary deal, in fact they do it every year as a thank you to their growing customer base; says co-owner Rich Sullivan, "we are grateful for the loyal guests that continue to support and enjoy our fresh and simple approach to pizza."

And the local pizza shop continues to expand.

--Katie Johnson

Scottsdale's Montelucia Resort Opens New Venue, Centro Lounge

Heads up, sophisticates: Luxury just got transformed and its food's become inspired by the Southwest.

So says the Montelucia Resort & Spa, the luxury hotel in Scottsdale. It's recently turned its eatery, the former ROQ American Bistro, into Centro Lounge. Located in the heart of the resort, the new gathering spot will sport a Southwestern-inspired menu of shareable plates, sides, and flatbreads courtesy of executive chef Michael Cairns.

Cairns, a hospitality veteran for over 22 years, took over the Montelucia's executive chef position in February of 2012, replacing chef Peter DeRuvo.

Find out more here.

--Laura Hahanefeld

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