About two months ago, we told you chef Claudio Urciuoli had left the award-winning Noble Eatery in Central Phoenix in favor of opening a new restaurant with Omar Alvarez of Tortas Paquime. The lunch-only restaurant, known for its oven-made fare and fresh breads, was left in the hands of a new chef, Zach Flynn, who had been working beside Urciuoli at Noble Eatery for about a year.
As it turns out, however, Flynn's history with the well-known Italian chef goes back much farther than that. Recently, we sat down with Flynn to get to know the new head honcho at one of the Valley's hottest lunch destinations.
The Phoenix native has been at Noble for about a year, and his previous experience includes working alongside Urciuoli at Italian Restaurant, now known as the Town & Country location of Pizzeria Bianco. For those who don't remember, Urciuoli came on board to help run that restaurant in 2013, but parted ways with Bianco due to differing opinions on what it should be. After the split, Flynn went to work at Noca for about a year (Urciuoli was executive chef at that fine dining spot before joining Italian Restaurant), but spent his last year and a half before coming to Noble Eatery at Vintage 95 in Chandler.
And now that he's here, Flynn's embracing the restaurant's dedication to sourcing top-quality ingredients and showcasing them with simple preparations.
"It forces you to think outside of the box," Flynn says of the restaurant's wood-fired oven.
Which isn't to say you won't notice some changes to the menu now that Flynn's in charge. You will, and they include a daily sandwich selection that could be considered a little more "traditional," in Flynn's own words. While Urciuoli favored strictly Italian ingredients combined in various ways, Flynn's bringing a few more familiar options to the table — think a BLT with peppered bacon and arugula or rosemary ham paired with cheddar cheese and honey mustard.
He's also added an entirely new section to the mix: hummus. And while you might not think of Noble Eatery as a destination for creamy hummus topped with fresh pickled vegetables, you should. Flynn's version is one of the best in town and only gets better when scooped up with pieces of the restaurant's thin, fresh bread.
Fans of the restaurant's grain bowl — previously dubbed the "Ramon Navarro" after the Chilean big-wave surfer — need not worry, as the chef says he's got no intention of taking it off the menu. He will, however, continue to use it as an opportunity to showcase various grains and seasonal vegetables.
"It's one of my favorite things," Flynn says. "The grain bowl is a great opportunity for us to showcase the grains in a different way."
And as the weather cools down, the chef has even more menu tweaks in the works.
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"We're going to be having a lot of fun with soups," he says.
We certainly can't wait.