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October, 2007, Page 187
Grilled ahi with white bean salad
3950 E. Campbell Ave., Phoenix, 602-956-6600
SNAGGING A PARKING SPOT IN FRONT OF THE RESTAURANT REMAINS AS LIKELY AS WINNING THE LOTTERY, BUT THERE’S LITTLE ELSE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT WHEN IT COMES TO THIS QUAINT, ITALIAN-INSPIRED EATERY, COURTESY OF THE LGO EMPIRE.
For a while there, it seemed as if the trend-setting La Grande Orange Group could do no wrong. They opened Postino Winecafé, and the customers came in droves. They opened La Grande Orange – first the market, then the pizzeria – and adoring Arcadians kept both operations humming day and night. Chelsea’s Kitchen, located up the street from the holy trinity on Campbell Avenue and 40th Street, was LGO’s fourth brainchild and, of course, another instant hit. It was uncanny the way this group intuited what we wanted before we knew it ourselves, and we loved each new venue unconditionally – despite the noise, the parking issues and the inevitable waits.
But LGO’s runaway success seemed to sputter a bit with the opening of Radio Milano in June. Located across the street from Postino and La Grande Orange at an intersection already strained by too much traffic and too few parking spaces, this likeable neighborhood restaurant – Italian-inspired but not Italian – didn’t earn the knee-jerk raves its older sibs took for granted. People seemed confused and disappointed by the concept and downright crabby about a parking situation that continued to get worse. Snagging a spot in front of the restaurant was (and remains) about as likely as winning the lottery, which left customers with few other options: driving around and praying for an open space in a handful of crowded lots or waiting in line to valet at Postino, which takes time and money.
Who knows? Maybe it’s the parking mayhem that puts everybody in a less-than-receptive mood. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they love this unpretentious mid-century-modern hangout as much as I do? Yes, it’s loud (although recently added rugs have improved the acoustics considerably), but with its hip setting, relaxed dress code and light, sophisticated food, it feels like California’s version of the neighborhood restaurant to me.
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