cave creek dining with amaro pizzeria
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Cave Creek Dining with Amaro Pizzeria
Gwen Ashley Walters
June, 2011, Page 168
Photos by David Moore
Misto platter (front) and Dolce pizza
This tony-looking Italian venture in Cave Creek is turning out some of the Valley’s best wood-fired pies.
You don’t have to drive far to find a decent pizza in the Valley, and for Cave Creekers, the drive just got shorter. Pizza isn’t the only thing Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge slides out of its wood-burning oven, but it’s what they do best.
Although it’s the Neapolitan-style pizzas that command a return visit to this classy but easygoing place, a few other gems are tucked in between the starters, pastas and a handful of entrées – especially the notable (and gigantic) chicken Parmigiano ($17). There’s a bambino menu, too, that should appease even the pickiest of young ones.
Four can easily share the misto platter ($16), with piles of high-quality charcuterie, including buttery mortadella and spicy capocollo, along with crostini, olives, roasted peppers, asparagus, aged asiago and house-made mozzarella. The only drawback is the tough, rubbery mozzarella. It melts beautifully on the pizzas, but it detracts from the otherwise winning misto platter.
I love the bowl of herb- and garlic-flecked meatballs ($10), more chewy than tender – a bonus result of more meat than filler. Three fist-size orbs are smothered in a barely sweet, thick marinara sauce. Pair it with the Caesar salad ($8), garnished with slivers of Parmesan and fried capers, with one caveat: Ask for the heavy-handed, over-the-top garlicky dressing on the side.
inside Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge
Amaro’s lasagna ($15), a substantial brick of layered noodles, ricotta and meat sauce, is firm and goes light on the full-flavored sauce, yet is not particularly memorable. The gnocchi daily special ($18) was even less memorable, due more to the flat, chewy gnocchi than the richly flavored Bolognese. Go for the fat pappardelle noodles covered in that meaty Bolognese ($16) instead.
What really brings me back to Amaro are the wood-fired, plate-size pizzas ($10-$15) topped with quality ingredients and sporting a thin crust that’s simultaneously chewy and crisp. Choose from five red (tomato sauce) pizzas or four white (sans tomato sauce).
From the red column, I adore the unfussy tomato spinach pizza ($13), featuring house-pulled mozzarella (it works brilliantly here), oven-roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic cloves, and mounds of sautéed spinach, or the diavolo ($13), with peppery soppressata and basil.
From the white column, the dolce arrabiatta ($15) bites back with spicy Calabrian red chiles scattered over both sweet and spicy Italian sausage, tempered with caramelized onions and three cheeses, including buttery Taleggio. I also love the garlicky funghi ($14), with sautéed mushrooms, fresh arugula and a faint kiss of white truffle oil. I’m determined to go back and work my way through all the other pizzas, too.
Desserts include tiramisu ($7) and a respectable cheesecake ($8), but the tough, bready baba au rhum ($8) needs work; instead of a light, molded yeast cake soaked in rum, Amaro splits two heavy brioche rolls and barely brushes them with a rum-infused syrup before smothering them in a thick layer of Nutella and whipped cream. Try the roasted banana gelato ($6) instead, or simply fill up on the pizzas.
Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge
: 28234 N. Tatum Blvd., Cave Creek
: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily
: Misto platter ($16), meatballs ($10), tomato spinach pizza ($13), chicken Parmigiano ($17), diavolo pizza with soppressata and basil ($13), roasted banana gelato ($6)
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