Spasso Pizza in Phoenix

Written by Richard Maack Category: Food Reviews Issue: August 2011

Service is appropriately friendly and casual, and food comes out promptly. If you want to linger, speak up. Relaxing over a glass of wine and house-made cheeses with roasted veggies is a pleasure (one selection $10.95, two $12.95, three $14.95). Fresh mozzarella is rich and pliant, while smoked mozzarella has an intriguing earthiness. My favorite is the tangy, slightly sharp scamorza, which plays beautifully against the sweet peppers and squash.

Terrific pizzas are becoming a Valley staple, and these 14-inch bambinos are thin and crispy yet surprisingly sturdy. Doused with a nice herbal tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella, they are a fine canvas for such toppings as fennel-redolent sausage, spicy salami or those roasted vegetables ($11.95-$15.95).

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The rest of the menu is big and ambitious – from panini and pasta to Dover sole. Not surprisingly, execution varies somewhat. Strong starters include toothsome grilled calamari bathed in good olive oil ($9.95) (ask for bread to soak up the juices) and crispy eggplant fritters ($8.95) with a soft, meaty interior. Pass on the carpaccio ($10.95) – the beef is poor quality.

Various panini ($9.95-$13.95) encompass all the same stellar cheeses, roasted veggies and sausage. Best of all, they come with “Italian” fries – thick-cut, sprinkled with crispy leek shreds and served with what’s called tartar sauce but is really an olive dip. Ask for the fries extra crispy (à la carte fries $5.95).

Pasta dishes, served steaming and al dente, are fine. Love the ear-shaped orecchiette with sweet sausage, bitter rapini and the bite of red chile pepper, as well as the rigatoni and sausage in a mellow tomato sauce (both $14.95), though the addition of peas is a bit unexpected.

Desserts, which include tiramisu and chocolate mousse, break no new ground, but three mini cannolis ($5.95) are crunchy-sweet and nice for sharing.

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Spasso Pizza & Mozzarella Bar
Cuisine: Pizza/Italian
Address: 4743 N. 20th St. (Town & Country Shopping Center)
Phone: 602-441-0030
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Highlights: House-made cheese and roasted vegetables ($10.95-$14.95), pizzas ($11.95-$15.95), grilled calamari ($9.95), eggplant fritters ($8.95), Italian fries ($5.95), orecchiette with sausage ($14.95), rigatoni with sausage ($14.95), mini cannolis ($5.95)