taly itself might close for business in August, but around the Valley, you can nosh all afternoon on bargain bruschetta, well-priced pastas and buono vino.
Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge
28234 N. Tatum Blvd., Cave Creek
From Cowboy Ciao/Kazimierz World Wine Bar alums Tagan Dering and Frank Vairo comes this swanky pizza/wine café. The mellow lounge beckons you to sink into a sofa and stay a while; the paintings evoke scenes of Vairo’s ancestral hometown of Carolei in southern Italy – “near the laces of the boot,” he says. At happy hour, all full-size antipasti are half-off, including wood-fired bruschetta ($3.50); tangerine-sized veal, beef and pork meatballs in tangy marinara ($5); mortadella focaccia ($5); crispy calamari ($5.50); and stupendous shrimp scampi smothered in chile/lemon/garlic butter ($6). Any pizza is $2 off, as well. Drinks include respectable house wines for $5, basic draft beers for $2.50 and well drinks for $3.50. 4-6 p.m. daily.
398 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
Though not classically Italian – the menu draws inspiration from owner Jay Wisniewski’s Croatian roots, along with hints of everything from Cajun to Asian – Caffe Boa’s pasta has long been a Mill Avenue favorite. At happy hour, it’s only $6 a bowl. Choose from aglio e olio (garlic, olive oil, imported parmesan), spicy arrabiata (tomato, chile flakes, olive oil, parsley, basil) or princeza (cream, tomato, red bell pepper, mushroom). Other offerings include mouthwatering Carlsbad sustainable mussels ($6), a ricotta-stuffed “big ball” meatball ($7) and garlicky shrimp Adriatico ($6) with grilled flatbread to sop up the sauce. All $10-or-less glasses of wine are half-price, and the international selection would satisfy a U.N. summit. Wines on tap, specialty cocktails and premium drafts (including microbrews) are $2 off. 4-7 p.m. daily.
North Fattoria Italiana
4925 N. 40th St., Phoenix
This Arcadia stunner sports farmhouse-style decor and an indoor-outdoor bar that’s comfortable year-round. The chef’s board ($10) – with two meats, two cheeses, spicy nuts, jam and olives – easily makes a light meal for two. So does the full-sized chef’s pizza of the day ($8) with a house salad ($5) with puckery lemon dressing and puffy croutons. Add bucatini and meatballs ($5), a hearty portion of bulky noodles topped with tangy tomato sugo and Italian cheeses, or a plate of arancini ($5), cheesy fried rice balls with chunky marinara. Along with a glass of rustic house red or white wine ($4; $20 for a liter), $4 bottled beer (including domestics, local brews and Italian), $2 canned beer or $5 well drinks, North’s noshes constitute the next-best thing to a trip to Tuscany. 3-6 p.m. M-F and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Su
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