Do you speak Italian? Or should we say: Do you speak pasta, pizza and spicy, aromatic sauces? Find them all in our first ever ITALIAN DINING GUIDE, your Valley roadmap to Old World comfort-food bliss.
Titans of Italian
Legendary restaurateurs Angiolo Livi and Tomaso Maggiore joke, reminisce, bash Olive Garden.
Top 10 Countdown
Food writer Gwen Ashley Walters names her 10 most essential Italian restaurants in the Valley.
A beyond-spaghetti guide to what's so great about flour, eggs and water.
Get the goods for home-cooked meals with this drool-worthy pictorial.
Find the Valley's best pizzas on our delicious pie-erarchy of greatness.
Italian Food 'Hoods
Find the Valley's favorite mom-and-pops, conveniently cataloged by neighborhood.
The Titans of Italian
Angiolo Livi and Tomaso Maggiore greet each other like brothers. One is tall and stately, with a voice as silky as whipped mascarpone. The other is thin and tan, exuding no small amount of self-assurance through his rich baritone voice. Angiolo, or Angelo, chides Tomaso for wearing a tie. Tomaso slaps Angelo’s backside when he turns to lead him to a table. These two titans of Italian cuisine have gathered at Angelo’s restaurant, Avanti, to talk shop. Avanti opened almost 40 years ago, on December 30, 1973. Tomaso’s eponymous restaurant three miles northeast of Avanti opened 37 years ago. These Italians, one from Tuscany, one from Sicily, have seen it all. Lincoln Drive was a dirt road when Avanti opened. They’ve weathered economic downturns and upturns and somehow their restaurants have endured. So has their friendship. We sat down with them to find out why Avanti and Tomaso’s are still going strong after all these years. Two old friends, a bottle of Amarone, and a lifetime of memories spill out.
PM: When did you guys meet?
Tomaso Maggiore: I met Angelo when he had his restaurant in Scottsdale. A mutual friend of ours took me to his restaurant. I said I always wanted to learn about Avanti, because they obviously are a very good – a great name. At one time, Angelo, together with his partners, he was the only game in town when it came to Italian cuisine.
Angelo Livi: Yeah? So what did you come around for?
TM: Well, I wanted to share the wealth! [laughter]
AL: So that’s what they say.
PM: So what did you think?
TM: I thought it was fantastic. I thought this guy over here, Angelo, was superb. One of the best men I ever know to work the dining room. Incredible. And Angelo asks this friend of mine, ‘I want to meet this Tomaso, because that son of a bitch is the guy that took a little piece of my pie!’ [laughter]
AL: Exactly! Exactly! [laughter]
TM: But we’ve been friends ever since and obviously there is still mutual respect for both of us. In this business, there’s no room for jealousy.
AL: Absolutely. We actually have to be sticking together because of the big, big companies. The franchises, you know. They are trying to take over with the low prices and things and when they’re telling me one year that Olive Garden is the best restaurant, the best Italian restaurant? That blew my mind. I say, "Come on." So we’ve got to stick together to survive. There are not many of us left, that the single owner, that stays there and takes care of the customer. We care for our customers. Customers to us are the most important things.
PM: Is there any restaurant that you miss that’s no longer here?
TM: I miss the ‘70s myself. I miss the ‘70s and the ‘80s. [laughter]
AL: Is that because we were young, maybe?
TM: Yeah, that, too. I’m sure it’s got a lot to do with it. Frankly I feel sorry – not sorry, that’s too strong of a word – I feel for the younger generation today.
AL: Especially in the restaurant business. They don’t know nothing.
TM: They really don’t know.
PM: What do they not know?
TM: They don’t know food. They don’t know ethics at the dinner table.
AL: The restaurant business is a subtle business. You have to be a psychologist. Each table, you have to take care of in completely different ways. Someone likes a joke, another one likes respect and service. It’s completely different. How can you learn this unless you got the 20, 30, 40 years of experience? You will never know. You learn by mistakes and doing it. And you’re still learning every day. Every day is a different show.
TM: That’s what makes it exciting. Every day is a brand new problem, brand new game, new people. You don’t know who’s coming. Actually, it’s not a bad deal, the restaurant business. Chances are people come in tonight that were never invited, they sit down, we feed them, we give them a great service and everything, they pay, and on their way out, they say thank you! That’s not a bad gig!
PM: Has people’s knowledge of Italian food increased?
AL: Oh, yeah, by far. And wines. They never used to know wines and now everybody knows about wines. I remember, 30-40 years ago to serve a bottle of wine, it was a tough sell, but now? There is no table that doesn’t drink a bottle of wine. And not only that, they know what they’re drinking.
TM: Oh, but of course. Absolutely. There’s another thing that is interesting; thanks for that question. The days of the image of the Italian restaurants in America – veal Parmigiana, chicken Parmigiana, bottle of Chianti – those days are gone. Like Angelo says, today people do know the wines. And that’s due to the Internet. Look at the TV today. There are several channels [that] carry food, wines, traveling.
AL: They see something on TV and they ask, can you make me this? And I say sure and if it’s unusual, call me the day before. We do it all the time. I tell my customers, “Anything you want, you call me the day before.” You want a suckling pig? I’ll make you a suckling pig.
PM: Did either one of you ever cook? Were you cooking in your restaurants?
TM: What do you mean did we cook! We still do! [laughter] Just because I put my tie on, doesn’t mean I don’t cook! I put my tie on for you!
AL: Do you know how many nights we go into the kitchen and cook? We get a little busy, what do you think? That I don’t go into the kitchen and take off my shirt and put on a chef jacket and cook? Absolutely I do. Do you know how many times people want a specialty that my chef doesn’t know how to do? I go into the kitchen and make it myself, absolutely. And we love it, too. Well, I don’t love it in the summer. [laughter].
PM: What is next for you guys? How long are you going to be here?
AL: Only God knows. Until He says, enough is enough. Until then with good luck and health, I’ll be here.
TM: I’m going to be here because fortunately, or unfortunately... well, fortunately – I’m opening a new project in Scottsdale called Vivo, which means "alive." It’s going to have a little restaurant together with a little Italian market. It’s going to be my new little concept.
AL: And it’s about two hundred yards from my house.
TM: The restaurant business is something that you’ve got to love. Something you’ve got to have a passion for.
AL: If you do this just to make money, it won’t work
2728 E. Thomas Rd.
3225 E. Camelback Rd.
Top 10 Italian Restaurant Countdown
Our top 10 Italian restaurants, much like Italy herself, are deceptively diverse. As such, ranking them wasn’t easy, and the degree of difference between one and the next is sometimes piccolo and other times gigantesco.
We considered establishments that openly identify as Italian and those that draw the bulk of their inspiration from Italy. The list that emerged is as exciting as it is varied. From an old-school, white table-clothed fine-dining establishment headed by an Italian immigrant to a matchbox-size, whimsical eatery painting modern interpretations of Italian classics on every plate, to the far-reaching domain of an Italian-American chef with rock star bona fides, the Valley is replete with delizioso options. Buon appetito!
#10 Taggia at Firesky Resort
It’s one of the Valley’s great culinary secrets: a fantastic old- school Italian restaurant with a secluded garden patio, tucked in the back of an unassuming Scottsdale resort. Any number of restaurants could have landed in this 10th spot – La Fontanella, The Parlor, Local Bistro – but Taggia gets the nod for its approachable, modern Italian fare, warm service and intimate setup. Early on, Taggia attempted to specialize in regional coastal Italian cuisine, but has finally found its groove with chef Massimo De Francesca’s broader menu. Pastas are rustic, especially orecchiette tossed with roasted chicken, pleasingly bitter rapini and ricotta. Entrées are updated riffs on classics, like osso buco paired with lemon polenta, oil-roasted cherry tomatoes and a red wine demi-glace. The wood-fired pizzas don’t rank among the Valley’s elite, but the crisp, thin-crusted pies are plenty respectable. 4925 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-424-6095, taggiascottsdale.com
#9 Rancho Pinot
Chef/owner Chrysa Robertson is the first to admit her cowboy-kitsch restaurant is not an Italian trattoria. In fact, she bristles at the mention. But for anyone who has traveled through Italy, it’s hard not to make the comparison. Her Italian roots paint broad strokes on the menu, from Nonni’s Sunday chicken to handmade pastas to farmhouse salads and appetizer plates that look, smell and taste like pastoral Italian fare. Expect the in-season fare to be prepared sans pretense, whether it’s crostini smeared with fava bean purèe and topped with pecorino, or housemade chicken meatballs with fennel, sweet peppers and ricotta salata. 6208 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-367-8030, ranchopinot.com
#8 POMO Cucina & Pizzeria Napoletana
Truth: There’s no shortage of great pizza in this town. As one of only two Valley pizzerias certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (an agency that serves as the international quality police of Neapolitan-style pizzas), POMO is rock-solid evidence to that effect. Blistered, chewy crusts and simple but superb Italian toppings arguably rival Bianco’s pies, and don’t overlook the terrific antipasti, salads and soups – particularly the wonderful, mushroom-loaded zuppa ai funghi. Geeky boutique wines are tailor-made for the menu, and can be enjoyed in the sleek, sexy digs at the new Scottsdale location or the cozy, cosmopolitan digs at the Downtown location. Either way, POMO is more than just another pizzeria. 8977 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-907-5202,
pomopizzeria.com; 705 N. First St., Phoenix, 602-795-2555
#7 Franco’s Italian Caffé
When local culinary legend Franco Fazzuoli of Franco’s Trattoria returned to the Valley to revive his legacy after a six-year absence, he found a more sophisticated dining scene populated with savvy diners. Fortunately, the Florence-born chef/restaurateur and spare-no-expense interpretations of Old World classics – which seemed so revolutionary when he first arrived in the late 1980s – have proved durable. Creamy strands of pasta erbe aromatiche and old-school Bistecca Fiorentina – a thick, seared T-bone – still thrill, and nightly specials keep it fresh for the chef and the regulars. It turns out that food this good paired with great service never goes out of style. 4327 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-481-7614, francosscottsdale.com
#6 Virtù Honest Craft
Billed as Mediterranean fare, Virtù reveals a robust Italian lineage upon intimate inspection. The connection is especially evident in the humble ingredients chef Gio Osso brings to life in sometimes chaotic, always visually-provoking ways. Unpretentious ingredients – Calabrian chiles, fennel, burrata, fat-speckled mortadella – live the haute dream, if only for a moment. The menu changes frequently, so don’t get too attached to a specific dish. The famed octopus appetizer isn’t going anywhere, but other dishes come and go. Bank on steak, seafood and handmade pasta options, but the preparations will vary. You can also bank on a thoughtful wine list and crafty cocktails. 3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480-946-3477, virtuscottsdale.com
Good looks take you only so far. You need substance, too, paisan. Sassi’s spectacular multi-room Italian villa set in a pristine desert environment wouldn’t be worth the drive if the food didn’t deliver. Chef Christopher Nicosia adds a splash of fine-dining glamour to Italian farmhouse classics, without the stuffy overtones. Think Sicilian eggplant cakes nestled in an iron skillet with lusty tomato sauce, and pork osso buco, braised in Marsala wine. The wine list is fluid, with new finds added here and there, and the handmade pastas rotate with the seasons, but some things never change, like the stunning views of the Valley from the south patio. 10455 E. Pinnacle Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale, 480-502-9095, sassi.biz
#4 Marcellino Ristorante
The real enticement at this plush, romantic restaurant might be charismatic chef Marcellino Verzino, a native of Campania. Or it could be the half-dozen, handmade pastas curled on a platter and presented tableside before you’ve finished perusing the lengthy menu. It’s hard to resist mounds of fresh pasta in swirls of colors and shapes, described in mouthwatering detail by knowledgeable servers. Preparations run from light and delicate (peppered linguine with pecorino) to big and bold (hearty tortelloni stuffed with purèed tenderloin on a bed of piquant marinara). Bring an appetite and bring your wallet. Handcrafted pastas aren’t cheap. 7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, 480-990-9500, marcellinoristorante.com
The aroma of wood smoke grabs you by the nose and leads you to this alleyway gem. Finding Crudo is almost as exciting as exploring the tiny, four-section menu populated by a handful of original, Italian-flecked plates. The smart, short wine list featuring boutique Italian wines is as thoughtful as the food. Order individually, or for the best value, choose a multi-course option, starting with “crudo” – silky slivers of raw, pristine fish made heavenly by chef Cullen Campbell. Fresh Italian cheeses embellished with primo accoutrements fill the “mozza” section, including smoky, grilled mozzarella adorned with roasted tomatoes, dates and balsamic glaze. Risotto and gnocchi tempt from the “cotto” section, and the “griglia” section rewards with wood-grilled meats and seafood. Finish the meal with a nightcap from award-winning Bar Crudo next door. 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-358-8666, crudoaz.com
#2 Andreoli Italian Grocer
The term “authentic” is habitually misused, but one could argue Giovanni Scorzo’s seven-year-old slice of Italy is the embodiment of the word. Part gourmet deli, part casual restaurant, Andreoli is the real deal, a gathering spot for Italian-speaking expats sharing plates of pasta and swapping stories. Renaissance man Scorzo makes his own charcuterie, breads, fresh cheeses and desserts. Feast on antipasti or crusty baguettes stuffed with homemade sausages or slow-roasted pork. White board specials – think cloud-light gnocchi draped in Gorgonzola and walnuts or whole roasted bass scented with lemon, garlic and herbs – are the easiest way to experience Italy without leaving town. 8880 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale, 480-614-1980, andreoli-grocer.com
#1 Bianco Empire
The Valley’s undisputed king of Italian-American dining is James Beard award winner Chris Bianco, whose empire now comprises three eateries. While catapulting the humble chef to national stardom, Pizzeria Bianco in Downtown Phoenix became known for something other than its toasty, wood-fired pies – insanely long wait times. The good news: Since opening Pane Bianco and the Town & Country location of Pizzeria Bianco, those lines at the original location have all but disappeared. Bianco has also seized the opportunity to showcase his remarkable skill set, including expertly homemade pastas, succulent braised meats and dreamy salads studded with locally-sourced vegetables. The Bianco empire is a family affair: Brother Marco is integral to the baking side of the operation, and homespun desserts by their mother, Francesca, help keep the kingdom gilded with loyal subjects. Pizzeria Bianco Downtown: 623 E. Adams St., Phoenix, 602-258-8300; Pizzeria Bianco Town & Country: 4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix, 602-368-3273; Pane Bianco: 4404 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-234-2100, pizzeriabianco.com
Flour + eggs. That’s it. Worlds apart from commercially produced dried versions, fresh pasta is the Maserati of Italian carbohydrates. And few in the Valley do it as well as Noca, where pasta-crazed owner Eliot Wexler has devoted a block of prime menu real estate to noodles, raviolis, gnocchettis and other starchy delights. Here are five of Noca’s best fresh pastas.
Long, thin strands are cut from a board mounted with metal strings - hence the “guitar” moniker for this rustic pasta. Simplicity begets simplicity, so look for a modest but exquisite pomodoro (tomato) sauce flavored with wild oregano and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.
Squid Ink Tagliatelle
Soft black ribbons, thinner and wider than fettuccine, get their hue from the ink sac of a squid, which lends more color than flavor. Plenty of flavor comes from the seafood (lobster, peekytoe crab, Bouchot mussels, sea bass), tomatoes, Calabrian chile and white wine Noca tosses with the delicate pasta.
Emerald green triangles stuffed with ricotta, pecorino and mascarpone are folded into a ring-shaped “belly button.” The pointy-capped buttons are finished with a ladle of burro fuso (melted butter whisked with stock) and a drizzle of saba (sweet grape must syrup).
The shape of this Sardinian gnocchetti pasta comes from rolling pinches of dough on wicker baskets. Relatively deep furrows on the hand-rolled pasta beg for a hearty, meaty sauce to grab onto, like a rich, slow-simmered pork ragù.
A single egg yolk – in this case from a young pullet – sits on a swirl of ricotta whipped with mascarpone, covered between two sheets of pasta. A quick dip into simmering water cooks the pasta al dente while leaving the yolk soft and runny. A finishing drizzle of brown butter elevates this simple dish from sublime to ethereal.
3118 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-956-6622,
Andreoli Italian Grocer
8880 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale
Primo imported staples – anchovies, balsamic vinegar and dried pasta – line the wooden shelves, but people flock to Andreoli for another reason: Giovanni Scorzo’s hand-cured salumi. A native of Calabria, Scorzo is a master of Italian cured meats – prosciutto, soppressata, pancetta, and coppa, among others. He also bakes crusty, rustic breads in his brick oven and pulls fresh mozzarella by hand. He whips up weep-worthy desserts, including, on occasion, the renowned vanilla pudding cake dessert, zuppa Inglese. In short, Andreoli is the place to go for a taste of Italy straight from the source.
Homemade bone-in prosciutto
Cured whole leg of a pig, which takes 10 to 12 months to cure, but results in a velvety smooth texture. $24.99/lb
Calabrian baked olives
Black Calabrian olives baked with Italian seasonings. $13.99/lb
Semi-hard cow’s milk cheese imported from northwestern Piedmont. $69.99
Dried version of fresh Italian sausage. Rare and delicious. $32.99/lb
Spicy, pressed pork salami. $18.99/lb
Spiced and cured pork shoulder. $18.99/lb
Cured, flat, seasoned pork belly. $18.99/lb
Homemade Italian bread
Baked in a brick oven for crusty exterior and tender crumb. $6.75/lb
DeFalco’s Deli & Grocery
2334 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
For 42 years, DeFalco’s has been a Scottsdale institution, a one-stop shop for imported Italian goods. Metal shelves are jammed floor-to-ceiling with a dizzying array of dried pasta, olive oils, canned tomatoes and other goods. Deli cases tucked behind the shelves overflow with handcrafted sausages, antipasto salads and intensely creamy cheesecakes. Need a bottle of Italian wine? DeFalco’s stocks imported vino from every major region. In fact, DeFalco’s has everything you need to pull off an Italian meal from start to finish.
Brunello di Montalcino, Casanova di Neri 2007
Sangiovese red wine from the Casanova di Neri winery south of Florence in Tuscany. $62
Unfiltered extra virgin olive oil from Sicily. $35.99/33.8 ounces
The king of Italian hard cheeses. Imported from the Emilia-Romagna region, it has a tangy, salty flavor and a granular texture. $18.99/lb
Cento San Marzano tomatoes
Popular brand of long, thin tomatoes grown in volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius. $5.39
Fresh Italian sausage
Fennel sausage made from a family recipe dating back to 1903. $5.19/lb
Dried version of fresh Italian sausage. $16.99/lb
Imported sharp provolone cheese aged for a year or longer. $14.99/lb
Dolce Vita Italian Grocer
5251 E. Brown Rd., Mesa,
Originally from Bergamo, north of Milan, Walter Bergamaschi and his wife Marti opened a gelateria in 2006, adding a deli and restaurant next door in 2012. The selection of imported goods might be small, but most are unique, including Italian honey and flavored vinegars. One deli case holds exclusive Italian cheeses and another is filled with Italian salumi. This tiny, eastside deli-restaurant-gelateria more than makes up for its size with high quality, handmade pastas, including some of the most tender ravioli in town ($9.90/pound) and fresh cheese tortellini ($7.90/pound).
Popular Italian dessert consisting of a gelato scoop “drowned” in a shot of espresso. $4.70
Non-alcoholic aperitivo from San Pellegrino. Similar in flavor to Campari. $15.45
Ricotta and spinach ravioli
Beef and Italian herb ravioli
6102 N. 16th St., Phoenix,
Joe and Peppy Niccoli’s cozy spot on 16th Street is the quintessential Italian-American deli. Peppy works the cash register and Joe is the baker and sausage maker. They’ve been married for 50 years, and he’s been running his family’s deli in various locations around the Valley for 45 years; the current location celebrates 19 years of business this May. Niccoli’s is best known for their Italian subs, pizza, handmade pasta, fresh Italian sausage and Italian cookies. A small but well-curated selection of imported Italian products includes the usual: canned tomatoes, olive oil and dried pasta.
Genoa salami, capicola, mortadella, ham and provolone cheese; dressed with Italian herbs, lettuce, tomato, onion and peperoncini. $8.50
LavAzza Qualità Oro
Famous Italian coffee brand ground specifically for espresso. $16.95
Traditional Italian cookies made on a waffle press with a snowflake design. $1.50
Twice-baked cookies in a variety of flavors, including lemon-pistachio and chocolate. $19.95/lb
Sicilian dessert consisting of a fried shell stuffed with whipped ricotta and dusted with powdered sugar. $3.75
3437 W. Dunlap Ave., Phoenix
The largest Italian deli and grocer belongs to the West Valley. Rows and rows of shelves are stocked with hundreds of imported products – canned tomatoes, capers, tuna, olive oil, ‘00’ flour and dried pasta. Deli cases in the back are filled with dozens of imported and domestic Italian cold cuts and cheeses. Rows of Italian cookies and pastries tempt from the checkout counter. Want to make cannoli at home? Romanelli’s carries cannoli forms as well as ravioli stamps and other Italian cooking tools. And where else can you score an Italian soccer jersey?
A semi-hard, artisanal cheese made from cow’s milk aged at least four months. $9.99/lb
Cento Pepper Hulls
Pickled sweet red peppers. $5.99
Jewel of Tuscany
Popular extra virgin olive oil made from a blend of three Italian olives: leccino, moraiolo and frantoio. $49.99
Coeur D’ Olives
balsamic vinegar Aged 18 years in wooden barrels, it has a sweet, tangy taste. $29.99
Homemade mild Italian sausage
Made locally with fennel and high-quality pork. $4.99/lb
Romanelli’s garlic basil pasta sauce
The Romanelli family’s own recipe for marinara, steeped with garlic and basil. $5.99
Imported pasta from Campania. $5.99
Italian bologna with a rich, buttery taste. $9.99/lb
Maestri stuffing shells
Imported pasta from Campania. $5.99
Famous Italian coffee brand ground specifically for espresso. $12.99
* Unlike men, all pizzas are not created equal. Consult our hierarchy of Valley pizza joints, from the elite of the elite (top tier), to the well-known chains that probably have a location near you (bottom tier).
#1 Pizzeria Bianco
623 E. Adams St., Phoenix,
Ground zero for the Valley’s wood-fired pizza revolution. Try: The Margherita. Bare-naked ingredients – tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil – shine bright.
8977 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
With two locations, it’s easier than ever to score VPN-certified Neapolitan pies. Try The Capricciosa: Salty prosciutto cotto, artichoke hearts, Gaeta olives and mushrooms.
La Piazza Locale
1 N. First St., Phoenix
From the owners of La Piazza al Forno, another VPN-certified pie house. Try Dolce Diavolo: pizza that kicks then kisses, a sweet-hot combo of sopressata, Calabrian chiles and Arizona honey.
8900 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Scottsdale
Northeastern Valley outpost for award-winning, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas. Try the L.P. Red-sauced pie with bold flavors of white anchovies, capers and olives.
Andreoli Italian Grocer
8880 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale
Outdoor wood oven gets fired up only on Wednesday and Saturday nights from 6-9 p.m., but the handful of pies are worth the wait. Try Salsiccia & Funghi: house-made sausage and sautéed fresh mushrooms.
7120 E. Becker Lane, Scottsdale
Sliver of a pizzeria cranking out beautiful pies in an oak-fired oven. Try Biaggia: prosciutto, figs, goat cheese, arugula – classic combo of salty and sweet.
603 N. Fifth Ave., Phoenix
Hand-tossed, wood-fired pizzas served in a charming bungalow near Downtown. Try Genova: white pie smeared with basil pesto, topped with roasted potatoes, onions, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
1916 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix 602-248-2480
This former salon turns out blistered crusts with an unmistakable sour tang, a result of beer in the dough. Try Funghi: roasted mushrooms, goat cheese, arugula and truffle oil.
Pizza A Metro
2336 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix
Westside gem for wood-fired, brick oven pizzas, including a meter-long beauty that feeds a crowd. Try The Vegetarian: roasted eggplant, mushrooms, sweet peppers, black olives and artichokes.
Tommy V’s Osteria and Pizzeria
3225 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies from legendary chef/restaurateur Tomaso Maggiore. Try Cacciatore: sausage, mushrooms, roasted peppers and mozzarella.
Homey, Chicago-style pies with thin or thick crusts. Try Mama Spinato’s “signature” fresh spinach pie with tangy marinara, Roma tomatoes and garlic under a bed of bubbling mozzarella.
Charred, chewy crusts with toppings that run the gamut from mainstream to offbeat. Try the Egg Pizza: prosciutto and smoked mozzarella topped with a soft-cooked organic egg.
La Bocca Urban Pizzeria & Wine Bar
Puffy, hand-tossed gourmet pizzas from a stylish wine bar. Try Porco: pulled pork, caramelized onions, serrano chiles and mozzarella.
Homegrown, local chain known for Chicago-style pizzas and friendly service. Try Numero One-O stuffed pizza: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and lots of cheese baked between two layers of dough.
With 10 Valley locations, this locally-grown chain is serious about the dough. Each location has its own Yonkers, NY water filter for a truly authentic New York-style pie. Try Brooklyn Family: sausage, pepperoni and fresh basil. Simple.
Italian Food Hoods
People don’t patronize Italian restaurants lightly. Indeed, there’s something about the reassuring, soul-soothing nature of Italian cuisine that inspires fierce devotion in the human heart – which is why everyone insists that their neighborhood Italian diner is the best. Find yours in this geographic guide to the Valley’s favorite outposts of la cucina Italia.
Bella Luna Ristorante
No one leaves hungry thanks to generous portions of Italian-American classics from the Billelo family. 14175 W. Indian School Rd., Goodyear, 623-535-4642, bellalunaaz.com
With two locations, this casual Italian-American joint offers a build-your-own pasta bowl. 17045 N. 59th Ave., Glendale, 602-547-2782; 8349 W. Bell Rd., Peoria, 623-412-2670, cucinatagliani.com
Dominic’s Bistro Italiano
Tucked in a nondescript strip center, this mom-and-pop serves hearty portions of the usual suspects and is known for their interpretation of the Sicilian ricotta cake called cassata. 10001 W. Bell Rd., Sun City, 623-583-8565, dominicsbistro.com
La Bona Pasta
Cozy spot with big portions of saucy Italian-American classics like lasagna and ravioli. 13321 W. Indian School Rd., Litchfield Park, 623-935-2233, labonapasta.net
La Piazza al Forno
Neapolitan-style pizzas from the same owners as downtown’s La Piazza Locale. VPN-certified pizzas share menu space with a handful of antipasti, salad and classic Italian fare like spaghetti and meatballs. 5803 W. Glendale Ave., 623-847-3301, lapiazzaalforno.com
Nostalgi’a Cancione E Vino
East Coast-style eatery with the usual Italian-American suspects, featuring live music Wednesday through Saturday evenings. 4935 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623-463-8104, nostalgiacancioneevino.com
Rosie’s Italian Café
Italian-American comfort food, with meatball subs and Italian beef served during the day and a lengthy list of hearty pastas served at night. 13930 W. Camino Del Sol, Sun City West, 623-584-1739
Tutti Santi by Nina
Longtime neighborhood favorite (other locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale) serving old-school Italian classics like veal cannelloni since 1996. 19420 N. 59th Ave., Glendale, 623-566-1582, tuttisantiristorante.com
Central Phoenix/Paradise Valley
Celebrating 40 years of authentic Italian cuisine, Angelo Livi’s charming white tablecloth restaurant feels like an old friend, with timeless Italian classics like mushroom-slathered Filet alla Benito served by experienced staff. 2728 E. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, 602-956-0900, avanti-az.com
Enduring Valley restaurateur Daniel Malventano is a natural host and knows his Paradise Valley clientele well. Recipes for menu favorites have been in his family for more than 150 years, including the light, béchamel-layered lasagna. 3115 E. Lincoln Dr., Phoenix, 602-957-2224, caffedaniel.com
Good bones – an infill redevelopment of an historic Al Beadle building – layered with M.J. Coe-designed pizzas, groovy chubs and growlers, and head-bobbing music make this Upward Projects joint a popular spot to gather and grub with friends. 5210 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-795-2520, federalpizzaphx.com
Traditional Italian-American fare served in a serene, white tablecloth setting. Live music plays Thursday through Saturday evenings. 3159 E. Lincoln Dr., Phoenix, 602-381-3159, lamoreitalianrestaurant.com
Opened in 1982, this unpretentious mom-and-pop serves traditional, home-style favorites like cannelloni, chicken cacciatore and baked gnocchi. Desserts aren’t too shabby, either. The owner’s husband founded Berto’s gelato. 4231 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-955-1213,
Narrow, cozy digs and an approachable menu make for casual dinners with friends and family. Bruschetta, pasta and pizzas are the main draw, but heartier appetites can dig in to a juicy rib-eye with Gorgonzola risotto or rosemary grilled salmon. 3623 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-651-1390, nookkitchen.com
Italian classics reinterpreted with a modern spin in an industrial chic “farmhouse.” A north Scottsdale branch features the same menu in sleek, urban digs. 4925 N. 40th St., Phoenix, 602-324-5600; 15024 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-948-2350,
Pizza A Metro
The wood-fired pies at owner Maurizio Benforte's west-central pizzeria are crazy-good, but regional treats like pollo saltimbocca and linguine carbonara more crisply evoke his homet0wn of Sorrento in southern Italy. 2336 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, 602-262-9999, pizzaametrophoenix.com
Chicago-style Italian eatery run by the Veselinovic family featuring modern but modest spins on antipasti, pizzas and pasta. 2501 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-368-3680, soloaz.com
Since 1977, Tomaso Maggiore has served refined classics from both Northern and Southern Italian regions. The space has been remodeled with modern accents, but the service is just as smooth as it was back in the day. 3225 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-956-0836, tomasos.com
At this repurposed former salon, award-winning wood-fired pizzas are just half the delicious story. Seasonal menus of farm-fresh salads, tasty sandwiches and hearty pastas made in-house deserve equal billing. 1916 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-248-2480, theparlor.us
Giuseppe’s on 28th
This quaint, pocket-size diner dishes up the biggest, boldest bolognese ragù in town. Served over fresh, thick fettuccine, the sauce contains seven different kinds of meats, and put the restaurant on the map. 2824 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-381-1237, giuseppeson28th.com
Belfiore’s Italian Ristorante
Hero sandwiches are a sure way to go since they bake their own bread, but this unassuming eatery has been dishing up a lengthy list of old-school Italian-American classics since 2004. The large bakery next door with dozens of Italian pastries is even more impressive. 15842 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, 602-493-1793, belfiores-az.com
The cozy patio is the best place to dig into hearty portions of Italian-American fare in this two decades-old Sunnyslope establishment. 9832 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-870-4122, ilpostophx.com
With three North Valley locations, Nick's offers a trio of friendly Italian spots to enjoy 25 handmade pasta dishes and pizzas, as well as standbys such as chicken, veal and seafood. 10810 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, 602-953-1110; 23417 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale, 480-515-0096; 13910 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-314-9445, nicks-italian.com
Roma Garden Ristorante
Old-school Italian fare with a bit of a northern slant, although there are several southern-style dishes, too. Early bird menu runs from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. 3923 E. Thunderbird Rd., Phoenix, 602-788-5466, romagarden.com
Count on cooling your heels during peak dining times. Regulars line up for big plates of hearty pastas and Italian-American standards. Menu favorite pasta Giovanni is highly addictive: tomato and garlic cream-sauced penne pasta tossed with chicken and sausage. 2602 W. Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, 623-582-8866, timessquareaz.com
Tony’s Italian Delicatessen
Opened 45 years ago in Sunnyslope by the Abramo family, this landmark deli serves homemade hot pasta and carefully crafted Italian sandwiches, along with killer cannoli, but it’s best known as a mine of hard-to-find Italian groceries, from
specialty cheeses and an army of olive oils to imported tomatoes and olives. 536 E. Dunlap Ave., Phoenix, 602-944-5952
Alessia’s Ristorante Italiano
Opened in 2004, this cozy mom-and-pop serves Italian-American classics with a northern Italian slant, including seafood risotto in white wine. 5251 E. Brown Rd., Mesa, 480-396-2888, alessiasristoranteitaliano.com
Baci Italian Bistro
From Calabria to Illinois to Mesa, the Greco family has been dishing up southern Italian fare since 2002 with an emphasis on fresh and dried pastas. 8830 E. Germann Rd., Mesa, 480-988-1061, baciitalianbistro.com
Sister company of Dilly’s Deli, this pizza and pasta eatery is known for its lengthy menu of family-size Italian classics. 590 N. Alma School Rd., Chandler, 480-812-8433, floridinos.net
La Calabria Ristorante
Cozy mom-and-pop with roots in Calabria, serving modest fare with a southern Italian slant. 1534 E. Ray Rd., Gilbert, 480-726-3537, lacalabriaristorante.com
La Stalla Cucina Rustica
With family roots from Puglia to New Jersey to Chandler, this white tablecloth eatery serves Italian-American classics with old-country charm. 68 W. Buffalo St., Chandler, 480-855-9990, lastallacr.com
Opened in 1983, this Chicago-style pizzeria has won numerous awards for best pizza in the Valley over the years. 1806 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, 480-897-2060, nellostempe.com
Known for wine dinners, live music and tasty Italian-American favorites, this East Valley eatery recently launched a menu program featuring regional specialties like lamb bolognese. 1960 W. Ray Rd., Chandler, 480-821-2949, pestospizza.com
With two locations in Phoenix and one in Gilbert, these Italian-inspired wine bars are known for a long list of bruschetta and affordable, boutique vino. 302 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-632-6363, postinowinecafe.com
North Scottsdale stalwart since 1995 serving old school, southern Italian fare, with a second location in Ahwatukee. 7101 E. Thunderbird Rd., Scottsdale, 480-922-8225, azitaly.com
Basil and Garlic Bistro
Thick, Sicilian-style pizzas, hearty pastas and sub sandwiches on house-baked bread served in a tiny cafe with patio seating. 9330 E. Poinsettia Dr., Scottsdale, 480-661-3912, basilandgarlicbistro.com
Elegant, upscale Italian restaurant featuring refined Italian classics with a modern twist. Service is impeccable, with knowledgeable servers making perfecto wine suggestions, and the tiramisu is a luxuriously creamy update of the classic. 8700 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Scottsdale, 480-421-2423, biceaz.com
Owner and executive chef Danilo Sodano features Italian classics from Veneto to Campania. Zero in on the traditional pastas, especially linguine alle vongole and house-made gnocchi alla Sorrentina, which hail from Sodano’s homeland of Sorrento near Naples. 11485 N. 136th St., Scottsdale, 480-314-0365, casamiascottsdale.com
This new, sleek Scottsdale spot comes courtesy of Joey Maggiore, son of Valley Italian icon Tomaso Maggiore. Highlights include a fresh oyster bar with Vespa scooter seating and modern takes on classic seafood dishes. 8777 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-947-3214, cuttlefishscottsdale.com
Generic name aside, this north Scottsdale haunt features distinctive pastas, risottos and other modern Italian classics. Start with a skillet of “drunk” bread before moving on to a veal chop smothered in a Barolo-porcini reduction. 20581 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-302-6050, localbistroaz.com
Pane e Vino
Tucked away in the courtyard of La Mirada shopping center, this far north Scottsdale eatery offers Italian classics in an old-school romantic setting. 8900 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Scottsdale, 480-473-7900, paneevinoaz.com
This cash-only BYOB has the appealing charm only a tiny, family-run trattoria can provide. Nightly specials – perhaps beef ravioli in Cardinale sauce – complement the standard southern Italy menu. Don’t miss the cinnamon-kissed homemade cannoli. 13610 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-991-4792, giuseppescottsdale.com
Tesoro Ristorante Italiano
Quaint, white tablecloth eatery featuring Italian classics like homemade fettuccine Bolognese and veal saltimbocca. 11219 E. Via Linda Dr., Scottsdale, 480-767-1990, tesoroscottsdale.com
The ever-present host, Brooklyn-born Louie Skorish, greets every guest like a long-lost cousin. His son Michael cooks nightly specials and menu standards – lobster ravioli, veal scaloppine, spaghetti and meatballs – with the same easy grace. 31313 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-595-1122, unclelouie.com
Something makes Uncle Sal’s fit like an old glove. Maybe it’s the checkered tablecloths, or the long-serving sassy servers, or the solid Italian classics – penne alla vodka, shrimp scampi, baked ziti – or maybe it’s all three. Formerly owned by notorious mob hit man Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. 3370 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-990-2533, unclesalsaz.com
With a timeless nod to the cuisine of northern Italy, this refined stalwart reminds diners that regional specialties – gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts – should be savored slowly in a warm, relaxing environment. 6137 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-948-9928, venetotrattoria.com
A favorite of sports celebrities, this Chicago-style haunt combines old-school Italian classics with handsome, attentive servers. Start with fluffy spinach ricotta dumplings smothered in vodka sauce and finish with Parmesan-crusted chicken in a white wine pan sauce. 4416 N. Miller Rd., Scottsdale, 480-994-0028, pastabrioni.com