Modern twists give classic Italian desserts a kick in the posteriore.
6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix
Classic Italian desserts aren’t always the most fetching. Tiramisu is generally a drab slab of cake, and panna cotta is nothing more than an ordinary cup of custard. However, turn one of these homespun standards over to a gourmet chef, and it goes from “ho hum” to “holy cow.” Exhibit A: the honey panna cotta from Quiessence. Inspired by McClendon Farms’ blood oranges, Chef Dustin Christofolo collaborated with pastry chef Kelly Prine to incorporate the striking maroon citrus into a light, seasonal dessert that takes advantage of the edible flower garden outside Quiessence’s door. Cooking the honey- and vanilla bean-infused custard in a pretty fluted mold is the first step to this visually stunning dessert. Tableside, the server slowly pours a rosy “broth” of blood orange juice sweetened with edible flower simple syrup into a shallow bowl holding the milky white panna cotta and a scoop of blood orange sorbet. A scattering of miniature flowers gently floats to the surface. It’s bella and delizioso all at once.
4925 N. 40th St., Phoenix
One way to get around the lack of visual appeal of the traditional brick of tiramisu is to change the delivery vehicle. Chef Taylor Domet adds personality to this classic by layering the dessert in a mason jar. He ups the ante in the flavor department, too, creating an intense coffee mixture made with cocoa, espresso and Kahlúa to soak traditional ladyfingers. Combined with cloud-like mascarpone mousse and a crunchy topping of chocolate-covered rice “pearls,” this is not your nonna’s tiramisu – it’s better.
1916 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
A zeppola is a fried fritter, but it’s no common doughnut in the hands of chef Logan Stephenson. Each time the menu changes at The Parlor – about four to five times a year to reflect the seasons – the flavor of the zeppole changes with it. Flavors for the ricotta-based batter have included sour cherry, peanut butter and jam, and bananas Foster. Currently, it’s lemon and espresso. Once the round fritters come out of the deep fryer, they’re rolled in granulated sugar mixed with ground espresso beans and served with Bailey’s flavored caramel and whipped cream.