You have to hunt a bit to find S & V Urban Italian – it’s tucked in a cozy shopping center in North Scottsdale, off the 101 on Shea Boulevard and 92nd Street – but it’s worth the search. The restaurant itself is pretty cozy, too, with lots of warm wood, stone and textiles evoking a comfortable, well-appointed Tuscan living room. On any given weekday at the start of happy hour (3-7 p.m. daily), you’ll find affluent Baby Boomers enjoying discounted glasses of wine and flatbreads. The later you stay, the younger the crowd.
A margherita flatbread ($9) is a must – the light assemblage of tomato, basil and mozzarella is delicious and substantial without being so filling that you have no room for more nibbles. You’ll want to save space for marinara-baked meatball sliders on brioche ($8); tender salmon cakes with local organic arugula from Blue Sky Farms, chipotle aioli and balsamic glaze; and the artichoke antipasto, a zingy mix of artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, red onion, tomatoes, feta, fresh herbs and Italian dressing. I piled some of that on the margherita and made my own tangy veggie flatbread square. Perfecto! The dish that literally makes me salivate when I remember it, though, is the zucchini blossoms: three huge blossoms stuffed with fresh mozzarella, battered and fried, and served with lemon-butter pomodoro sauce and tiny fried zucchini matchsticks ($10). The sauce is absolute perfection for people like me, who often find traditional marinara a bit too assertive and acidic. The lemon and butter (and perhaps a touch of cream?) mellow the tomato-based pomodoro, resulting in a silky sauce I could slurp on its own. (I did, in fact, eat several spoonfuls on its own after the zucchini blossoms were gone. My friends didn’t seem to mind.)
You can drink very well for extremely reasonable prices during happy hour. Domestic bottles of beer are $3-$4, crafts on draft run $5 and house wines are $5 by the glass or $20 by the bottle (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon). Even cocktails are affordable: red or white sangria ($8), Moscow Mules ($8), martinis ($8), peach bellinis ($6) and S & V’s signature The Pompelmo (Captain Morgan grapefruit rum, fresh lime juice, soda water and Sprite, $8) all pack a punch. Hot tip: The fruit martinis are made with fresh, seasonal fruit – nothing artificial or from concentrate.
THE INSIDER SECRET
Don’t sleep on those fresh fruit martinis – they are pretty and potent. I quizzed S & V’s friendly servers and they said that regulars frequently “hack” their meals one of three popular ways: 1) adding jalapeño to anything and everything; 2) blackening proteins (wherein the cook highly seasons the meat and then sears it to replicate the flavor of grilled meat); and ordering dishes “Sophia’s Way,” which involves a shower of baby arugula, lemon oil, melted provolone and shaved Parmesan for only $1 more. Try it out during happy hour with Sophia’s Fries ($7). There’s also a dedicated gluten-free menu – just ask your server for it.
Happy hour runs daily from 3-7 p.m. Check the chalkboard for additional daily food and drink specials.