Everything is molto Italiano, of course! Chef/owner Tomaso Maggiore is the godfather of Italian fine-dining here in the Valley, and his longevity is a testament to the quality of the food and service at his restaurants. I’ve only had stellar experiences at his Biltmore-area flagship, Tomaso’s, and its North Scottsdale offshoot, Tomaso’s When in Rome. The latter is designed to evoke a shmancy Roman trattoria, with a cool, cube-patterned ceiling and tongue-in-cheek touches like Roman arches and Doric columns. As a result of its location and price point, it’s typically bustling with well-heeled patrons getting their homemade pasta fix.
And what delicious homemade pasta it is. Two pasta dishes are available with happy hour pricing: the rich, luxurious pasta Norcina with spare ribs and veal ragù ($12; regularly $19 as cavatelli Sunday sugo on the dinner menu), and the featherlight gnocchi Fiorentina, potato dumplings tossed with spinach and fontina ($12; regularly $19). The good news: Happy hour runs all day (3 p.m.-close). The caveat: You can only take advantage of happy hour if you are seated at the bar or at a high-top table in the bar area. It’s worth it for bargain splurges like meatballs Amatriciana with braised pancetta and tomato sauce ($10); mussels frites with preserved lemon, house-made Maggiore sausage, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes and truffle fries ($13); wild mushroom flatbread ($13), calamari fritti with caper aioli and marinara ($14) and, my personal favorite nosh, the squash blossoms stuffed with imported Italian cheese and marinara ($10).
Again, you have to stick to the bar/high-top area for deals, but they make it worth your while. Beers are $4 and well drinks are $7, but come on – when in Rome, you gotta drink some vino ($8 by the glass). Pair the gnocchi with a Monte Olimpo Pinot Grigio and the pasta Norcina with a Poggio Basso Chianti and you’ll be happy you bellied up to the bar.
THE INSIDER SECRET
It’s not discounted, but you cannot skip dessert. Try the cannoli that spawned the sweet Maggiore concept The Sicilian Baker ($8), or the divine tiramisu ($8). If you love chocolate as I do, Tomaso’s Chocolate Lava Cake is a must: Warm chocolate cake oozes salted-caramel lava, which pools on the plate with a rapidly melting scoop of vanilla ice cream. Are we in Rome or in heaven?
Happy hour runs daily from 3 p.m. to close, only in the bar area and in high-top seating.
Photo by Debby Wolvos, courtesy The Knight Agency