Photography by Blake Bonillas
Third-generation pizzaiolo Fabio Ceschetti is the culinary Jesus of North Peoria.
It’s a bit ironic that in North Peoria – the West Valley’s version of North Scottsdale, after all – you can buy a $1.5 million home in a gated community with a golf course and lake and be hard-pressed to find a blessed thing worth eating in the entire town. Seriously, scroll down any list of Peoria’s top 10 restaurants and you’ll see that half of them are actually in neighboring Glendale, and the other half are chains. It’s grim, I tell you, which is why Fabio on Fire, a cozy neighborhood Italian restaurant on Lake Pleasant Parkway, is such a godsend.
Owned by Fabio and Jenny Ceschetti, it turns out satisfying old-school Italian classics – cioppino, wood-roasted lamb, lasagna – as well as terrific Neapolitan-inspired wood-fired pizzas that could go crust-to-crust with the best pies in metro Phoenix. No surprise, given that Fabio is a third-generation pizzaiolo from Northern Italy. I’m completely smitten with his Bianca Parma, a white pizza topped with imported bufala mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, shaved Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s salty-sweet, creamy-chewy perfection.
Fabio’s complimentary bread, the ciabatta Pugliese that kick-starts each meal, is equally wonderful, offering up a dense but velvety crumb and a far more tender crust than you’d find on, say, a French baguette. My friend and I dredge it through olive oil and balsamic as we drink an affordable Super Tuscan wine and wait for our porchetta – pale slivers of meltingly tender, savory, fire-roasted pork belly served with coarse chickpea hummus and charred triangles of rosemary-flecked focaccia. I adore this rustic combo.
Peppery arugula salad, prettily arranged with sliced pears, toasted almonds and shaved Parmesan, anointed in light lemony vinaigrette, hits me the same way: simple and just different enough to be really interesting. Meanwhile, a classic Caprese salad (bufala mozzarella, tomatoes and a confetti of basil, dappled with olive oil and sweet balsamic glaze) is more conventional but no less appealing for that.
Pastas are excellent, too: airy dumplings of gnocchi, smothered in thick, meaty Bolognese (the true version), creamy with milk and only a touch of tomato; and fat, feather-light ravioli stuffed with ricotta and butternut squash, and bathed in an amaretto-sparked sage cream sauce so rich I can’t eat more than two at a time. I also felt the love for tortelli all’aragosta – pasta shells stuffed with sweet, salty lobster meat and smoothed in crab-flecked vodka-cream sauce.
Veal piccata, one evening’s special, reminds me how comforting yet complex-tasting this old-fashioned dish can be: tender cutlets enveloped in buttery pan sauce brightened with the tang of lemon and briny capers, served with roasty-toasty potatoes and carrots. Fantastic!
The whole “Fabio on Fire” thing – a branding remnant of Ceschetti’s days as a professional caterer – is no idle boast. He’s the best thing that’s happened to North Peoria since perennial ryegrass.
Fabio on Fire
Contact: 8275 W. Lake Pleasant Pkwy., Peoria, 623-680-5385, fabioonfire.com
Hours: Tu-Th 3-9 p.m., F-Su 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Highlights: Bianca Parma pizza ($17.95); pear salad ($7.95); porchetta with hummus and rosemary focaccia ($14.95 ); butternut squash ravioli ($16.95); gnocchi