From Glendale to Mesa, there’s a new restaurant with your Valentine’s Day plans written all over it.
Vic & Ola’s Tavola Italiana
Opened: October 2019
The eggplant meatball: It’s a worthwhile experiment, and the day may come when perhaps the greatest of vegetable proteins is turned into a ball worthy of adorning spaghetti. If this elegant yet laid-back North Scottsdale Italian eatery doesn’t quite achieve the feat, its melanzana morsels ($10) are the best attempt I’ve tried so far – bready and delicious. Better still: glorious arancini ($12), breaded and fried spheres of pork and beef in saffron risotto. The entrée menu has an oceanic tinge, ranging from branzino al marsala ($28) to a rather spectacular tagliatelle alle vongole ($36), clams and crustaceans in a squid ink sauce. But I opted for the salmon tortelloni ($28), four large pasta Quonset huts draped in spinach and vodka tomato sauce, inside which salmon and creamy mascarpone make scrumptious roommates.
Must try: Dessert is superfluous here, but the mango sorbet, shipped in from California, is tasty for $3.
20775 N. Pima Rd., 480-513-2048, vicandolas.com
Denny DeVito’s Pizza & Subs
Opened: November 2019
If the proprietor of this walk-up/delivery joint should happen to wait on you, you might reflect that he bears a certain resemblance to a famous actor and director whose name is only one vowel different from his. No, seriously – he really kind of looks like him. But I bet the actor’s pizza isn’t as good. These are basic, East Coast Italian eats: The pizza (starting at $4.99) is New York-ish, with thick edges but a thinner interior and a nice, not too greasy flavor. The Denny D’s Italian Footlong ($11.99) – with salami, capicola, ham, mortadella, provolone and an almost-too-strong Italian dressing – is a classic execution of a classic. The eggplant sub ($9.99), by contrast, was disappointingly dry and stringy. Most remarkable: Denny D’s is open on Christmas Eve and Day and New Year’s Eve and Day. They only shirk on Thanksgiving.
Must try: The bone-in chicken wings ($9.99 for 10) are gnaw-worthy; of several flavors, I liked the honey barbecue.
6147 N. 59th Ave., Glendale, 623-374-3095, dennydevitospizza.com
ComicX Restaurant Bar & Store
Opened: December 2019
The likes of the Hulk, Spidey, Ironman and the Caped Crusader gaze down on you from the walls at this hokey new comic-themed spot at Desert Ridge Marketplace. (These statues and other memorabilia are for sale, I’m told.) To be fair, the place may not have fully mastered its superpowers when I went, days after opening. Waits were appalling, and much on the menu wasn’t available, including the intriguing Mutant Cauliflower “Steak” ($15). I tried it on second visit. (The verdict: spicy, but not too steak-like.) The Mo-Rock’n Penne ($14) managed to be both over-spiced and forgettable. The Ultimate Cubano ($16) was a little better, though it lacked the compression of a classic Cubano. Better were the Super Boneless Wings ($12), in sauce that was sizzly but just barely on the side of truth, justice and the gluttonous way.
Must try: By far the best thing I tried was Harry’s Butter Beer ($5), a Harry Potter-themed libation of caramel ginger beer under butterscotch cream.
21001 N. Tatum Blvd., 480-306-6780, comicx.us
Cap’n Ron’s Fish & Chips
Opened: November 2019
My ongoing odyssey in search of the perfect fish and chips led me to this far-flung fry shack, where the Cap’n himself – owner Ron Thornton – deigned to cook, even for a scurvy swab like me. Not just an honor but a pleasure: The two-piece fish and chips ($6.95) offers fine, firm whitefish in a near-perfect batter, but you’re better off going for the combo ($7.25): one piece of fish accompanied by four kitten-size prawns in an appropriately grittier batter, with coleslaw. The Cap’n and crew are not limited only to the briny deep, however – the catfish sandwich ($4.50) shows that he can handle the freshwater species as well. If you feel the need for something sweet, grab one of the house-made brownies ($1.75), which are literally tiled with walnuts.
Must try: I admit I wasn’t expecting a landlubber’s dish like quiche ($8.95) to qualify for must-try honors, but the small cheese pie – varieties change daily; mine was spinach – was flawless.
6144 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-832-4134