Italian meatballs | Photo by Leah LeMoine
Sometimes it’s nice to reconnect with an old friend. I surmise I’ll be doing a lot of that as the vaccine rollout speeds up in Arizona, and I’m looking forward to seeing old pals in person – especially when those pals are restaurants.
North Italia is one such friend. I remember visiting its West Valley location (since shuttered) for the first time in high school. I was besotted by a deconstructed chicken lasagne on the menu at that time –sheets of delicate fresh pasta layered with tender shreds of chicken and mushrooms in a pool of rich chicken stock. I think there were pine nuts involved. In my adult years, the clean, modern Italian restaurant’s locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix have been frequent destinations for work lunches and girls’ dinners.
I realized I’d never been for happy hour, though, so I popped by the buzzing Scottsdale outpost to get a takeout spread to savor at home.
A slew of North’s best starters are generously discounted $4-$5 during happy hour. The iconic Zucca Chips ($4), paper-thin slivers of zucchini lightly breaded and fried, are an absolute must. Their initial soft crunch rapidly dissolves as they melt in your mouth. For slightly heartier fare, you can choose from tomato or prosciutto bruschetta ($6). We went with the latter, toasty slabs of bread topped with creamy Crescenza cheese, slightly smoky grilled asparagus, earthy truffle and nutty Grana Padano cheese. So springy! I loved the vegetal freshness of the asparagus. This could easily be a light lunch for one.
More substantial are the Italian meatballs ($9), a trio of beefy spheres redolent with Parmesan and basil. They’re blanketed in a chunky marinara sauce and plopped onto a bed of cheesy, creamy, dreamy polenta. The meatballs are seriously delicious, but I could live on that polenta alone. Scoop some onto your spoon and top with a Zucca Chip for the perfect bite.
Zucca Chips | Photo by Leah LeMoine
Happy hour pizza can be had in classic margherita or cacio e pepe versions ($10 each). I chose cacio e pepe, a riff on the illustrious Roman pasta dish whose flavor combo of Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly cracked black pepper inspired countless cheesy, peppery interpretations as one of 2020’s food crazes. (Personally, I recommend this insane cacio e pepe kugel I made last year. To. Die For.) This pizza is everything CEP fans would want it to be: supremely cheesy and potently peppery, with luscious Pecorino crema and stretchy mozzarella. The soft and slightly chewy crust is good, too, which I appreciated even more after a recent spate of disappointing takeout pizza.
I’ll wait until my return to dining in to try the Bottle & Board ($26), a choice of pizza, bruschetta or the chef’s board (my pick: meat, cheese and other goodies) and a bottle of the featured red or white wine. I can’t wait to linger over one with a vaccinated friend very soon.
Cacio e pepe pizza | Photo by Leah LeMoine
Select red and white wines are available at $5 a glass and $16 a bottle. Red sangria costs $5 a glass and $20 for a pitcher. All beers are $5.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. and all day Sunday. Enjoy half off bottles of wine on Sundays in the bar only, excluding reserve wines. Dine-in only.