With its broad spectrum of Italian eats, NY 54 Pizza & Ristorante's menu "has everything you've been craving," according to Go Gilbert! magazine. The kitchen staff whips up fresh pizza dough and sauce each morning before baking crusts to a golden brown in a stone oven. The restaurant's crusade for freshness extends into wings that never see the inside of a walk-in freezer and breadcrumbs ground and seasoned in-house.
In keeping with NY 54's Big Apple theme, chefs import authentic treats from New York City, including knishes from Coney Island and crumb cake from a Brooklyn bakery. Inside the restaurant, a backdrop of exposed brick peeks from behind vintage framed photos of the Yankees and native New Yorker Robert De Niro.
At Christina's Italian Restaurant and Bar the herbaceous aromas of fresh-baked calzones and lasagna waft around tables checkered in red and white and into nostrils around an outdoor patio. Drawing on family recipes refined by three generations of Sicilians before her, owner Christina Curley oversees a menu of authentic dishes such as seafood frutti di mare. In the kitchen, cooks assemble dishes from fresh-made dough and sauces made onsite by resident Sicilian grandmothers. On plates, chicken and broccoli join mozzarella inside a golden-brown calzone pocket infused with a garlic white-wine sauce, while steak tip au poire swims in garlic, tomatoes, and white wine.
Though Terry "Joe" Black spent more than two decades in the restaurant and food industries, for many years the notion of opening his own pizzeria remained a wistful one. Smitten with the restaurant business during his college years, he spent the first 15 years of his career working for national chains, then another 10 in food distribution. It wasn’t until Black met and befriended Nick Heddings, owner of Arizona Pizza Company in Tucson, that the gears were set in motion to allow Black to make the leap to ownership, spurred in part by Heddings's support and pizza recipe. Black and his wife, Mary, kept the concept simple: a limited menu centered around tasty, New York–style pizza. They resolved to be fanatical about their customers’ experience and to create a welcoming, neighborhood feel. To further that goal, Black and his family—including the son after whom the restaurant is half named—remain active with local schools and organizations to this day.
Their focus on quality and friendliness has paid off. Of Jimmy & Joe’s signature "Serious Slice," blogger Michele Laudig said—as part of the Phoenix New Times’ 100 Favorite Dishes series in 2010—"It's super thin and crisp on the bottom, with puffy, chewy edges." Each gigantic slice is cut from the 24-inch Big Jimmy, arrives on its own metal pan, and, like a celebrity’s engagement ring, is bigger than the average person's head. As testament to its food’s deliciousness, the restaurant has won multiple awards, including the Reader Pick for Best Pizzeria in the East Valley Tribune's 2011 Best of East Valley.