Stone-tiled floors lead guests into Conti’s Bar and Grill, where four 120-inch high-definition projection TVs glow with power drawn from the tiny sportsmen running in circles inside them. Sunlight streams in through slotted window shades, illuminating exposed-brick columns and warm wood paneling. Guests can snuggle into booths as they munch on burgers, salmon, or full racks of ribs. Eight beers on tap wash down bites of confetti nachos or wistful licks of chocolate cake.
The Black Mustache isn't the kind of theater where audiences sit silently, distanced from the stage and the action, while actors emote and deep messages are subtly conveyed. What The Black Mustache creates is something special and increasingly hard to find these days: over-the-top, old-fashioned melodrama. It's the kind of show where villains twirl the thick handlebars above their lips as they tie fainting damsels to railroad tracks. The kind where heroes wear white and where slapstick reigns, and sing-alongs pop up at the drop of a ten-gallon hat. And most importantly, it's theater that encourages the viewers to get in on the action, booing and cheering the way audiences did in the days of vaudeville and the way they still do at most elementary school spelling bees.
The Black Mustache shows are perfect family fare, partially because the operation is a family affair for creators Julie and Marcus Ellsworth. The duo started their tradition at Sweet Nell's Melodrama Theatre in the White Mountains with the rest of the Ellsworths before moving their show wagon to Phoenix.
For owners Sal and Dina Zappone, their eponymous Italian eatery is a dream come true. The newly renovated dining room is rife with modern accents such as earthen clay tiles, solar-powered silverware, and hanging lights like glowing red roses. It’s also a family establishment through and through. While Sal helms the kitchen, garnishing homemade pastas with fresh ricotta, and loading pizzas with fresh fennel sausage and truffle oil, his young son and daughter can often be found in small aprons, advertising their favorite dishes. Diners may also pair meals with an espresso or a light Morellino wine, which offers a fruity nose easier than sticking grapes in your nostrils.
At JJ Madisons, less than 15 burgers on the menu would be unthinkable. The chefs have created 18 separate sandwiches, some of which have their own variants?the Malibu Beach burger, for example, comes with mushrooms, swiss, and avocado atop beef or chicken. Others are less like classic patties and more like enticing burger hybrids. The Buffalo Fire patty is prepped in zesty chicken-wing sauce, whereas the PB & J bacon burger mixes peanut butter, jelly, and sriracha hot sauce for a truly unique flavor combo.
The rest of the menu celebrates a wide range of American eats. There are award-winning wings flavored with 17 different sauces, deli sandwiches from reubens to turkey melts, and entrees of steak and fried shrimp. Much of the food is categorized under a relevant U.S. city, whether it's tacos honoring Santa Rosa, California or a Pittsburgh patty melt.
The eatery also provides plenty of nighttime entertainment: live music, karaoke events, and poker games are on the calendar every week, much like a greedy person's birthday. Happy hour runs all day and night throughout the summer with food specials until midnight.
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.