An elegant chandelier sparkles above Amaro Pizzeria & Vino Lounge's open kitchen, but it’s rarely the first thing that guests notice. They are too engrossed by Executive Chef John Spahr’s delicate dance as he flings discs of pizza dough high into the air, careful not to get them caught in the chandelier’s net of crystal beads. Spahr and his culinary team pull their own mozzarella and top their Neapolitan pizzas with such creative ingredients as shoestring onions, oven-roasted artichoke hearts, and shaved ham. Pizza is hardly their only specialty, however. Their dishes run the gamut from house-made pastas to a bone-in pork chop with a Dijon and mustard glaze. 90 wines complement the complex Italian flavors, as do the artworks on the dining room’s walls and live musicians who have strung their guitars with resonant spaghetti al dente.
On Rare Earth Pizza and Wine Bar's outdoor patio, servers transport hand-tossed pizzas and glasses of wine in the flickering glow of outdoor fire bowls. Conversation buzzes as guests take in views of technicolor sunsets and the surrounding landscape of Pinnacle Peak. Inside, they can sidle up to the tall wooden bar to take a look at hand-chalked specials, or gather around tables to take turns singing lists of gourmet ingredients from the menu.
As its name would suggest, Carefree is a laid-back town, with a sense of humor to boot. Look out for quirky street signs (Ho Hum Road and Nonchalant Avenue) and keep in mind the town’s motto (“home of the cowboys and caviar”). Phoenix lies about 30 miles to the south, and the Continental Mountains rise just to the north and create a nice backdrop opposite the Black Mountain range. There are a handful of hiking trails in the area, but for those who prefer the comforts of saddle, you can rent a bike from the hotel or sign up of for a guided horseback ride through the desert. Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.
With pages full of flavors traditional to Mexico City, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, and Cozumel, the menu at Haciendas Mexican Grill is like an atlas of Mexican cuisine. Guests can taste the classic Mayan influence on the nation’s dishes with the cochinita pibil, a cut of pork that slowly marinates in a stew of achiote, orange juice, and banana leaves, or revel in the country's knack for sauces with the dark-brown dressing of the pollo con mole. The chefs also take slight liberties with the dishes, infusing the chocolate fondue with ancho chiles and transforming the humble hamburger with oaxaca cheese and chipotle mayo. To honor Mexico's extensive coastlines, the chefs drench jumbo prawns, stuffed salmon filets, and lobster ravioli in spicy cream sauces.
Outside the dining room, guests can experience Mexican culture with specialty margaritas, tap and bottled beers, and other libations in the restaurant’s three bars. Like an interstellar pub crawl, each bar features a different atmosphere: one sports a scenic view of the mountains, another buzzes with a row of LED TVs, and an outside patio grants fresh air and warm sun ideal for a round of icy beverages.
Rosati's Pizza literally began with one man. When he started his first restaurant in Chicago as an Italian immigrant more than a century ago, Ferdinand Rosati worked as the cook, waiter, dishwasher, and host. Despite the hectic schedule, the passionate restaurateur still found time to prepare each guest his signature pizza a'olia, a soul-warming blend of cheese and housemade sauce served on a crispy thin crust. From that cracker-thin foundation, Rosati's has grown to incorporate slabs of baby back ribs, baked pastas, and Italian sandwiches to its menu at locations across the country. A family-friendly establishment, Rosati's mixes cocktails for adults from a full-service bar as kids play games and puzzles designed to distract them from the rounds of pizza frisbee.