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.
Rosati’s Pizza's history dates back to the early 1900s, when a recent Italian immigrant named Ferdinand Rosati moved from New York to Chicago with the dream of opening a restaurant. His first attempt was modest—with Ferdinand simultaneously fulfilling the duties of chef, server, dishwasher, and host—but quickly gained popularity for its crispy-thin-crust pizzas, originally served as complimentary appetizers. Encouraged by the public's response to the pies, Ferdinand and his son, Sam, decided to focus their efforts on opening a true pizzeria.
Today, at Rosati's Pizza locations across the country, plumes of heat swirl above piping-hot pies concocted from handmade sauce and dough. A smattering of toppings cling to five crust options—crispy thin, double dough, Chicago-style, pan, and superstuffed—as well as hide from their hungry predators inside hand-rolled calzones. Homemade lasagna and fettuccine alfredo battle for the top pasta spot, and fried chicken, baby back ribs, and fried-shrimp dinners work together to distract diners from hard-to-resist buffalo wings.
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.
Founded by the Romano family in 1995, Marcello’s Pasta Grill serves up original recipes passed down through a restaurateur-riddled lineage responsible for eateries in Italy, Argentina, and New York. Build-your-own pizzas spring from the kitchen's brick oven, bubbling over with cheese and toppings ranging from prosciutto and meatballs to broccoli and sundried tomatoes. Fresh seasonal dishes—such as wintertime ravioli stuffed with freshly chopped resolutions—fill up Marcello's ever-changing specials blackboard. Down in the spacious wine cellar, more than 30 vintages anticipate a future uncorking. Bartenders also mix various martinis and anchor mugs to the bar with pours of draft and bottled beer.
The cucina at Va Bene pampers palates with the authenticity and fresh flavors of classic Italian cuisine. Starters set tongues wagging with the pan-seared sea morsels served with pesto sauce and crostini in the scallops Va Bene ($12.95 dinner). The melanzane ripieni wets whistles for melodic grazies with baked eggplant dressed in mushrooms, squash, mozzarella, and homemade marinara ($6.50 lunch, $7.95 dinner). Dressed in herb-crust armor, the new york steak ($28.95 dinner) carries roasted potatoes and french beans at the ready to trounce hunger with a porcini-sauce body slam, and pollo alla pizzaiola douses chicken breast with fresh tomato, capers, and olives ($8.95 lunch, $15.95 dinner). Desserts ($6) incite sweet dreams and meaningful fork-collisions with tiramisu, New York–style cheesecake, and chocolate-espresso crème brûlée.