Scottsdale may not be the first destination that pops to mind when talking about classic Italian food, but the city boasts a nice roster of excellent Italian restaurants. For a superb fine dining experience, head to Tutti Santi Ristorante, where the wine flows freely, soft music plays in the background and the linguine with clams is always a gustatory revelation. Regional Italian cuisine can be hard to come by in the Sonoran Desert, but Veneto Trattoria offers authentic dishes from Northern Italy. If you can’t afford a trip to Venice, owners Robert and Susan Rossi (natives of Treviso), offer the next best thing with standards such as baccala (salt cod) with polenta, fegato (liver and onions), and fettucine with braised duck ragu. In the mood for authentic Neapolitan pizza? 'Pomo Pizzeria uses traditional slow levitation methods to create authentically thick and luscious pies. Miss your old Italian grocer's back east? Defalco's Italian Grocery in Scottsdale fills the void quite nicely, delivering the best in imported Italian cheeses, meats and spices and dishing out hearty portions of traditional pasta dishes. When it comes to fresh, modern Italian, nothing fits the bill better than Taggia, one of the main attractions at Scottsdale's hip FireSky Resort, specializing in coastal Italian cuisine.
10 Pasta Brioni
Charming red-and-white checked tablecloths, glass lamps, and inexplicably hunky waiters - welcome to Pasta Brioni. Traditional Italian dishes populate the menu. While there the menu certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel, what's delivered is solid and tasty. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs, linguini pescatore (clams, mussels, calamari, and shrimp), and heart-healthy cappellini with basil and tomato are favorites. Hefty calzones and generously-sized pizzas are pasta alternatives. Dessert features treats like tiramisu and hazelnut ice cream, both exquisite and worth making room for at the end of your meal. Perfect for a relaxing lunch or dinner. Take-out service and a lively happy hour are bonuses. (480-994-0028)
9 Ristorante Giuseppe
Family owned and operated since 1989, Ristorante Giuseppe is a favorite with locals in the know. Don't let the cash-only policy keep you from sampling the extensive menu of classic Italian dishes. Whether you're in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, or linguini, chances are the hearty portions and traditional ingredients will make your taste buds sing. Try a plate from the daily specials menu, which includes hard-to-find specialties such as eggplant rollatini, Thinly sliced, lightly breaded eggplant rolled with ricotta cheese and spinach and served with pasta on the side. Bring your own wine--no corkage fees at Ristorante Giuseppe. ((480) 991-4792)
8 Pane e Vino
This North Scottsdale favorite, which translates to "bread and wine" in English, is a cozy gem dishing out straightforward Italian classics. Elegant and sophisticated, the food lives up to the ambiance with fresh ingredients and expert execution. Try the butternut squash ravioli, the perfect marriage of sweet and savory. The fettucine alfredo is perfection, creamy and perfectly seasoned. Start your dinner with the calamari and house bruschetta, or for a fresh starter, the caprese is impeccable. The dessert menu, particularly the tiramisu and decadent creme brulee, is worth saving room for. If you just want to enjoy a gourmet snack or light dinner before heading to a concert or sporting even, check out the restaurant's special "lounge" menu. ((480) 473-7900)
An occasionally noisy dining room, especially at lunch, is a small price to pay for North's innovative, simply-prepared New Italian dishes. The bustling atmosphere of Kierland Commons is the perfect setting for this hip restaurant, and the ample patio allows you to blend right in. Heavy sauces are foregone in favor of lighter, cleaner preparations. Lasagna is crafted with chicken, tomato, and shiitake mushrooms; thin-crust pizzas are topped with fresh, flavorful ingredients. Exotic martinis and a delightful hazelnut and chocolate mousse dessert are welcome surprises. One of the best places to sample creative, modern Italian dishes in a contemporary Scottsdale setting. (480-948-2055)
6 Marcellino Ristorante
Hand-crafted Italian cuisine is the star of the show at Marcellino's Ristorante in Scottsdale, where Chef Marcellino creates classic Italian dishes with a fresh and modern twist. Some of the stand-outs on the hand-crafted pasta menu include the Gnocchi Sorrentina, a hand rolled potato pasta in a tomato sauce tossed with fresh mozzarella. Don't skip your antipasti though, because you'll want to sample the caprese made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, roasted pepper and homegrown basil. Try the Insalata di Pera, made with pear slices served on fresh watercress with shaved pecorino and a made-from-scratch lemon dressing. This Old Town gem is ideal for date night or special occasion. ((480) 990-9500)
Located at FireSky Resort and Spa in the heart of Scottsdale, Taggia brings fresh coastal Italian cuisine to the Sonoran desert. Seafood doesn't get any fresher than this (flown in daily) and seasonal salads feature organic and locally sourced ingredients. Gourmet pizzas come out soft, chewy and bubbling with the fresh made sauce from the restaurant's wood-fired ovens. The ambiance is exceptional. You can dine under the resort's soaring green palms in the comfortable outdoor patio, or in the sleek, inviting dining room. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is a great choice for a date night or special night with friends. ((480) 424-6095)
4 Veneto Trattoria
Veneto Trattoria is modeled after the traditional trattorias of Northern Italy. The menu features fresh dishes prepared with the best ingredients. The healthy, satisfying flavors used at Veneto Trattoria are lightly prepared for a satisfying meal that is never heavy or greasy. The ambiance here is warm, friendly and casual. Try one of the hand-crafted pastas, such as the fresh gnocchi or luscious risottos. Traditional Northern Italian dishes frequently feature balsamic vinegar seasoning, and Veneto Trattoria is no different. Only the highest quality balsamic is used in the restaurant's house dressings and to add sweetness to certain dishes without having to resort to fatty butter. (480-948-9928)
3 Tutti Santi Ristorante Italiano
Classic Italian fare served with flair and care is what you'll find at Tutti Santi in Scottsdale. There are about four menus presented nightly, as well as house favorites. Try the house chicken served with fontina cheese, prosciutto, and an unforgettable brandy cream sauce. The service here is excellent, and the menu manages to be both original in conception and traditional in preparation. The friendly, boisterous atmosphere is part of the charm of eating here, but there is also patio seating for a more relaxing and quiet evening. Live music and an expansive wine menu are the perfect recipe for a memorable night out at one of the Valley's favorite Italian restaurants. ((480) 951-3775)
A nondescript location belies the delicious Italian cuisine served inside this popular restaurant. Locals flock to Arrivederci for tender pastas and succulent meat and seafood dishes. Your meal will begin on a very high note, with fresh-baked rolls delivered to your table. Lobster-stuffed ravioli in a creamy, saffron-infused sauce and delicate potato gnocchi in a four-cheese sauce are two of the most requested entrees, while carpaccio and eggplant parmigiana also win raves. Naturally, desserts are of equally high quality, especially decadent ricotta cheesecake. Intimate ambiance and attentive, unpretentious service are pluses. For dessert, try the chocomisu and lemoncello, both of which are made in-house. (480-922-8225)
1 Defalcos Italian Grocery
If you're looking for an original, family-owned Italian deli, Defalco's Italian Grocery is the real thing. This local treasure is located just south of downtown Scottsdale, on the border between Tempe and Scottsdale. The menu features traditional pasta dishes and hot sandwiches. You'll see a lot of loyal customers coming in before dinner to carry out one of the take-home dishes, or shopping for high quality Italian products such as hand-made ravioli and imported olive oil. Enjoy the outdoor patio with a plate of eggplant parm, chicken cutlet, or lasagna. The dessert menu includes traditional Italian classic like cannoli and tiramisu. (480-990-8660)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.
She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.