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Finding Italy in the Desert: 10 Best Italian Restaurants in Phoenix



When you want to savor some of the best Italian-inspired cooking in metro Phoenix, you'll have to book a table at Tratto, the latest offering from James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Chris Bianco. The intimate 35-seat restaurant in midtown Phoenix is the place to go for hand-made pastas and elegant yet simple small plates brimming with locavore ingredients. It's a must for fans of chef Bianco, or anyone who loves simple yet delicious Italian-inspired fare. 

Ready for great pizza? Head to downtown Phoenix, to the flagship location of Pomo Pizzeria Napolitana, where the Neapolitan-style pies are rendered according to the near-ancient pizza-making traditions of southern Italy. It's a great spot to enjoy some killer antipasti, too. 

Speaking of antipasti, Cibo is another great destination for excellent wood-fired pizza. The antipasti is worth a stop alone, though, especially the housemade burrata, arrancini and always-crispy calamari. 

If you're seeking a fine dining destination, consider Tomaso's, the swanky Arcadia restaurant that has been feeding the Valley high-end Italian fare for decades. Home to the self-proclaimed "Best Lasagna Ever," Tomaso's doesn't disappoint when you're looking for white table cloth ambiance and classic pasta dishes prepared with upscale flair. The wine list runs deep here, especially in the area of Italian reds. 


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Adela's Italian Restaurant is a family-owned Italian eatery where the lasagna is as good as the one your Italian aunt used to make. If you weren't lucky enough to grow up with an Italian aunt, welcome to Adela's, where the homespun Italian cooking is the next best thing. The menu offers upscale classic starters like escargot and stuffed mushroom. This is the place to go when you're craving a hot plate of gooey, cheesy pasta, including a wonderful meat lasagna. The chicken piccata, served with lemon wine sauce and capers, really hits the spot, and there's a whole menu of delicious seafood entrees. As an added bonus, pretty much everything here comes with a side of the house fresh bread.

Recommended for Italian because: Adela's is a friendly, family-owned Italian restaurant where you can rely on delicious homemade pasta dishes.

Patricia's expert tip: The chicken piccata is not to be missed.

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Avanti is one of the most venerable Italian restaurants in metro Phoenix, the kind of restaurant where the owner stops by your table for a short chat and to make sure everything is to your liking. The black-and-white decor and zebra-strip decor imbue the space with a retro vibe, but the real sense of timelessness is on the menu, which collects an array of classic Italian dishes like pasta e fagioli and linguine carbonara. Start with a classic like caviar or oysters Rockefeller, and continue your classic Italian feast with ossobuco Milanese and chicken parmigiana. Of course, you'll want to finish with the house tiramisu, which is a classic around these parts.

Recommended for Italian because: Avanti one of the oldest and most venerable Italian restaurants in metro Phoenix, sporting a retro dining room and timeless menu.

Patricia's expert tip: Happy hour specials are available Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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Babbo means "daddy" in Italian, and that sums up the food philosophy at Babbo Italian Eatery: warm, homespun Italian cuisine designed to make you feel as if you're dining with family. The expansive menu features gourmet salads, appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, calzones, and a build-it-yourself chalkboard menu. The pasta menu is full of luscious plates like a pomodoro tomato pasta; an Alfredo Supremo made with white wine, garlic and cream; and a roasted red pepper and mushroom pasta served on fettuccine. The calzones are excellent, and there is a build-your-own option with your choice of meats and ingredients. For something lighter, the salad menu offers 16 different types of specialty salads.

Recommended for Italian because: Babbo Italian Eatery is a local chain with a sprawling menu of popular Italian classics. There is something here for everyone.

Patricia's expert tip: The huge menu at Babbo's makes this a good bet for larger groups or family dining. Many build-it-yourself options here.

Read more about Babbo Italian Eatery →


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Tratto
Photo courtesy of Patricia Escarcega


Tratto is the new restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco, who has been instrumental in helping shine the national spotlight on the burgeoning Phoenix food scene. This time around, Bianco and company are shifting focus away from pizza with an unpretentious menu inspired by the classic Italian trattoria, with an emphasis on Arizona terroir. The menu changes with the seasons, so expect to see small plates brimming with vegetables served at the height of the season. Expect to find starters like farinata and house-cured lardo on grilled bruschetta. Primi courses feature freshly made pasta dishes, and secondi courses are where you'll find lovingly prepared plates like braised pork shank and chicken served with Arizona-grown grapes.

Recommended for Italian because: Tratto is an intimate trattoria with a seasonally-focused menu of Italian-inspired eats - a must if you're a lover of ultra-fresh pastas.

Patricia's expert tip: Reservations are highly recommended at this small, 35-seat restaurant.

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Nook


Nook evokes images of a cozy place to sit back and relax with a hearty plate of comfort food. Fortunately, that's exactly what you'll find at this Arcadia eatery, tucked away in the Gas Light shopping center. The menu has everything from light cafe fare to hearty Mediterranean dinners. For starters, try the excellent poutine house fries, served with beef gravy and mozzarella curd. The restaurant also serves a variety of unique bruschettas, including a short rib variety featuring a mushroom duxelle and port demi reduction. Dinner entrees include a savory filet, savory halibut tacos, and a creamy pasta crepe. Gourmet pizzas, excellent desserts, and a winning wine menu make this the perfect destination for a special occasion dinner or date night.

Recommended for Italian because: Nook is a cozy Italian restaurant with an upscale menu of modern Italian fare, including creative bruschettas and pizzas.

Patricia's expert tip: Happy hour at the Arcadia location happens daily from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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Tomaso's is a classic white table cloth Italian restaurant in the leafy Arcadia district of Phoenix. The dining room is framed by Tuscan country brickwork columns, and the menu features a sprawling assortment of regional Italian cuisine, so you'd be hard-pressed to find something on the menu you won't like. The mozzarella tasting board is a good place to start - it features three different mozzarellas, plus a beef steak tomato, some fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. Or, try something harder to find, like trippa alla parmigiana, braised calf tripe in a delicious tomato sauce and parmigiano cheese. Entrees include handmade pasta dishes like taglione with artichokes and pistachios and pappardelle in a wild mushroom ragu. Of course, you'll also find Tuscan style steaks, seafood dishes, and various Italian desserts.

Recommended for Italian because: Tomaso's is the place to go for upscale Italian fare served in a classic white table cloth restaurant.

Patricia's expert tip: Happy hour happens every day from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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North fattoria Italiana translates as Northern Italian farmhouse, a name meant to conjure images of a rustic farmhouse and family-style dining. This is driving concept behind North Fattoria Italiana, an Arcadia restaurant where the food is handcrafted on site and served in a casual, family-style dining room. The dining room features community tables and gathering spaces, creating a warm, welcoming environment that is perfect for large groups. The menu reflects the restaurant's philosophy of hand-made offerings to a tee. All pizza and pasta dough is made from scratch all day long, especially for every guest. Authentic Italian food, made from scratch, and a great ambiance make North Fattoria Italiana a must for true food aficionados.

Recommended for Italian because: A lively trattoria with a great bar, North is a must-eat destination for aficionados of northern Italian-inspired cuisine.

Patricia's expert tip: Stop by for a scrumptious brunch, Saturday and Sunday from 10am-4pm.

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La Piazza PHX


La Piazza PHX is a tiny downtown Phoenix pizzeria that boasts true Neapolitan-style pizza (certified by the "Verace Pizza Napoletana" from the VPN association based in Napoli, Italy). In a city of great pizza, La Piazza stands out for its strict adherence to the traditions, ingredients and cooking methods of Naples. The mozzarella and dough are homemade, and the tomatoes are imported from San Marzano, Italy. The dough is light, the crust is crispy, and the sauce is delicious, simmering with the flavors of high quality extra virgin olive oil. Along with great specialty pizzas, the restaurant also serves salads, panini, antipasti, pasta dishes and a small but delightful selection of homemade desserts. The restaurant also has another location in historic downtown Glendale.

Recommended for Italian because: La Piazza PHX is a Neapolitan-inspired pizzeria serving wonderful handmade mozzarella, wood-fired pizzas, panini, antipasti and a small selection of good pasta dishes.

Patricia's expert tip: Don't miss the dessert menu, which features authentic and homemade treats like ricotta cheesecake, tiramisu and cannolis.

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Cibo


This Central Phoenix urban pizzeria is situated in a restored 1913 bungalow, making it the perfect backdrop for a leisurely lunch or romantic dinner. Exposed brick, hardwood floors, authentic stained glass windows and a working fireplace means that you'll have much to admire while you nosh on your salad, antipasti, made-from-scratch pasta or artisanal pizza. Each pizza is made-to-order and hand-tossed by Chef Guido Saccone, native of Sicily, and then topped with a delicious drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Don't miss the new "stuzzichini" happy hour menu, served Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 6 pm. It features small bite specialties like arancini, Arborio rice deep-fried with a center of mozzarella.

Recommended for Italian because: Cibo is the ideal haunt for a romantic night out - or just an amazingly good wood-fired pizza and fresh-made antipasti.

Patricia's expert tip: For a gourmet delight, try the Procida, topped wih mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, Asian pears, chopped arugula, goat cheese and black pepper.

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You would think that finding authentic Neapolitan-style pizza would be a challenge in the Arizona desert. If traveling to southern Italy in search of great pizza isn't feasible right now, you can satiate your appetite for great pizza with a visit to Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana. The pizzeria features thin-crust pizzas made according to the ancient pizza-making traditions of Napoli, in an oven imported from Italy. The expansive menu runs the gamut from the classic margherita to savory specialties like the quattro stagioni (four seasons), which is loaded with sausage, mushrooms and salami. The menu also features antipasti, pasta dishes, and salads.

Recommended for Italian because: Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana delivers wonderful wood-fired pizzas and delicious antipasti just north of downtown Phoenix.

Patricia's expert tip: Start with the delicious and ultra-fresh caprese.

Read more about Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana - Downtown Phoenix →


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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.

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