Crust Simply Italian to open 3rd location with more planned

Authentic Italian food continues to be one of the most popular segments of the restaurant industry and its going to continue if Mike Merendino has his way. He’s the owner of Crust Simply Italian, the restaurant he started in 2007 in Scottsdale. Merendino, a first generation Italian-American plans to open his third location in mid-2022 in Gilbert with as many as 8 more around Arizona.

He opened a second location, in downtown Chandler location a few years back along with The Ostrich, his speakeasy cocktail bar which will also open in Gilbert. The Ostrich serves classic cocktails such as an Old Fashioned and an Aviation along with creative signature cocktails as well.

Crust Simply Italian
Owner Mike Merendino. Photos courtesy of J. Martin Harris Travel & Leisure Photography

Merendino knows what it takes to run an Italian restaurant as he grew up in his father’s pizzeria on New York’s Long Island. He attributes this to why he’s seen increased sales in the last year as other restaurants have struggled. A wide variety of dishes on the menu with many entrees under $20 is one of the reasons for Crust Simply Italian’s success. “We took off some of the higher-end menu items and focused on what we do well: chicken Parmesan, pizza and lasagna,” Merendino said. “We also really stepped up our salads and lighter Italian fare.” The restaurant also caters private parties and corporate events which has also helped the restaurants bottom line.

Merendino gives credit to his investors who believed in him and gave him the resources to hire and train a great staff who he treats like family. Without those investors and their confidence he doesn’t feel he’d be able to expand to more locations in the coming years. Crust Simply Italian opens daily at 11 a.m. and The Ostrich opens at 6 p.m. during the week and at 5 p.m. on Friday and is closed on Monday’s. The Gilbert location will be at the corner of Williams Field and Recker Roads.

 

Sips & Bites: News you can use from the Phoenix restaurant community

Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery opens 2nd Arizona location

The one stop wine shop, tasting bar & full service restaurant open their 2nd location in Chandler next Monday September 27th. It’s their second location to open in less than a year as they opened in north Scottsdale in December 2020. See my Instagram for my sneak peek tour and tasting.

Today is Press Coffee’s “Day of Giving”

The locally owned coffee roaster & cafe is looking to raise $25,000 at its 8 valley locations today. This annual event is raising money for Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and is donating 100% of today’s profits from on-line & in-store sales with other valley businesses offering to match Press’s donation.

Wren House Brewing beer pairing dinner at Liberty Tavern next week.

The tavern & smokehouse location at Terravita hosts a dinner with the local brewer’s craft beers paired with chef crafted dishes. On the evening of Wednesday, September 29th guests will enjoy 4 -courses that include Beer Battered Fish & Chips, Smoked Brisket Mole and more for $55++. Reservations are required and space is limited. Visit their website for more information.

Fired Pie is holding a hiring fair September 29th

The expanding fast casual pizzeria is looking to hire 2-3 people at each of its 21 locations around Phoenix and is welcoming people to come in and apply & interview next Wednesday. Back & front of the house, managers and shift leaders have openings and those interested can head to any location from 1:30- 6 p.m. on the 29th. Pay is up to $15/ hour plus $45 bonus after 45 days on the job. Shift meals and other benefits are are offered.

The Italian Daughter launches new dinner menu

The newish Italian restaurant in north Scottsdale has added several new dishes to it extensive menu. Look for dishes such as Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp, Sicilian Seafood Salad, A Mozzarella Tasting Board, a 12 oz. Chicken Breast Marsala & Short Rib Porcini Ravioli and more.

Don’t forget to check out my podcast, Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

Oak Wood Fire Pizza is bringing the pizza party to you

Have you ever wanted to learn to make pizza from a pizza pro, now you and 24 friends can as the Oak Wood Fire Pizza is bringing its pizza party to you. Chef Tommy D’Ambrosio of Aioli Gourmet Burgers, Fresh Taste Meal Prep and other food concepts is bring you the hands on experience better than any food from a chaffing dish. He will teach how to toss the dough, adding sauces and toppings and cooking them in his mobile pizza oven.

“Everyone loves pizza! It’s so fun to see a smile on everyone’s faces when we fire up the wood oven and start making pizzas. Our customers have a blast learning to make their own pizzas – it’s a great experience for all ages and really makes any party extra special,” said D’Ambrosio.

Each class includes 2 hours of on-site pizza making training, all the equipment and ingredients. Depending on size of the group and custom menu Oak Wood Fire Pizza tries to keep the cost around $25 per person. Don’t want to make pizza just eat it, their food truck is available for corporate parties & private events. The food truck can accommodate any size event and the menu includes pizzas, salads, sides, bruschetta, charcuterie and more. For more information or to book a pizza party, check out their website.

Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week launches mid-September

Two of the valley’s vegan advocates have come together to launch the first Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week September 12th- 18th. Chef & author Jason Wyrick and vegan taste maker and owner of Phoenix Vegan Jozh Watson launched the week long culinary event to bring more attention to plant- based restaurants, foods & cooking.

According to Wyrick, “Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week is a celebration of plant-based cuisine in Phoenix. We want to raise awareness about everything vegan that’s now available in our city, get everyone excited, and out-and-about trying all of the great dining options.”

Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week
Simon’s Hot Dogs. Feature photo Maya’s Cajun Cuisine’s Po’ Boy

How Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week works?

The pair are encouraging restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, food trucks and others to showcase their plant-based cooking and more. During the week participants will be offering a specially created menu with breakfast & lunch offering at $20 and a 3-course dinner menu at $30.

“We want to position Greater Metro Phoenix as a premier, inclusive dining destination,” said Watson.

During the week diners can experience the growing Phoenix plant-based food scene visiting new establishments or returning to familiar ones. A a few of the participating eateries include: Beaut Burger, Brunch & Sip, Chilte, Dilla Libre, Early Bird Vegan, Earth Plant-Based, Giving Tree Café, Ground Control, Hot Sauce & Pepper, Maya’s Cajun Kitchen, Pachamama, Positively Frosted, Salvadoreno Restaurant, Shameless Burger, Simon’s Hot Dogs, The Nile Coffee Shop, Urban Beans Café, Tesoro Vegano, The Vegan Taste, Verdura, and Wok this Way.

According to Wyrick, “Restaurants are experimenting more with vegan cuisine and showcasing some really great offerings. Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week allows them to cater to a growing clientele and test the waters for expanding their vegan selections.” For more information and to see additional participants head to their website.

Sips & Bites: News you can use from the Phoenix restaurant community

Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

Merkin wines and gelato pairing at GenuWine Arizona

The Roosevelt Row wine shop is giving you 2 chances to taste Arizona’s Merkin Vineyards wines with Merkin’s homemade gelatos. Next Tues Aug. 17th or Thurs. the 19th pair 3 wines with 3 gelatos for dine-in or take-out. To place an order or save a seat head to their website.

Free Mimosa for early diners at Z’ Tejas

Did you know the Southwestern restaurant serves brunch?? Daily starting a 9 a.m. in Scottsdale and on weekends in Chandler starting at 9 a.m. Join them at either location between 9 -10 a.m. and get a free Mimosa with the order of any entree.

Catch a flight at Renata’s Hearth

The Arizona Biltmore’s signature restaurant is offering several new flights of Mezcal & Tequila, Cocktails and a Vermouth flight. Each flight consists of 4 samples starting from $33 -$275 depending on the uniqueness and the limited availability of each spirit. For more information visit their website.

Napa’s Duckhorn Vineyards wine pairing dinner at Tommy V’s

Join Zoran at his downtown Scottsdale restaurant for an evening of wine & food on Thursday Aug. 26th. The 5 course dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. and pairs white and red wines from the popular winery with seafood, lamb and vegetable dishes. The dinner is $100++ per person and to see the menu and make your reservation visit their website.

National Sandwich Month continues with weekly specials at Miracle Mile Deli

You still have 2 weeks to enjoy a favorite deli sandwich and save a few $$s in August. The central Phoenix deli is offering its Pastrami & Corned Beef Combo for $11 from Mon. Aug. 16th -21st. From Mon. Aug. 23rd – 28th get The Straw also for only $11. Each sandwich comes with a side and pickle spear and is available for dine-in or take-out.

Don’t forget to check out my podcast, Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

Frenchie Pizza bringing a French twist to pizza in Gilbert

The Buschetz family own and operate 3 restaurants in the East Valley and this week will add a 4th when they open Frenchie Pizza on Thursday July 8th. The restaurant will serve American thin sliced pizza along with “flammekueche” or “flammies” for short. The unleavened crispy flatbread is popular throughout the Alsace region of France.

Co-owner and Executive Chef Fabrice Buschetz is a native of France and relocated to Arizona from his home country in 2013 with his wife and co-owner Máiréad who is General Manager of all of the family’s restaurants. Says Máiréad “We’ve always used Fabrice’s past experiences in kitchens to develop concepts,” she said. “We have so many ideas in our head we could probably do 20 more different themes easily.” 

Traditional “flammes” will be served and often uses a tangy & creamy white sauce topped with smoked bacon and onions. Other versions on the menu include potato and mushroom toppings and Americanized version to include buffalo chicken and tomato & basil with honey Sriracha. Dessert “flammes” will include Nutella, caramelized apples, bananas and cream cheese. The American style pizza will be made with 00 flower and San Marzano tomatoes.

The fast casual concept offers pizza for take-out and will seat 30 people in the dining room that includes several TV’s. Six draft beers will be on tap along with single serve bottles of wine and a margarita machine will offer the frozen drink.

Frenchie Pizza is at 3765 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, AZ 85297 and will be open 7 days a week starting at 11 a.m. For more information check out their website.

Don’t forget to check out my podcast, Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

Sips & Bites: News you can use from the Phoenix restaurant community

Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

Macayo’s Mexican Food returns to Scottsdale with new location

The 75 year old restaurant has opened its newest location at Loop 101 & Shea Blvd in Pima Crossing. Known for such dishes as Green Chile Pork Stew & Chicken Poblano the menu is the same as the other locations around the valley.

Summer Supper is back on the menu at Marcellino’s Ristorante

From now until Sunday September 15th guests can opt for the 3-course meal for $44. Several choices from the Antipasto and Second Course menu that include homemade pasta.

Their private dining room is available on Tuesday’s through July and Tuesday & Wednesday’s in August for dinner and a movie. Parties of 8-10 people can reserve the room at no cost but dinner service is required. Call 480-990-9500 to make a dinner reservation or to reserve the room.

Elote Pizza back by popular demand at Fired Pie

All 21 locations of the locally owned fast casual pizza concept has brought back the street corn inspired and topped pizza (and more toppings) for a limited time. The pizza can be made with tradition, cauliflower & gluten-free dough.

Summer cool down seasonal menu at Thirsty Lion Gastropub

The Phoenix area’s 4 locations will start serving the new dishes from July 8th – September 19th. Spicy Shrimp Ceviche and Seared Atlantic Sea Scallops are a couple of the new dishes. Cocktails including Raspberry Mint Mule-jito and Jalapeno Paloma Margarita are a couple of the new adult beverages available.

July 4th celebrations around Phoenix

As you can imagine many Phoenix restaurants and bars are celebrating the red, white & blue with traditional foods, beers and more. Have fun and stay safe. Happy birthday America.

Don’t forget to check out my podcast, Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen opens 6th location

Arizona and family -owned Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen opened its newest restaurant in Gilbert with a limited schedule. Currently opened Thursday – Sunday the new location will gradually open on other days in the coming weeks. Picazzo’s originally started in Sedona serving organic and healthy pizzas, salads and other Italian specialties but in the years since have grown to include the flavors of Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican ingredients.

“We can’t wait to welcome the Gilbert community to Picazzo’s!” says Picazzo’s Operations Manager, Chris Disney. It’s our pleasure to offer a variety of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and allergy-friendly items. Families can enjoy a meal at Picazzo’s and get their favorite dishes, whether they have special dietary needs or preferences or not. We’ve actually had guests cry with happiness when they realize they can order exactly what they want, how they want it!”

The menu in Gilbert is the same as the other locations and includes 95% organic ingredients for its pizzas, pastas, entrees, salads and more. Guests will notice a new modern look that will be rolled out to the other restaurants in the future.  A separate vegan menu is available using plant- based ingredients from Follow Your Heart, Daiya and Beyond Meat.

Picazzo’s new modern look

The restaurant’s spacious 4,300 square feet includes a roll-up garage door connecting the indoors and outdoors. “We thought a lot about our consumer when designing the new restaurant,” explains Disney. “That means creating a space that can accommodate solo diners and couples just as easily as large families. We also focused on selecting aesthetically pleasing textures and surfaces on everything from countertops to walls to the patio decking. We think our guests are going to love the experience here – and we hope they take advantage of the Instagram-worthy setting for taking photos with family and friends!”

Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen is at 884 E. Williams Field Rd. Gilbert 85295 with the other locations in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Tempe/Chandler, Arrowhead and Sedona. To find the location closest to you and to view the menu, visit their website.

 

Sips & Bites: News you can use from the Phoenix restaurant community

Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

Raise your glass for National Wine Day

If you’re a regular wine drinker May 25th is just another Tuesday to you. If you occasionally enjoy a glass of wine then you may want to celebrate the fruit of the vine at these local establishments. LDV Winery is offering $2 wine flights all day, Pita Jungle offers a bottle of its private label Jungle Vino for only $13 or $5 a glass. Other restaurants and retailers celebrating with wine features from around the world include The Wine Store, Zinqué, CRUjiente Tacos, The Italian Daughter & The Sicilian Butcher.

Romeo’s Euro Cafe moves 3rd Tuesday dinner to next week

The monthly 3-course dinner paired with wines had to get bumped back a week this month to Tuesday May 25th. Halloumi Salad and Paesano (veal shoulder & Italian sausage marinara) & and dessert wind out the menu. Check their Facebook page for more details and how to reserve your seat.

Barro’s Pizza hiring 400 people in Tucson & Phoenix

The family owned restaurant with 44 locations (soon to be 46) is hiring counter help, cooks and most importantly delivery drivers. For more information and to apply visit their website.

$.75 Margarita de Macayo to celebrate 75 years

Macayo’s continue celebrate their 75th anniversary in 2021. Wednesday May 26th all locations invites guests who dine-in can to get 2 margaritas for less than a dollar each.

Arizona Restaurant Week is here

Tonight through Sunday the 30th dine at your favorite restaurant or visit a new one for a specially created 3 course menu for $33 or $44. To see the full list of participating restaurants from around Arizona and their menus visit their website.

Honeybee Events & The Herb Box invite you to Summer & Wine dinner

With traveling to Italy still not possible with the continued caution around Covid-19, Honeybee Events & The Herb Box brings the Amalfi Coast to Scottsdale. The Vino ed Estate (Summer & Wine) Dinner on May 21st will transport you to the Mediterranean and immerse you in a 6-course dinner created by Chef Marissa Delgado and pairing it with wine and cocktails.

“We’ve crafted an elegant 6-course dinner with accompanied wine pairings to highlight the authentic Italian dishes featured for the evening. Our goal is to transport our guests to the Amalfi Coast for the night, and our specialty menu has been thoughtfully crafted to reflect this. One of the dishes we are featuring for the event is the Spaghetti alle Vongole – al dente spaghetti tossed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh baby clams, and finished with fresh parsley and parmesan. We’re excited to explore our culinary creativity with this refreshing coastal summer themed event.” says Delgado.

Live music will set the mood for night that begins at 6:45 p.m. at the Scottsdale restaurant. “The Herb Box is so excited to partner with Honeybee Events for Vino ed Estate (Summer + Wine) Dinner. This event will showcase our newly opened Scottsdale & Shea location with the the perfect, summer themed party. The Honeybee Events team consistently brings unique, innovative ideas to life. We’re looking forward to our ongoing partnership with them and making beautiful events available to the Scottsdale community.” says Susan Wilcox, Owner of the Herb Box.

Reserved seats are $205-$250 depending upon add-ons including small & large fresh floral bouquets inspired by the blooms of Sorrento are available for pre-purchase. Ticket options include the VIP Pavilion, reserved tables of 2 or 4 and General Admission. Tickets can be purchased and more information can be found at Eventbrite. The Herb Box is at 7000 E. Shea Blvd. Scottsdale 85254.