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.

New Fall menu at Hearth ’61

The signature restaurant at Mountain Shadows Resort is now offering its new menu from Chef de Cuisine Alfred Muro. If you’re dining for brunch (Greek Toast w/ poached eggs & Feta, Green Chile Pork Torta) or dinner (Duroc Farms Pork Chop or H ’61 Angliotti w/ short ribs) you know it going to be good. Those and more dishes and new desserts are now available.

GenuWino Appreciation Day Sunday at GenuWine

The downtown Phoenix wine bar is giving wine drinkers an opportunity to join their wine club this Sunday 10/10. Come down to visit between 1 – 6 p.m. and if you sign-up before there is no cost for the day and $15 if you choose not to join. Wine samples and Dough Riders Food Truck will be enjoyed. Members get 2 bottles of wine and an Arizona made gift each month along with 15% off when you visit.

Nonna Urban Kitchen offers new 3-course menu

The Old Town Scottsdale restaurant has updated its menu to highlight seasonal ingredients. Guest can pick from 6 choices in each first and second courses and 3 from the dessert menu. Cost is $48 per person plus tax & gratuity. To see the full menu offerings and to make reservation visit their website.

Fired Pie partners with Special Olympics Arizona for the rest of the year.

Guests visiting the fast casual pizzeria can donate $5 to the non-profit sports organization that works with people with disabilities. In return donors will have a placard with their name at the location until the end of 2021.

PHX Beer Co. launches first Oktoberfest beer

The local brewery released its first Oktoberfest ($16) beer coincides with other new seasonal releases including Howling Oats Hazy IPA ($16) and North Rim Hazy IPA ($17). All three are in limited supply and come in 16 oz 4-pack cans and on tap at the brewers Phoenix taproom and Scottsdale restaurant while supplies last.

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.

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.

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.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria launches new menu

Earlier this week the locally owned pizzeria group debuted its new Fall seasonal menu. Buffalo Chicken Pizza, Green Apple Sangria, Caramel Apple Cheesecake and a Vodka Peach Mule are just a few of the new dishes & cocktails available until December 6th.

Creamistry to open first West Valley location

The ice cream shop that uses liquid nitrogen to make their delicious desserts opens at Park West, Saturday September 18th. Customers who show up between 12 – 2 p.m to the Peoria’s Park West entertainment center get a free small ice cream. There are 2 other locations in Gilbert and Scottsdale, no free ice cream though.

Don’t forget National Hamburger Day Saturday

The popular comfort food is being celebrated September 18th around town with specially made burgers at Hopdoddy Burger Bar and other burger joints around Phoenix.

Romeo’s Euro Cafe 3rd Tuesday wine dinner is happening

3 courses paired with wines from New Zealand and California at Romeo’s monthly dinner is next Tuesday the 21st. Reservations are needed for dinner at the downtown Gilbert restaurant. Dinner is $39 per person.

Arizona Restaurant Week starts tonight

For the next 10 nights, restaurants feature specially created 3 course menus at $33, $44 or $55. 150+ restaurants are participating the Fall 2021 culinary event. Reservations are highly recommended and a full list of restaurants and their menus can be found at their website. The Arizona Restaurant Association has partnered with the HonorHealth Foundation to raise money for Desert Mission Food Bank during the next 10 days.

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.

“Arizona Pizza” added to new Fall menu at Famous 48 Local Kitchen & Bar

The Shops at Gainey Ranch’s Famous 48 Local Kitchen & Bar has announced several changes to its operation including adding Arizona Pizza to the menu. One of the new changes is that the restaurant will open at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sunday’s so football fans can catch all the action.

The 4 new Arizona Pizzas are 12 inch thin and crispy crusts and use a mozzarella and provolone cheese blend. A cauliflower crust is also available with the 4 pizzas being…..

·         Margherita. Grilled tomato, basil, extra virgin olive oil

·         The Famous 48. Pepperoni, sausage, onion

·         Nacho Mama. Ground beef, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, taco sauce, blend of cheddar-jack cheese, crumbled Nacho Cheese Doritos®

·         BBQ Chicken Pizza. BBQ Sauce, provolone, chicken, red onion, cilantro

“We like to keep our menus fresh and we’ll always offer Arizona favorites.  That’s the inspiration for the four pizzas on this new menu at Famous 48,” said Robert Wagner, executive chef, of Famous 48 and sister restaurant, Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers. “We aim to please and we’re happy the neighborhood enjoys our great food.”

With the new pizza’s come a special happy hour deal every Monday -Friday from 3 – 6 p.m. Guests can enjoy a Arizona Pizza and bottle of red or white house wine for only $25. To end your meal, they’ve also added a new option to a favorite dessert. The skillet cookie option of white chocolate macadamia, caramel sauce with vanilla bean ice cream joins a classic chocolate chip cookie skillet with vanilla ice cream.

Famous 48 is at 8989 N Scottsdale Rd #608, Scottsdale, AZ 85253. 480-941-0101. Check out their website for the full menu and more.

Maynard J Keenan expands kitchen & hires chef at Scottsdale tasting bar

With the success and popularity of his Merkin Vineyards Osteria and Merkin Pizza Wagon in Cottonwood, owner & winemaker Maynard J Keenan gave the go head to expand his Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale tasting room. Keenan also hired Executive Chef Steve Zimmerman to take the helm of the new Morello Forni Cupola Dome wood-fired oven, imported from Italy and revamp the menu.

“Our dishes feature ingredients grown in our Northern Arizona greenhouses, gardens, and orchards, and we supplement with produce sourced from local Arizona growers,” said Maynard J Keenan. “Merkin Vineyards farm-to-table, vine-to-glass concept is the cornerstone of our success, and it’s a concept we intend to continue developing.”

The award-winning Zimmerman comes to Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale after a career in hotel restaurant management in his home state of Missouri and most recently at Tres Kitchen & Bar ion Tempe. “He’s the perfect culinary artist for our vision,” states Keenan.

The menu at Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale

The new menu includes ingredients from Merkins farm, citrus grove and orchard in the Verde Valley with additional ingredients sourced from local vendors and artisan producers. The new menu changes on a regular basis and includes many seasonal ingredients for its pizzas, pasta, salads and more. The Classic Margarita Pizza, the Calabrian with chorizo, schinken, bacon, calabrian chiles, fig jam and fontina cheese and the Crucifixen, features Merkin farm cruciferous veggies, roasted garlic, Parmesan spread, fresh mozzarella and fontina cheeses are part of the core menu.

Lasagna Cupcakes, gnocchi and Cacio e Pepe shows off Zimmerman’s creativity and attention to detail. Appetizers, charcuterie and few desserts round out the menu which can be paired with any of Merkin Vineyards Four 8 Wineworks and Caduceus wines along with their mead, cider and Puscifer sparkling wine. To see what I’ve tasted on several visits to Merkin Vineyards Old Town check out my Instagram feed.

Merkin Vineyards is located at 7133 E. Stetson Dr. Scottsdale 85251. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information and to see the menu check out  merkinoldtownscottsdale.com.

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.

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.

Enjoy the dog days of summer with a new Trapp Dawg at Trapp Haus BBQ

The downtown Phoenix BBQ joint is offering 3 new all beef brisket hot dawgs for a limited time starting Monday August 2nd. These dawgs are available 7 days a week for $7.99 each. The Lou — topped with potato salad and crispy fried onions. The Jersey — topped with crispy potato and cheddar cheese sauce. The Village — topped with BBQ baked beans and jalapeño honey slaw.

Hearth ’61 Sunday Supper Club with guest chef Sean Currid

The Maple & Ash Executive Chef will join Chef Chuck Wiley’s team to create a 5-course menu paired with Australian wines from Barossa Valley selected by Mountain Shadows F & B manager Jim Gallen. Reservations  are required for the Sunday August 15th dinner that starts at 6 p.m. Seats are $149 ++ per person and can be made by calling 866-572-8774. To see the pairing menu visit their website.

Chompie’s hiring fair for new Phoenix location and other locations

All four valley locations and the soon to open north Phoenix location is looking to hire back & front of the house help. They are holding a 3 day job fair at the Embassy Suites at 4415 Paradise Village Pkwy S. Phoenix 85032. 80 employees are needed for the new location with additional employees needed to support the growth at other locations. The job fair is Monday, August 2nd 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 3rd 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. & Wednesday, August 4th 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Candidates should come prepared with a resume and be prepared to interview with hiring done on the spot.

Eat Up Drive- In is now open for lunch.

The fast casual Arcadia Lite restaurant that opened in March is now open for lunch and extended their hours 7 days a week from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. The restaurant features individual and family style meals for dine-in or to-go.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria to support the American Heart Assoc. in August

For all 31 days in August guests who donate $5 will get a $5 Bounce Back card to use at any Grimaldi’s nationwide (except To-Go locations in Austin TX & Scottsdale AZ and NYC, NJ & CT locations) until Dec. 31st 2022. Guests can donate up to $25 to get $25 Bounce Back per visit.

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.

Chino Bandido opens its new location

As featured in a March post, the locally owned Mexican, Asian & Jamaican fusion restaurant is now opened at its new Bell Rd. location. A larger kitchen and restaurant will be cranking out all the favorite dishes of the past 30 years.

Romeo’s Euro Cafe switches up calendar for Saturday dinner

The downtown Gilbert cafe has re-scheduled its weekly Thursday night dinner to tomorrow, Saturday July 10th. The 5-course dinner paired with wines will offer smaller versions off their everyday menu. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. and $39 plus tax and gratuity gets you a seat at the table. Call 480-962-4224 to make a reservation.

Pedal Haus Brewery helping to raise money for Show Low bike accident victims

The fundraiser takes place Saturday July 10th at the Tempe location at 6 a.m. for riders to get some much needed fuel (coffee & breakfast). The ride starts at 6:30 and the restaurant will open at 8:30 for the day. The local brewer is partnering with bicycle advocacy groups to raise money for victims of the June 19th accident when a truck drove into a group of 30 riders. 100% of the proceeds of Day Drinker Light Lager and 50% of the Bottomless Breakfast will be donated to the victims and their families. More information and to register can be found here. To make a donation click here.

Found:RE Hotel is Jamaican me crazy Saturday night

The 8th of its monthly Passport Series sets sail to the western Caribbean island. Match Market & Bar will become a tropical getaway from 6 -10 p.m. Saturday July 10th. Cuisine, cocktails and entertainment will be enjoyed for $15 including a cocktail. Collect stamps for your passport to win prizes and more. Register for the evening here.

Fired Pie celebrates 8 years with $8 specials on July 13th

All 21 locations are offering $8 Mac ‘N Cheese, Pizza and Salads for only $8 all day long. There is an up charge for cauliflower/gluten-free pizzas, limit one per customer and no 3rd party deliveries. For online ordering use promo code EIGHT.

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.