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.
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.
Steve & Maria Winters and David & Debi Henry have been friends and colleagues for over 25 years before they decided to open Vicinos Local Italian together in early 2020. They have over 100 years of restaurant experience and it shows in their hospitality whether you’re joining them for a meal or a glass of wine. “Vicino” means “neighbor” and it’s like they’re welcoming you into their home at their north Scottsdale restaurant.
Open 7 days a week at 11 a.m. for lunch, happy hour and dinner Vicinos Local Italian, formerly Vito’s, keeps it simple serving classic Italian dishes and pizzas made fresh and with the highest quality of ingredients. The restaurant re-opened in mid- September with a new menu and a few of David’s favorites are Fettuccine Alla Bolognese, Pork Chop, any of the hand stretched pizzas, Bruschetta Burrata & the Calamari Fritti.
A reasonably priced and extensive wine list with selections from around the world will complement any meal. Tuesdays and Wednesdays guests can enjoy a bottle of wine for half off any bottle priced at $50 or less. On Monday’s guests who dine-in get a free appetizer with 2 entrees. Happy Hour is offered 7 days a week from 3 p.m.- 6:30 Tuesday – Saturday and all day Sunday and Monday.
Catering at the restaurant or in the comfort of your own home, delivery & pick up is available. Vicinos Local Italian is at 10999 Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. Scottsdale 85259. (480)664-8260. To view the menu and for more information visit their website.
Arcadia’s Nook Kitchen has re-opened this week with a new menu from Chef Nick LaRosa. The restaurant moved to a new larger location along Indian School Road in December and was humming along as it did at the old location when Covid- 19 broke out. They did take out until several nearby restaurants were hit with the virus and owner Frank Vairo and partners decided to close for the summer.
Nicholas Winger, managing partner, said: “We can’t wait to welcome back our guests. We are operating with limited-seating and dining socially distanced due to pandemic regulations, so we encourage reservations, especially with our small dining room. It fills up quickly.”
What’s on the menu from Chef Nick LaRosa
With the opening comes a new menu of Italian favorites with a modern twist from LaRosa. House made pastas and fresh ingredients are on the menu such as Casarecce Bolognese for meat lovers and Veggie Campanelle for vegetarians. Napolitano styled pizzas are still coming out of the pizza oven along with entrees such as pan-seared salmon, a double bone-in pork chop and the Nook Burger.
LaRosa was champion of the Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2017 and has earned other local accolades.
“We’re excited and want to shout from the rooftops that ‘we’re back!’ ” LaRosa said. “And we’re really happy to be back, too. The time off has given us the opportunity to add new menu items, plus fantastic desserts and still focus on the dishes we know our patrons love. “The specialness of our food is Italian with a twist. If you want to eat hearty, we’ve got it. If you’d rather eat light, we’ve got that too in spades.”
The menu also includes appetizers including Brussel Chips, Aracini and more. Exciting new desserts include a gelato flight from Cool Gelato and Nook’s version of Affogatto. Sommelier Matthew Wohleb has created a new and old world wine list to compliment the cuisine and mixoligist Gabe Chavez mixes up the cocktail program.
Nook Kitchen opens Wednesday thru Sunday at 5 p.m. and is at 4231 E. Indian School R. Phoenix 85018.
If you haven’t made your way to Mora Italian yet like me, their new happy hour menu might convince you to head there today. Monday – Friday from 4-6 p.m. you can save some dough on pork ribs, veal meatballs, salumi & cheese and more.
For $20 choose from combos including a Rimini pizza or Salumi Board with a bottle of rose or a carafe of an Aperol Spritz.
Cocktails are also included on the new menu including Sangria & Aperol Spritz for $5, an Americano for $7 and more.
Mora Italian new summer dishes
Celebrity chef & restaurateur lends his culinary creativity to Mora Italian and is showcased in three new dishes for summer. Chef Matt Taylor and his team execute the menus in the kitchen. These new dishes are perfect for lighter and cooler summer dining.
Artichoke Soup with truffle, Parmesan bread and pignoli.
10 oz. Prime Niman Ranch NY Strip with charred potato panzanella and grilled ramp vinaigrette.
Roasted Summer Squash with smoked yogurt, Feta and neonata.
The Phoenix restaurant offers guests a modern osteria experience with Neopolitan pizzas, pasta dishes, satisfying entrees and delicious desserts. Progressive cocktails and a wine list round out the experience.
Mora Italian is at 5651 N. 7th St. Phoenix 85014. (602)795-9943
Stefano Fabbri, owner of popular Phoenix restaurants Mora Italian and Pomo Pizzeria announced he’s opening a new restaurant, Meat the Ball. The full-service restaurant will open Thursday March 21st at the Biltmore Fashion Park.
The menu will include an impressive line-up of meatballs made with sausage, veal, salmon and more. In addition to meatballs the restaurant will offer appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts.
“I’m thrilled to introduce Meat the Ball, a mini restaurant with a big personality centered on the quintessential meatball and its street food friends. We will have authentic recipes prepared with locally sourced and organic products to celebrate today’s healthy dining, Italian style,” says Fabbri.
The 1,500 square foot restaurant will look like a 50’s style diner and decorated with pop-art and a retro theme.
Meat the Ball will be open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Biltmore Fashion Park is at 2502 E. Camelback Rd. Phoenix 85016. For more information visit their website.
I reported in May the owners of Clever Koi we’re opening Fellow Osteria and Pizzeria in Scottsdale. Today is opening day and the foodies in south Scottsdale couldn’t be happier. Fellow Osteria joins New York Bagels & Bialys and Bitters Bar and Food at Skysong at Scottsdale and McDowell Rd.
Born & Raised Hospitality partners Joshua James and Nicholas Campisano realized the potential the south Scottsdale neighborhood has with the new development going on. Townhouses along McDowell Rd. and a revitalized Papago Plaza coming soon this popular neighborhood needed good dining options.
The menu was designed by chef Claudio Urciuloli of Pa’la and offers a taste of the Italian countryside. Sourcing rustic pasta grains to a garden out front the partners have gone to great lengths with this ambitious project.
The all day eatery will offer food, wine, beer and craft cocktails with coffee and ice cream from Sweet Republic.
I will be visiting Fellow Osteria next week and you can follow me on Instagram @SandyWass to see what’s up.
Fellow Osteria is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
One the heels of the successful opening of The Sicilian Butcher, chef Joey Maggiore and wife Cristina of The Maggiore Group have announced a 2nd location in Chandler. The new location is scheduled to open in December and will be at Primegate at Fashion Center. The Maggiore’s were impressed with modern architecture of Primegate that fits with their classic Italian and modern concept.
“In addition to the incredible location, what really drew me to PRIMEGATE over other possibilities was that the architecture and setting was unlike anything else we’d seen. I thought about how positively that would reflect our brand too,” Maggiore said. “This is a rare project where we have the chance to create a banner location that will generate buzz in the community. We will be able to provide a top-notch neighborhood experience for our customers, whether they are lunching out, dining in or taking out, all in a high-end, high exposure destination.”
The Sicilian Butcher decor
The 4,600 square foot restaurant features roll-up doors that leads to a large outdoor patio for dining and lounge area. Water features and art create a lively and energetic atmosphere for guests stopping in for a drink or staying for a meal.
A signature Build-Your-Cannoli Bar
The Sicilian Butcher in Chandler will be the first to feature a build-your-own cannoli bar in the market. The line forms behind me because cannoli is one of my favorite desserts.
Similarly the northeast Phoenix restaurant is known for its fresh made in-house pastas and charcuterie boards along with craft meatballs. The food at The Sicilian Kitchen combines a modern twist with old world traditions. Guests can expect the same when the new restaurant opens in Chandler.
The restaurant will offer to-go meals and a marketplace and will serve classic Italian wines.
The Sicilian Kitchen is the fourth concept of the family owned Maggiore Group with restaurants in Phoenix & San Diego. The others are Hash Kitchen, Tomaso’s When in Rome and the Phoenix classic Tomaso’s which opened in 1977.
The Sicilian Kitchen at Primegate will be at 3151 W. Frye Rd. Chandler 85226. For more information visit their website.
Long time Phoenix restaurateur Tomaso Maggiore of Tomaso’s knows his way around the kitchen and dining room after serving guests since 1977. He also knows what wine goes well with his authentic Italian specialties coming from his kitchen. On Saturday August 25th he will share his culinary knowledge as he prepares a 4-course dinner that pairs his food with wine inspired by his Sicilian upbringing.
Tomaso’s wine pairing menu
The dinner will start at 6:30 p.m. with a reception as guests arrive with dinner starting at 7. Guests will dine on…..
Swordfish Braciola with seafood and zucchini blossom couscous paired with Monte Olimpo- Chardonnay Insolia blend.
Veal with wild mushrooms & truffle ravioli paired with Monte Olimpo – Cabernet Sauvignon Nero d’ Avola blend.
Grilled Prime Bistecca a la Siciliana with Sicilian croquettes and grilled asparagus paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mixed Berry cake with Peachello.
The dinner costs $80 ++ per person with reservations being made by calling 602-956-0836. For more information visit http://tomasos.com
Tomaso’s is at 32235 E. Camelback Rd. Phoenix 85018
Scottsdale’s Crust neighborhood Italian eatery closed the doors on the original location on Indian Bend recently. Come August owner Michael Merendino opens the flagship restaurant a mile up Hayden Rd. to 3,500 square foot location in the hip Mercado de Lago retail center.
The larger, state of-the-art location will offer guests a welcoming atmosphere as they enjoy the same delicious east coast Italian food Crust has offered over the years. An outdoor patio is expected to be popular as is the 25 seat bar where diners will enjoy an extensive wine and beer list from around the world along with a hand crafted cocktail menu.
Merendino will continue to be community minded with the Crust Cares program and thanks the community for their continued support.
If you can’t wait for the new Scottsdale location to open check out their downtown Chandler location at 10 San Marcos Pl. 85225.
Crust will be at 8300 N. Hayden Rd. Suite F101. Scottsdale 85258. For more information see their website.