DeFalco’s Italian Deli

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Italian | Posted on 03-04-2011

0

Italian Beef DeFalco's

DeFalco’s is in my opinion one of the best places in the valley to get fresh Italian food to go.  I know that sounds like a little bit of a niche but it’s surprisingly hard to find good Italian food that doesn’t require you to dine out and pay a big tab.  DeFalco’s fills that void for me and they do it with their fresh ingredients (which you can purchase separately since this a grocery store as well).  Everything from the fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes to their huge slabs of prosciutto and capicola entice you as you walk through the door.

macaroni at defalcos

At first you will think this is more of an Italian grocer than a deli that produces quality meals because they load the front area with boxed pastas, sauces and fresh loaves of bread.  But you’d be missing out if you didn’t order one of their sandwiches, pizzas or pastas off the menu in the back.  This place makes some of the best sandwiches like their Cold Combo with ham, salami, pepperoni, mortadella and provolone. The sandwiches are filling almost all the time and they come in a pretty good size, but the ingredients are so good that you’ll be happy you have so much good food to work with.  I sometimes just pick apart the sandwich to enjoy each slice by themselves.

Cold Combo at DeFalco's

Now while the items they sell are certainly worth browsing, their back case with cheeses and prepared sides is a must visit.  Make your way back there and you’ll see why. Before you do however, note that if you do plan on sitting and eating there, DeFalco’s has a nice patio and you can buy a bottle of wine there from the huge selection along the walls to go with your meal.

DeFalco's Scottsdale

As you approach the case, you might be greeted by one of the staff but it honestly depends on who is working.  I’ve had good experiences in there where the guys behind the counter will chat it up with me, and I have had fair experiences where they’re slammed and they keep it business only.  But I’ve never had a bad experience in there and you can usually find someone to ask questions to if you’re interested in one of their many items.

Eggplant Parmesan Scottsdale AZ

On to the food.  Can I just say that their tomato sauce is amazing? I don’t care if you get a philly cheesesteak, you need to put some sauce on that sandwich. I’ve ordered it on the side many times and it winds up on all my food in the end.  This also means though that some of their pasta dishes are perfectly suited for that sauce.  Their ravioli and eggplant parmesan are some of the better dishes I’d recommend. Stay away from the gnocchi in my opinion because its a little boring and it costs a little more than others, but if you really want gnocchi then get it because you’ll get tons of sauce!

Peroni and Wine

Pizzas here are also a great choice, especially when you’re trying to spend a little less.  Their pizzas can feed 2 people easily for $10 (White Pizza) and they’re delicious. Honestly their pizza might be the way to go if you’re looking to carry out because they’re a huge meal and you can get a 6 pack of Peroni to go with it. This time however I couldn’t say no to the Italian Beef sandwich with fried peppers and onions served next to au jus.  It was pretty good and definitely a filling meal which went perfect with a beer. Jeff got the Cold Combo because he can’t ever stray from that sandwich and Becky went with the eggplant parmesan which is also a great value.

Italian Beef DeFalco's

If you’re looking for a good meal that will fill you up and you want something fresh, I would recommend taking a trip down to DeFalco’s.  You’ll enjoy the food no matter what you order and you’ll probably walk out of there with a new favorite dish.

Tip: DeFalco’s sells bags of their pizza dough for $2 which work great with their other items you can buy for making pizza at home.

http://defalcosdeli.com/

2334 N Scottsdale Road, Suite 133A
Scottsdale, Arizona 85257

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Italian | Posted on 19-11-2010

1

Sausage and Basil at Grimaldi's

If you’re looking for good pizza in Scottsdale or Phoenix, you have options. There are a number of places that have great pizza by the slice (Ray’s being one of my old favorites) and quite a few that offer some artisan pizzas (think more Picazzo’s) but there are only a handful of places that have must-try pizza. I’d say Pizzeria Bianco and Pomo are two of those must-try places. This week I went to Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in Old Town Scottsdale because I’ve been itching to go for a while and I wanted to see if they rank in that last category. What I got was some damn good pizza but completely different than Bianco or Pomo in some ways. Here’s the rundown of what we tested.

Grimaldi's

Grimaldi’s menu offers base pizzas that you can choose toppings for instead of preselected combinations. They have a basic tomato sauce recipe, white sauce with garlic recipe, and a pesto pizza to choose from. We went with a large basic tomato sauce pizza and added sausage and basil. Toppings range from $2 to $4 and the waitress said a large feeds 4-5 people (we beg to differ). There were 3 of us and we all had different ideas for toppings, so we agreed that Becky choose the salad and Jeff and I choose the toppings. She went with the Antipasto (large). For drinks, Becky and I opted for the house wines that are only $4 a glass. Too good of a deal to pass up.

Menu

Wine came out first and the red I ordered was decent enough (hey…$4!) to sip while we waited. Becky’s Pinot Grigio was way too sweet for me but that’s what she prefers. Our Antipasto came out next and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I was thinking it would look like Oregano’s style of antipasto but it came out with no lettuce and wasn’t mixed together. It did however have a side plate of about 10 bruschettas that are intended to hold the different items, so I was happy to have antipasto sandwiches. Mixed with a little balsamic and olive oil, it was a decent starter to the meal.

Grimaldi's Antipasto

As we waited for the pizza, I read a little history about the place and learned that they have someone put minerals in their water to make it taste like the water in New York City. I’ve heard stories about shop owners claiming this is what makes all the difference but I had never seen someone intentionally recreate the water. Pretty cool to me! They also use coal to fire the oven and cook the pies, which gives a crispier crust than wood fired or gas ovens most times. Our’s came out and it was crispier for sure, but not so crispy that it turned into a cracker-like thin crust (I’m looking at you Oregano’s).

Sausage and Basil

The sausage and basil combination was a hit. Together with their sauce and fresh mozzarella it was like a Margherita pizza with Italian sausage. The pie was pretty good size too, but for some reason it just wasn’t filling enough to justify it’s 4-5 person claim. However, every bite was delicious and I was impressed with the bite to the tomato sauce. That can make or ruin a pizza to me so I was happy to see they nailed a good recipe.

Pumpkin Pie at Grimaldi's

After the pizza left us feeling slightly full but not packed, the waitress told us they had a seasonal cheesecake made with pumpkin and Becky and I looked at each other with that expression that says “I want it but I’m gonna let you make the call”.  I nodded and the waitress came back with a good sized slice.  It was fantastic!  It had a great consistency to it so when I ran a fork through it the fork would sort of glide through with little push back.  And it tasted amazing, I’d have to say it was equally as good as the pizza which was the main reason we came.

Bar at Grimaldi's

Other than that, the whole experience was fun. The Old Town Scottsdale location is a bit cramped partly because they put all the tables next to each other with the seat backs almost touching, but with the kitchen in open view and a bar alongside the wall the ambiance is good. They also have a large patio and separate rooms for groups or banquets. I’d say this is a good weekday destination but weekends can be a little too crowded for me.

Grimaldi’s is a solid choice if you’re looking for better than average pizza but I’m hesitant to say they rank up there with the Bianco’s and Pomo’s of the Valley. That said, they still deserve a visit because they’re passionate about their pizza and it shows through in the end.

Tip: Get dessert! They have cannolis and cheesecake and including the ones I saw at other tables, they all looked good.

http://www.grimaldispizzeria.com/


4000 N Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

‘Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Italian | Posted on 12-10-2010

3

I would say that I border on the ‘obsessed’ side of things when it comes to pizza.  I’ve taken the time and money to make my own pizza oven at home, I’ve spent countless dollars searching the valley for the best pizza, and I’ve even had my picture on the wall at Ray’s pizza in Scottsdale because I was there every other day.  I’m afraid to go look back at my expenses and see what percentage was spent on pizza, but I know it would be substantial.  That said, I am still very open to trying all kinds of pizza but my favorite has always been Pizza Napoletana or a more traditional style. ‘Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana in the Scottsdale Borgata serves this style and in my opinion hits all the right notes.

Oven at Pomo

Doing some research on the place before I visited, I found out that pretty much everything at ‘Pomo is straight from Naples even including the oven they cook with.  The huge brick oven was transported over from Italy to ‘Pomo in order to maintain that authentic taste and because the ones they could buy here just weren’t good enough.  So if they are going through the trouble of shipping an oven, you would expect them to only use authentic ingredients as well.  You’d be right.  The tomatoes they use are San Marzanos, grown in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius near Naples with a stronger taste than Romas.  The cheese is mozzarella di bufala (made from buffalo’s milk instead of cow’s) shipped over from Naples weekly.  The list goes on and on, but the point is that you should come to ‘Pomo expecting the best because that is what you will be served.

Pomo Exterior

Arriving at ‘Pomo in their castle shaped building on Friday night, the place was packed and I was worried we were in for a Pizzeria Bianco type wait.  After all, this pizza had the promise of stacking up to Bianco so I had anticipated some buzz about the place.  However, the wait was only 20 minutes and we were offered drinks while we waited.  I think the main reason for the time difference though was due to just sheer size of the place.  Compared to Bianco’s small brick house in downtown Phoenix, this place really was a castle.  As we waited, we looked around and saw a separate bar where people were sitting in front of some TVs and an espresso machine but had food in front of them.  But then, we saw the perfect place to sit right in front of the cooks next to the oven, with only five chairs all facing the kitchen. Jackpot.

Birra Moretti at Pomo

The guys working the pizzas were amazing to watch.  They had this down to a science and anticipated each other’s moves knowing exactly when to add a topping or slide over to top it with olive oil.  During every pizza the master pizzaiolo watched, adjusted or stepped in to add some finishing touches.  It was great to also watch how fast these pizzas cooked.  The oven gets up to 950 F and one pizza only takes about 60-90 seconds.  While we were watching, we ordered bruschetta to start which also goes into the oven.  Two large pieces came out loaded with diced tomatoes and I have to say it was pretty good.  Nothing too special here, but definitely a good starter that went well with some Birra Moretti.

Bruschetta

At last (only about 5 mins after we ordered) our pizzas came out and they had the perfect crispiness with that smoked bottom crust.  My friend Jeff (the photographer) decided to go with the Don Alfonso which was a combination of Italian sausage and salami with roasted bell peppers over the usual San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella.  I tried a piece and the first thing I noticed was the sauce. Wow.  Something so simple as crushed tomatoes can taste so good when the right ingredients are used, and that pretty much sums up pizza Napoletana for me.

Don Alfonso Pizza at Pomo

My friend Becky went with the ‘Pomo: Italian sausage, roasted bell peppers, mushrooms and onions over the same sauce and cheese.  This pizza was equally as good in my opinion and again the crust was perfect.  I decided to order the ‘Parma which had prosciutto, fresh arugula and shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese over the sauce with mozzarella as well.  This one was by far the best of the three and very narrowly beat a similar dish at Pizzeria Bianco in my mind. Yes I said it, it beat Bianco!  The Parma had a great bite to it from the arugula and the prosciutto was tasty.  I’d say it was one of the better meals I’ve had this year.

Parma Pizza at Pomo

Overall, ‘Pomo puts most of their focus on the fresh and imported ingredients and it shows through in their pizza.  As for the other menu items, they have a selection of salads and paninis that looked good (benefit of sitting in front of the kitchen) and a surprisingly large dessert menu that you can pair with coffee or espresso from the bar.  The atmosphere is fun and would be a good place for a date, but come for the pizza at least once.

Tip: Weekends can be busy here but they do take reservations so be sure to plan ahead.

http://pomopizzeria.com/

Borgata 6166 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ

Queen Creek Olive Mill

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Italian | Posted on 22-09-2010

6

Olive Mill Kalamata

Up for an adventure? Look no further than the Olive Mill in Queen Creek.  Yes, it is a stretch for most people living in the valley but the drive on a Saturday or Sunday is quick with no real traffic.  Plus, once you hear what they offer you’ll only be thinking about the food and drink all the way there.

Arriving at the Olive Mill you’ll park in front of a large building just off a dirt road alongside some farm land (already feeling far away from the city).  As you walk around you’ll be greeted by a busy patio with misters, music and people enjoying their meals with a bottle of wine or some fresh lemonade.  The whole patio lined with olive trees just relaxes you immediately and it feels a bit like Europe.  Before we went in, we decided to walk the olive grove and sit on some of the benches provided.  It was calming sitting underneath the shade of olive trees and not hearing the usual buzz of traffic or sirens, but I had my mind on food as always and those people with wine were making me jealous.

Menu at Olive Mill

Stepping inside the main building you’re greeted with another distraction before you can get to the counter to order food: wine, olive oils and a large number of tapenades with samples.  Anytime I see samples my feet move themselves in that direction (Costco being my favorite store for this very reason).  They had all kinds of tapenades to try with ingredients like artichokes, Asiago cheese, jalapeños and other local items.  They had olives stuffed with oregano and feta and others with jalapeños and Mexican lime.  You can easily spend 10 minutes just browsing the store and trying items.  They also have staff walking around to answer questions or tell you a little more about each item.

olives

However, we finally made it to the counter and I ordered their Kalamata sandwich which was picked by Chef Beau MacMillan on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  After all, it’s not often you get to try something featured on the show.  The Kalamata had Italian and kalamata salami, capicola, herb roasted tomatoes, provolone, red onions, greens and a balsamic herb spread on a grilled baguette.  It was delicious and even more enjoyable on the patio with some lemonade and the misters hitting my back.  Becky went with the Frantoio, a grilled panini with mozzarella, tomatoes, pesto and a balsamic reduction that looked good too.

Frantoio Sandwich at Olive Mill

Other than sandwiches, the menu has a very impressive offering of salads, bruschettas, antipastos and dessert.  They even have a great selection of beer, bottled and on draft.  Basically they have everything to make you happy you drove out to Queen Creek.  I would definitely suggest making the trip out on the weekend sometime but make sure you bring some friends to share a good bottle of wine with too.

Tip: The Olive Mill offers tours of the grounds for just $5 where you can see and learn a bit more.

http://queencreekolivemill.com/

25062 S. Meridian Road
Queen Creek, AZ 85242