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Jun 29, 2006 03:00 AM

Review: Cibo Urban Pizzeria - Phoenix (w/ photos!)

I love old houses. Not just any old house, but the grand old houses that were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There is something so classy about them. Since most of the time you only get to admire then from the outside, I have been very pleased to see that some restaurateurs have opened up shop in some of the old homes in downtown Phoenix.

I loved my trip to Circa 1900 and am looking forward to a future visit to Pizzeria Bianco, both of which are housed in some great old homes in Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix. Another restaurant in downtown Phoenix that has taken up residence in an old home is Cibo Urban Pizzeria.

Dave and I were looking for a nice spot of Italian food and a new experience, so we headed down to 5th Avenue and found our way to Cibo. It sat right on the corner of 5th Avenue and Fillmore and we were lucky enough to grab a parking spot on the street just across the way from the entrance. We walked onto the property and noticed that there was a fair amount of outdoor seating available, but it being so warm out, we opted to sit indoors.

We entered and the place was bursting at the seams with people. A very pleasant host took our name and invited us to sit at the bar and have a drink while we waited for a table. We ordered up two Diet Cokes ($1.50 each) and took in the scenery. The interior has some muted decorations and art, but for the most part, Cibo was relying on the natural beauty of the floors and walls and moldings to entice the eye. Unfortunately, the noise level was horribly high.

About 10 minutes passed and we were taken to a side room where we were seated at a small table by the window. We were presented with menus and waited for our server. As we waited, I noticed that the noise was not abating and, in fact, was getting much worse. The problem was that there was nothing to absorb any of the sound. The walls were devoid of anything that would take the edge off the sound. The floor was bare and the ceiling was lacking any decorative touches that could have pulled some of the noise away.

Our server arrived and we ordered two more Diet Cokes (another $1.50 each as the Diet Coke was served in small 8-ounce bottles and each is billed). We reviewed the menu and I liked the selections. Dave did as well. After a few moments, our server returned with our drinks and we ordered. Dave decided to start with the Pesto Salad ($8.00) and I went with the House Salad ($7.00). For our entrees, Dave saw the Calzone ($12.00) on the menu and jumped at the chance. I wanted a pizza and chose the Tricolore Pizza ($13.00).

Our server left to place our order and I could tell that even after just 15 minutes at the table, the noise was beginning to wear on Dave. It was beginning to take its toll on me as well. Dave and I were on the verge of using sign language to communicate.

The salads we ordered were brought to the table and we dove right in. Dave’s Pesto Salad was a mix of organic greens with pieces of potatoes, tomatoes and pine nuts. This was all tossed with a pesto dressing and then topped with shaved Parmesan cheese. He said the salad was fresh, delicious and full of flavor. However, Dave felt the portion size for the amount charged was lacking.

My House Salad was quite good. The organic greens I had were tossed with tomato, onion, red bell pepper, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and dressed with a sweet and tangy balsamic vinegrette. I was very pleased with my salad. Like Dave’s, everything was fresh and the ingredients were top shelf. I loved the contrast of flavors. I did concur with Dave that the portion size was miniscule for the cost, organic or not.

We had another round of sodas and waited for our entrees to arrive. At this point, the noise got decidedly greater when the last table in the area was filled. Things had gone from uncomfortable to excruciating and I was praying for a break from the noise, even if just to catch our breath. Thankfully, a man at a table behind us made a very loud comment which brought the noise to a halt. Alas, it only lasted a short moment before everyone was again straining to hear each other.

Our entrees arrived and I was impressed with Dave’s Calzone. It looked like a big, puffy ball of dough stuffed with goodies. However, once Dave cut his first bite, the ball deflated and I was disappointed by how little substance there was once the air escaped. The dough was rather thin, I thought. The calzone itself was filled with a mixture of ricotta, sauce, salami, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. Dave said the calzone had a great taste, but the dough was a mess. He kept trying to cut it with a serrated knife and it was putting up quite a battle. I tried to cut a piece and well and it seemed like the dough had become a leather shoe once Dave released the trapped air.

My Tricolore Pizza looked great. I grabbed a slice and thought it was excellent. The combination of air-cured beef, arugula, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese was outstanding. Thankfully, the crust on my pizza was crisp and slightly chewy and suited the pizza well. The pizza could have used a bit more cheese and a little less arugula, but that was a personal preference. As Dave struggled with his calzone, I was happy to be munching on my pizza.

A photo of the Tricolore Pizza can be found here:

We finished the dishes and our server took our dessert order. We couldn’t pass up homemade crepes, so we decided to get the Orange Suzette Crepe ($7.00) and the Nutella and Mascarpone Crepe ($6.00). As we waited for our desserts, several tables departed from the restaurant and we finally had a substantial break from the noise.

About 10 minutes elapsed and our server returned with two plates. Setting one aside, she set the Orange Suzette Crepe down, poured a shot of Grand Marnier on it and set it aflame. Moments later, the flame was gone and Dave and I dove in. It was okay. Not great. Not horrible. Just okay. The crepe was tender, and I could taste a slight orange flavor, but I tasted alcohol more than anything else. Lacking was the orange marmalade that was listed on the menu. Sadly, this didn’t impress me at all.

On the other hand, the Nutella and Mascarpone Crepe was amazing. The crepe was filled with Nutella and mascarpone cheese, both of which had melted enough to form a gooey mess that was heavenly. A drizzle of chocolate sauce on the top and some powered sugar and this thing put a big smile on our faces. We all but licked the plate on this one.

Our server returned with our bill. The total was $63.78 including tax. Dave and I did not think this was a particularly good value. Between the overpriced salads and the charge for each “refill” of soda, our bill seemed pretty high for pizza and salad. The service was very good and we had no complaints.

I am really not sure where I stand with Cibo. The pizza, salad and Nutella dessert were great, but I was genuinely concerned about some of the cost and, particularly, the noise. This was probably the loudest restaurant I have ever visited in Phoenix.

If I was invited to dinner and someone asked me to go to Cibo, I think I would go. However, I would have to be assured that Cibo was honoring the Geneva Convention regarding the use of noise as an instrument of torture.

Cibo Urban Pizzeria
603 North 5th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Dress: Casual
Notes: Parking is limited, so grab a spot on the street. The noise level can be extremely high.
Other photos for this review can be found at

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  1. Visited Cibo last night since a friend really wanted to try it.. she had never been. I will say that at 7:30 on a Saturday night, although prepared to wait, we were seated in 10 minutes or less(they had estimated 25min - 1 hr). We started with a 29$ bottle of white chardonnay that we both really enjoyed.

    We split the antipasto salad, which was about 12$. We got the small, I cannot begin to imagine how monstrous the large would be. The antipasto was very good, albeit very American. i am still in search of the truly italian antipasti.

    for dinner we got a rustica pizza and a capricossa, and we asked for ricotta on one of them. They were out of ricotta. They also informed us they were out of mushrooms.. so we subbed in balsalmic onions.

    Both pizzas were ok. I was as usual underwhemed with both, but the white pizza was the better of the two, mostly due to the crust and arugula. The red pizza was really only okay, and the crust was just soggy as anything.

    We ended up taking home all but a slice of two of each pizza, and the bill was about 50$ including tip (but not the wine, we got that at the bar separately).

    When we left, I deliberately said little, but my friend asked as we got into the car, "did you think that was great food? it was just ok, right?"
    "i NEVER think cibo is great food. its fine. its not horribly priced and its not horrible tasting. but it is not good tasting or well priced."

    that said, service there is lovely and i find it to be a cute place. if you're about atmosphere, or a place just to drink, i think it would be great.

    1. HZP, that's a fair assessment of Cibo. I enjoy it but it's never something I MUST have.

      They do have great dessert crepes though.

      1. I like Cibo a lot. But, it's of course no Classic Italian, or Bianco. It's not incredible or "amazing" food, however, I would definitely still place it high above mediocre. And, worth return trips. Cibo can often be a nice alternative, for a low-key evening out.

        Despite it being a fairly small restaurant, I will also say it's nice you don't often have to wait more than 10-15 mins for a table, even during the busiest of times.

        And, I agree about the crepes--it's hit and miss. Some of the options are worthy of praise, while others don't seem to deserve any.

        1. you konw, we were so stuffed by crepe time, we didn't try them. perhaps we'll go there for a drink sometime and a dessert. like i said, the atmosphere is lovely.

          1. im so sorry people didn't love cibo!! personally, i love the place...altho, i will admit, i go for lunch or sit outside..i've never sat inside for an evening meal.

            i've had another friend who has gotten pizza he called 'soggy', and refuses to go back. i've never had that issue. i wouldn't order their salmon pizza again, but the same salmon on their lunch sandwhich was stellar...

            its my fav dessert spot on the weekends..i always get the same thing - prosecco and the nutella crepes...