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

Seth Chadwick Jun 29, 2006 03:00 AM

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: http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c208/sethchadwick/cibotricolorepizza.jpg

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.
Website: www.cibophoenix.com
Other photos for this review can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com

  1. mamamia Nov 9, 2007 01:58 PM

    We went about a month ago with our youngest who is 11 months old. Yes, we went right at opening so we wouldn't be THOSE PEOPLE who showed up with a baby and ruined your fun night out. But since I always have my kid-friendly antennae up, I wanted to mention that they have a high chair on hand in case anyone wants to take a little one.

    When the owner's wife offered it up, I commented with something like, "Wow. I wouldn't expect you to have a high chair." Her response was great: "Hey, I'm a grandma."

    P.S. But don't ask for milk. They don't have it. :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: mamamia
      silverbear Nov 9, 2007 02:43 PM

      Thanks for sharing that detail. Lack of a high chair doesn't necessarily stop us from bringing our own 11-month-old along (We sometimes bring our own seat converter), but a high chair on the premises is always a welcoming sign.

    2. c
      chazzwags Nov 8, 2007 05:33 AM

      I agree with you, Seth...Cibo is unique, and definitely one-of-a-kind. I didnt get to experience the noise level that you noticed, since we came on a Wednesday night, but I do have a few "comments" of my own.

      First of all...the wine list. They do have a good selection of wines, but I was a little disappointed with the quality. The Salice Salentino Riserva ($22/bottle) was comparable to most box wines, with flat texture and bad aftertaste. I just thought the price was a little high for this type of wine. I expect to pay at least $20 for a somewhat decent bottle at most restaurants, but this one just didnt cut it. Although we didn't try any of the other wines, it seemed to me that the owner's were trying a little too hard to compete with some of the higher-end restaurants, pricewise.

      Second, the pizza was just OK. Nothing special, and priced about average. We had the Capricossa and the pizza diavola...both priced at about $12. The ingredients were fresh, and the pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven, so the taste was good...but just average compared to some of the other local pizzerias.

      Overall, i give Cibo a 5 out of 10. It has a cool atmosphere...we sat on the patio, which was nice. I just feel that the food is lacking something...and the wine list needs to be simplified. Would I go here again? Sure...I give everything a second chance.

      Service: good
      Price: average
      Food: average
      atmosphere: Good

      2 Replies
      1. re: chazzwags
        Ed Dibble Nov 9, 2007 08:25 AM

        I suspect your bottle of Salice Salentino was corked or perhaps poorly stored. It's never an outstanding wine, but it's usually a full flavored Italian rustic red, much better than box wines or 2 buck chuck.

        ed

        1. re: chazzwags
          hohokam Nov 9, 2007 08:50 AM

          My reaction to Cibo on my first and, so far, only visit was also lukewarm.

          The pizza tasted good, but within a 2" radius of the center of the pie, the crust was horribly soggy, from the sauce and/or from being undercooked. The service was good, and I thought the prices were fair, but I wasn't in any way wowed by the experience.

          That said, I'm certainly willing to give them another chance now that the weather is finally starting to break.

        2. m
          Max Fischer Jan 17, 2007 05:02 AM

          It's funny to hear that the food at Cibo isn't 'Italian enough' when Chef Guido has been in the states for only a few years, coming from Italia.

          I agreee, Cibo has great food and even better service. I agree, it can get quite loud, and I don't know how they can fix that without sacrificing looks for sound panels?

          I used to go to Biancos, but jesh, who can wait two to three hours for a table? Seriously. That's just silly.

          I had my brother's birthday party at Cibo, and it was great. The service was top notch, and they went out of their way to keep us comfotable.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Max Fischer
            h
            hzp Jan 17, 2007 01:57 PM

            I am critical because I spend a fair amt of time each year in Italy. I am always about finding really good authentic italian stateside, and Cibo is okay, but it's not on the same continent as real Italian food, no matter what part of the boot the chef is from. The pizza certainly isn't true Italian pizza, the antipasti isn't even close. That doesn't mean either is bad, it just means that its what I call, "American Italian". And frankly, its what Americans expect at an Italian place, which is why they serve it up.

            I have no tolerance for Biancos. I'm sorry, I don't care how good the food is, service is always part of my experience as a diner, and a three hour wait is simply rude, to me. Put a reservation system in place.

            1. re: hzp
              m
              Max Fischer Jan 19, 2007 07:28 AM

              HZP,

              Gotcha, I understand what you're saying. I have not been to Italy yet, so I cannot speak to the food there. I do really enjoy Cibo, but that has a great deal to do with the outstanding service there.

              I am with you 100% about Biancos. My older brother thinks that place is the second coming of Jesus, but I am won't wait for anything for three hours. That is just insane. I almost think people are doing that just so they can tell everyone they ate there... Puh-lease..

          2. tastyjon Jan 17, 2007 02:40 AM

            One of my fave places in central PHX was next door... Terra's Garden. Yeah, it's not an eatery, but they served coffee and shared parking. Plus it was a fantastic, magical place.

            Terra got fed up with the city and sold the place to someone planning a restaurant. I'm not sure if it's the Cibo folks, but it would be nice to see them or a simialr place take over the corner.

            Regardless, between them, they'll have something special on that block.

            1. b
              Bottlecap Jan 16, 2007 05:56 PM

              I absolutely LOVE Cibo. The Rustica pizz is my favorite, and their beer selection always has an interesting seasonal choice on there worth trying. However, their major selling point is their fantastic service. Recently, a large group of us went on a Saturday ... and they sat us in the main room. The owner was worried that it was a little tight for me to get into my seat (and i'm not even that tall), i suggested (jokingly) that she make it up to me by buying me a beer ... and she did!

              I will visit Cibo any chance i get. Liking Cibo takes nothing away from Bianco.

              1. a
                AineO Jan 12, 2007 06:19 PM

                I absoluetly love Cibo, its my favorite restaurant in the valley and I eat there regularly. The pizza is delicious in my opinion and there is no substitute for the level of friendly service we receive every time we walk in their front door. The atmosphere is wonderful-I've never had issue with noise, even around the busy holiday period and everyone I've brought there has left with a favorable impression and a wish to return. To each their own but having waited for 2 hours for a bar seat at Pizzeria Bianco(where I have to admit the pizza is amazing)and having tried numerous other pizza places in the valley, I prefer to go where I'm seated within 20 mins no matter what day of the week it is, I'm made to feel welcome and the food is incredible.

                3 Replies
                1. re: AineO
                  silverbear Jan 13, 2007 12:47 AM

                  I agree with the preference for seating within 20 minutes, and for that reason I don't bother with Bianco anymore. I can't say I dislike Cibo, but I just find the food and service at Classic Italian Pizza in Tempe to be a notch above. Unfortunately, Classic Italian recently stopped serving lunch, making my visits there much less frequent.

                  1. re: silverbear
                    a
                    AineO Jan 14, 2007 06:24 PM

                    I'm definitely going to have to try out Classic Italian soon, problem is I live so far from Tempe but for good pizza I'll travel!

                    1. re: AineO
                      Grey Jan 14, 2007 06:32 PM

                      Yes, you shouldn't be disappointed. In my eyes, some of the best pizza in the Phoenix area, probably second only to our nearly sainted Pizzeria Bianco. The atmosphere is unfussy and comfortable, service always friendly. The food is definitely the main focus at Classic Italian Pizza.

                2. silverbear Jan 9, 2007 01:11 AM

                  My experience at Cibo has also been that it's adequate but nothing special. My guess is that Cibo is actually thriving as second fiddle compared to Pizzeria Bianco. There are numerous people at any given time unable or unwilling to endure the long wait at Bianco, and if some of those folks choose Cibo as a "good-enough" alternative, that may be a viable business model. Personally, I'd rather drive to Tempe to eat at Classic Italian, but Cibo probably draws a crowd that would rather eat downtown.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: silverbear
                    e
                    El Dupree Jan 9, 2007 01:37 AM

                    We have gone to Cibo after being told there would be an onerous wait at PB. Of course, we have gone to Crazy Jim's, too. Given my 'druthers, I'd opt for Crazy Jim's. My wife, though, opts for Cibo, probably because she likes a nice glass of wine and the atmosphere. Me? I'm about the food.

                    I must say, though, that one of the best pizzas I ever tasted was a daily special at Cibo -- ricotta, arugula, toasted almonds and dried cranberries. Not traditional at all, but absolutely delicious. Of course, one of the worst pizzas I've ever tasted was the above-mentioned salmon. Go figure.

                    1. re: El Dupree
                      b
                      Bazel Jan 12, 2007 06:58 PM

                      Call me odd - or maybe I am just too much of a desert rat.. but Salmon on pizza, why? It just sounds wrong.

                      Bz

                  2. h
                    hzp Jan 9, 2007 12:56 AM

                    you know what's odd though, is that anyone i've mentioned cibo to says the exact same thing. its fine. that's it. not good, not bad, but just fine.

                    i don't know, its not too expensive, so i might go back, but i gotta say, with so many GOOD restuarants around, I can't be bothered with someplace that is "ok".

                    1. winedubar Jan 8, 2007 08:46 PM

                      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...

                      1. h
                        hzp Jan 8, 2007 01:35 PM

                        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. Grey Jan 8, 2007 05:58 AM

                          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. mamamia Jan 8, 2007 04:27 AM

                            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. h
                              hzp Jan 8, 2007 03:02 AM

                              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.

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