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May 10, 2007 08:53 PM

Review: Corleone's (Tempe, AZ)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

One of my favorite things to eat is an authentic Philly cheese steak. The problem is finding one. Corleone’s in downtown Tempe is one of the few places in the east valley that makes a good Philly.

Corleone’s Philly Original comes wit’ whiz and grilled onions. I don’t like whiz, and you don’t have to eat whiz for it to be an authentic sandwich. American, provolone, and cheese whiz are all generally accepted as authentic cheeses. For me though, white American cheese is the only way to go, so that’s the what I went with, a whole Philly Original wit’ American ($8). They use a quality, thinly sliced rib eye. I was a little let down that they didn’t brown the meat up a little better. I wish they would have camelized the onions a bit more as well. Usually, they cook everything perfectly, but on this day, the owner wasn’t around, and the kids running the shop were some real jokers (the “cook” was playing drums on the grill with a couple metal spatulas; that was more than slightly annoying). The bread was very fresh, and quite similar to the Amoroso roll that is typical of an authentic Philly cheese steak. The cheese was very good, but there wasn’t very much of it. As expensive as the sandwich already is, I’ve decided I’ll just have to pay extra for double cheese from now on. If you like cheese, I suggest you do the same.

Pops got a whole Bada Bing ($8). It’s a chicken sandwich with bbq sauce, american cheese, and grilled onions. I tried a bite, and it was pretty good. I especially liked the chicken, which was a very thinly sliced breast (unusual to have breast meat sliced that way). The bbq sauce, which they say is homemade, wasn’t anything special, but who would expect a Philly steak place to make a good bbq sauce?

Corleone’s can be exceptional, but apparently only when the owner is around. I hope he’s there when you go, because he’s a riot. He’s from south Philly, and he’s got the accent and one-liners to prove it. I always find myself busting up laughing when I talk to him. If he’s not there, you could be in for a mediocre experience. Speaking of which, if I had another one, I would be tempted to lower my rating due to inconsistency.

Cool fact: on Tuesdays starting at 4pm they have a buy one sandwich get one of equal or lesser value free deal.

411 S. Mill Ave. #102
Tempe, AZ 85281
phone: (480) 966-8558
fax: (480) 966-2357
hours: M-W 11-10, Thu-Sat 11am-3am, Sun 11-5pm

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  1. I tried Corleone's for the first time earlier this week. I had the grilled veggie sandwich with provolone (Yes, I know that would get me ridiculed in South Philly, but it's what I wanted.) The sandwich was fine, but my side of fries really disappointed me. The fries tasted like the frozen, pre-cut type. There wasn't enough real potato flavor or texture to them. I can get better fries and a reasonably good sandwich at the Great Steak & Potato Company at the Scottsdale Fashion Square food court. Of course, there's no South Philly wiseguy ambience at Fashion Square.

    1 Reply
    1. re: silverbear

      Yes, the fries are likely the pre-fab frozen kind. I thought to mention them in the review, but the whole reason to go to Corleone's is for an authentic cheese steak. Now that I think of it, I've actually never been to a Philly steak place that didn't use frozen fries. Usually all of the good joints are "fast food" grills like Corleone's. It was that way in SoCal too.

    2. with you on the cheese ration, jason. i always, always get double cheese now. i'm a wiz freak though. for me, it can't be beat. still my favorite cheesesteak in the valley so far though i have a bunch to try from the other cheesesteak thread a couple months ago.

      1. I assume you know it's a chain. I guess having a south Philly guy running the Tempe store is icing on the Tastykake, but I doubt it's part of the scene at the other locations, at least not at 16th and Camelback. My sandwich there was good -- had it with wiz -- not great -- and expensive, like yours was. I ration myself for artery-challenging delicacies such as cheese steaks, meatball wedges, pizzas, cheeseburgers, etc. I love all of them. I've had cheese steaks from at least 3 other places (Uncle Sam's, Paul's Little Philly, A Bite/Taste of Philly, others) that were better, and I've heard of more (Flancer's, DeFalco's) that may be even better. Regardless, that Tuesday deal sounds great, and if the Tempe store is similar to the Camelback store, it's not bad at all, just not worth a drive. For value, head -- disregarding the speed limit -- to Uncle Sam's at 32nd and Shea. I've not sampled their other store(s).

        5 Replies
        1. re: misohungrychewlow

          Yeah, they have three locations, and are about to open one or two more. The south Philly guy told me they would be opening a Gilbert location around mid-year, so we'll see if that happens. The possibility excites me, but then I think back to all my good experiences with Philly joints, and they all had an expert running the grill. If they make it a huge chain, I don't think they can maintain the quality experience.

          Flancer's is a good restaurant, but their Philly is light years from being authentic. When I tried it a few years ago, they used thick slices of beef, the wrong type of bread, and provolone or mozzarella cheese. That's just wrong. The only other place I know that's authentic is in Chandler, and it's called Philly's Famous. I believe it's off of Alma School and Ray.

          Of course, it's all about what you're looking for. It doesn't have to be authentic to taste good. I just happen to be in love with authentic cheese steaks, so that's what I look for. :)

          1. re: jasonaz

            Jason - go back to Flancer's and give it another try. Last time I was there (2 months ago), it was nothing like you stated.

            1. re: azhotdish

              Agreed; I've had the Flancer's philly several times over the past few years, and the beef has never been thick and to my knowledge the cheese has always been white American.

              1. re: mitchgx

                If that's the case, that's the perfect excuse to go back to Flancers. I will give it another try.

          2. re: misohungrychewlow

            miso, chain? i guess it's a chain but it's not a subway type chain. we've been eating at the one off hayden & raintree for a few years now and that was the only one for a long while. the family was all there originally. now they're expanding with different locations but it wasn't like the original one in scottsdale was just a new franchise location of an existing chain.

            i would put corleone's above uncle sam's (shea and the 90th street) which we also often do but i haven't tried paul's little philly or a bite/taste of philly. i definitely need to.

            i'm not by any means a super advocate of corleone's but it's just the best cheesesteak i've had here. i also think it's too expensive for what you get.

          3. My review of Corleone's was similar to yours. I liked the sandwich and thought it was tasty and satisfied a craving.

            Nevertheless, like silverbear, I thought the fries were dreadful and I felt like I was paying through the nose for a sandwich/fries/small drink "special" that came out near $11.00, at which price point there was no excuse for the lousy fries.

            Still, if I had a craving for a Philly Cheesesteak, I would go back, sans the fries.

            1. I have only visited this place once. Maybe the owner wasn't there that day, either (it didn't seem like anyone was in charge). I did enjoy my sandwich, but it wasn't fantastic, imo, and I felt it was too expensive. For me it's worth the drive 5 or 6 miles north to DeFalco's, any day, to get a better sandwich and almost always good service. (The problem with DeFalco's is they do get a bit slow at lunch time.)