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Italian New Yorker Mom visiting Phoenix, Recommendations? Also, question about Pizzeria Bianco.

Hello all! This is my first post and I just had to get some opinions because my mother is visiting Phoenix in May and I really want her to have a nice time. She's been here before but most of her other trips were when I was attending ASU (I recently graduated), and she was coming to help me with college stuff (moving in and out of dorms, apartment hunting, etc.) so she has never really had an actual relaxing trip here, which is what I want this trip to be.

She is from New York but currently lives in Cleveland with my dad. She loves pizza, but she refuses to eat pizza in Cleveland. She literally saves her pizza cravings for her monthly flights to NY to visit my grandma, where she calls in a pick up order on her way from the airport every single time. When I told her about how Pizzeria Bianco has been hailed as the best pizza in the country she responded back that if she ever came out to visit, she would go "right from the airport". She doesn't know she's coming yet (she won't know until her birthday, the day before her flight) but I really want to be able to pick her up from the airport and surprise her by driving straight to Pizzeria Bianco. I'm wondering if this could work out, with the wait. Do all members of the party have to be there to hold a spot in line? Her flight lands at about 7pm on a Wednesday night. My boyfriend and I could arrive earlier, and he could hold our spot in line while I go pick her up. Could this work? And if so, what time should my boyfriend and I arrive? I don't want her to have to wait extremely long but she would be fine with maybe an hour of drinks and apps at the bar. Also, if, because of some weird twist of fate, Pizzeria Bianco has slow night and we find ourselves being seated before she lands, could we request to be seated later?

I would also like to take her out to a few other great phoenix places. She's here from Wed night-Monday morning. I'm not worried about Thursday as I have to work the next day so we'll probably just eat somewhere close to me. Friday I would like to take her to a nice authentic phoenix dinner followed by the Big Bang on Mill (I've told her about it and she has said how she wants to see it). Any suggestions for dinner? It doesn't have to be extremely close to Mill or anything, we will be driving. Her favorite food is (obviously) Italian but I'd personally rather take her somewhere more southwest. Money is not really an issue for the dinner (Yay tax stimulus rebate time!), but yeah I'm not super rich or anything.

Saturday we'll probably go to one of the casinos (another one of her passions) and eat somewhere around there. I've never been to any of the casinos here before, but do any of them have good restaurants at all? I've only been to Vegas and Atlantic City casinos so I may be way off base here with AZ casinos and dining.

I'm really excited to have her and I really want her to have a great weekend out here. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Regarding Bianco, if your mother would be okay with eating late (around 10 PM or so), it might be better and less hassle to just meet her at the airport, gather her luggage, drive Downtown, and then get on the waiting list around 8 or 9 PM. I recently went to PB for the first time in years and found that early in the week, it was better to arrive late than early, especially if you are willing to eat at the counter rather than at a table. My wife and I did this last week and waited only 75 minutes even though we had been told to expect 2.5 hours. Eating late might avoid all the stress of trying to hold a table while fetching someone at the airport. That's just one experience, though, so maybe you'll hear different strategies from others.

    What's the "Big Bang on Mill"? I've never heard of that.

    Also what's a "nice authentic Phoenix dinner" to you in terms of price, ambience, etc.?

    2 Replies
    1. re: silverbear

      Big Bang = Old Beelow's, now a dualing-piano bar. Beforehand, Mucho Gusto is close for Mexican; personally I like taking out-of-towners to Phoenix Ranch Market and eating in the food court or Tradiciones, but that's me.

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      Phoenix Ranch Market III
      1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

      Mucho Gusto
      603 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

      1. re: silverbear

        Price is not a big issue. The woman did birth me, after all. As far as ambience goes I don't want it to be too college-aged and trendy but also not super fine dining. Just a nice local joint with cool surroundings and good quality food appropriate to the phoenix southwestern thing, you know?

      2. Some possible places near Mill Ave (you may know these from your undergrad days):

        Restaurant Mexico - Mexico City style Mexican (no yellow cheese melted on everything, less grease than most places) is on Mill, right down the street from Big Bang.

        La Fonda - Sonoran style Mexican (yellow cheese, sour cream, the neighborhood Mexican food I grew up on) is on Rural Rd just N of the 202.

        Rosita's - same type of food as La Fonda, also quite close to Mill.

        House of Tricks - a more upscale place (but not that expensive) with a pleasant patio and southwestern-influenced food, walking distance to Mill Ave.

        If you're looking for more upscale Mexican I'd vote for Barrio Cafe or Los Sombreros; neither is very close to Mill Ave, but Los Sombreros is not all that far.

        When I was a kid we used to take visitors to The Stockyards (a steakhouse in a historic building) which is fairly close to Mill Ave as well, but I haven't been in decades. Anyone been there lately?

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        Barrio Cafe
        2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

        Los Sombreros Cafe & Cantina
        2534 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

        House of Tricks
        114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

        Restaurant Mexico
        423 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

        Rosita's Fine Mexican Food
        960 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

        Stockyards Restaurant
        5009 E Washington St Ste 115, Phoenix, AZ 85034

        La Fonda Mexican Foods
        1126 N Scottsdale Rd, Tempe, AZ 85281

        1 Reply
        1. re: bortukan

          The Stockyards has recently been acquired by two former busboys who spruced up the place and breathed new life into it. I've had several good meals there over the past two years. It's definitely a nice specimen of Phoenix history.

        2. Re: casino food. I take my m-i-l to the casinos on occasion. I am into food, she is not. She has survived at all, but I have yet to find anything that I would eat again.

          Exception is probably Kia, Wildhorse Pass, but I have not been. Casinos do nothing for me, whether in PHX, or LV. I do, however, live to eat. With the great recs. here, I'd say that Kai would be the ONE to do, but that is based on trust of the posters here.

          Hunt

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          Kai
          5594 W. Wildhorse Pass Blvd, Chandler, AZ 85226

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            I was gonna say Kia is a car. Kai is a place where a meal can cost as much as a small Kia... :)

            1. re: Firenza00

              Oops, my lesdyxia is acting up again. Thanks for the correction. Did I post the right Link to Place, or did I get a car dealership?

              Hunt

          2. If she favors Italian and you'd like her to get a sense of the Southwest, you might try Cowboy Ciao. The name alone will catch your mom's fancy, but the food and service are also wonderful.

            1. I don't know what your just graduated from college budget is like...20 years ago mine didn't have room for places like Kai or Cowboy Ciao and my parents would have been uncomfortable with my spending that much for dinner for them. If you're OK with the expense and your mom won't be uncomfortable both are great options...

              Every out of town guest we've taken to Los Sombreros has loved it. Mid-priced but solid and this time of year the patio is quite nice. On the Southern side of Scottsdale this is an easy trip back to Mill Ave if your evening plans take you there.

              House of Tricks is a great Tempe option...they serve lunch. Consider taking Mom there for a nice lunch instead of dinner. Enjoy their wonderful patio.

              For Italian take her up to Andreoli's. Again, a solid choice that she'll enjoy without breaking your bank. great for lunch or dinner. Pick up some things to nibble on from their groceries and yummy deli cases.

              Lunch at the Farm at South Mountain is another local gem, particularly given the current weather.

              Take her on a tour of Phoenix Ranch Market and either grab a bite for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the food court or head to the sit down restaurant, Tradiciones, for lunch or dinner(enjoy the mariachi on weekend evenings).

              Moms love Arcadia Farms in Scottsdale. Again, lunch on the patio is a great option followed and you can enjoy strolling through downtown Scottsdale before or after.

              Can't speak to casinos myself...but if you head up to Fort McDowell there's an Italian place in Fountain Hills that gets very positive feedback here. Can't remember the name and haven't been myself but everytime I read a review I make a mental note to keep it in mind if we're ever up that way.

              Have a great weekend with Mom!

              -----
              Tradiciones
              1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

              Andreoli Italian Grocer
              8880 E Via Linda, Scottsdale, AZ 85258

              Farm At South Mountain
              6106 S 32nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85042

              Arcadia Farms Restaurant
              7014 East First Avenue, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

              3 Replies
              1. re: ziggylu

                Place link for Andreoli...

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                Andreoli Italian Grocer
                8880 E Via, Linda Scottsdale, AZ

                1. re: hohokam

                  Thanks! She would be all about Andreoli's! I was already thinking House of Tricks for lunch one day just because I'm sure she would enjoy being able to sit outside for a meal after the horrible winter they've been having in Cleveland! I'm kind of torn between Los Sombreros, Cowboy Ciao, and Barrio for the Friday night dinner....This is also a birthday/Mother's day present for her too which is why I don't mind spending money. I'm fine with $30-35 entree range...when it gets up to $45-50 entrees is probably when I'd have to pass.

                  1. re: gigi9585

                    Cowboy Ciao's website is lots of fun (and includes prices.) We came up from Tucson for a Saturday night, using the summer rate at the Royal Palms Resort as an excuse to have dinner at Cowboy Ciao. Great weekend!

              2. Don't forget about the time difference between here and NY. If your mom's flight lands at 7:00, that's already 10:00 her time. Combine that with the lengthy wait at PB and the exhaustion that flying cross country can cause, and she may be too tired to fully enjoy the pizza. You might want to save it for the next night.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ajs228

                  I agree that it's a late start for dinner for someone arriving from Cleveland, but I think that if the poster arrived around opening, they''d get put into the third seating, which would be around 7-7:30, on a weeknight. One person can hold for a party, and the hostesses will gladly slip you back a spot if your party isn't there yet. The only difficulty is for the placeholder, to not get sloshed before dinner.

                  gigi, I'd recommend Barrio Cafe for your southwestern dinner. If you would like a set dinner time, Los Sombreros takes reservations, they'd be my second choice -- plus, eating on the patio. And also remember Caffe Boa on Mill for a backup dinner in that area -- food and atmosphere are great.

                2. I think Pizzeria Bianco is great--but I was still (slightly) disappointed the first time I went because it had been hyped up so much for me. However, subsequent times actually let my expectations sink from their impossible heights. If you want to take her to dinner right after she lands, expect a 2-3 hour wait. Go at around 4 p.m. to make sure there'll be a table at 7. I don't think for how many people you have they will seat you, but I believe they're willing to keep on bumping you down until your party is fully there.

                  A southwestern place that I absolutely love is Richardsons. A search on this site usually has plenty of info about them, however they haven't been mentioned nearly as much in recent months. They have fantastic new mexican food fare that's rarer in other parts of the country. A fave of mine is the Turkey Enchiladas :). Taking your mom to Big Bang huh? That's brave. I took mine a while back and she left early because of an "headache".

                  The casinos here are disappointing as far as food goes. Don't even try. They're just big rooms filled with tables or machines. What games does she like to play? Each of the casinos here have their own advantages/disadvantages. If you're expecting something along the lines of the excitement/sounds/lights of Vegas, I would recommend skipping the casino altogether. However, if it's just fun for her to play poker (try Casino Arizona at Indian Bend) or slots (either Fort McDowell, Casino AZ at McKellips or Wild Horse Pass), then it suffices.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: nyomi

                    She plays video poker so it doesn't have to be a super nice blackjack area or anything. Yeah, I'm not sure how long she'll stay at Big Bang but my boyfriend is planning on taking his Aunt there because she's always wanted to check it out also! We'll see how that goes. I'm thinking Barrio too if only because of the tableside guacamole. I thought of Richardsons as well but I have never been and cannot find a website anywhere! I just wish I could get an idea of their menu.

                    1. re: gigi9585

                      If you follow this place link, you'll find a link to Richardson's (very well hidden) website.

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                      Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico
                      1582 E. Bethany Home Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016

                      1. re: gigi9585

                        Richardson's has a poorly thought-out URL. Here it is:

                        http://www.burningembersphoenix.com/

                        Also, related to your casino question, I recall that the Cholla Steakhouse at Casino Arizona has received decent writeups in the past. Never seen it mentioned here, and I've never been, but thought I'd pass it along.

                        1. re: boingo2000

                          We went to Cholla at Casino Az, McKellips, for a birthday and had very good food and terrific service. The showstopper special has a nice variety. Plus, when you make reservations for the restaurant, they can also give you reserved seating up front at the music show. I am a sucker for the Temptations group personally. http://casinoaz.com/dining_cholla.asp

                          -----
                          Casino Arizona- McKellips
                          Scottsdale Az, Scottsdale, Az