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May 15, 2009 01:17 PM

Marcellino Ristorante in Phoenix

We finally had a chance to visit Marcellino’s, and it was definitely worth the wait. This has been on my go-to list for a while, especially with ArizonaGirl’s recommendation as her favorite Italian restaurant, and accolades from other CHs.

A couple of weeks ago E and I met Mesachow and her husband when they were seated at our table for the Digestif Notorious P.I.G dinner. By the time we parted ways after a fun night, we had made plans to get together soon at Marcellino’s, a place that we had all been wanting to try.

We met in the cozy bar, where we were warmly greeted by Carrie, the bartender. I followed Mesachow’s lead and ordered the vodka cocktail made with housemade limoncello, while E ordered a glass of red. We enjoyed chatting with a couple of friendly regulars and Carrie for a while and then made our way to the table. Once seated, I ordered a glass of Antinori chardonnay and we decided on three appetizers to share – the eggplant rollatini with goat cheese special which Carrie recommended (and one of my favorites of the night), the beef carpaccio draped over a mound of lemony arugula and garnished with shaved raw mushrooms and Parmigiana Reggiano, and splurged on the tortelloni stuffed with puree of filet with a browned butter sauce and summer truffles. With such a nice start to the meal, we had to narrow down our entrée choices, which was difficult with all of the wonderful-sounding pasta specials in addition to the printed menu. I finally decided on the sundried tomato cavatelli special with “drunken” rabbit ragu (along with a wine chosen by our waiter as a young barolo), and E went with another special, the Santa Lucia - black cuttlefish ink fettucini loaded with mussels, clam, calamari, and lobster in a delicious tomato sauce. The rest of our party enjoyed the paccatelli with sausage ragu, and the porcini pasta special with lobster and truffle oil. We were full, with no room for dessert, so decided to retire to the bar for after-dinner drink, where John our waiter recommended a fantastic grappa for me, along with complimentary housemade limoncello.

We loved everything about Marcellino's – the friendly, professional and knowledgeable service, the wonderful homemade pastas, and the upscale yet comfortable atmosphere. We finished our night by chatting for a while with Marcellino and Sima at the bar about, what else, food and restaurants, and how I “heard” from Bill Hunt that they have an excellent wine list ; )

Such a nice couple who are passionate about the delicious food they serve at Marcellino’s. We had a great time with new friends and are planning on returning soon to following Sima’s suggestion for a Friday opera night.

My leftover cavatelli pasta was just as delicious the next day for lunch:

Marcellino Ristorante
7114 E. Stetson Dr. 85251, Old Town Scottsdale, AZ 85251

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  1. Glad you guys enjoyed it. I got an email from them today about tonight being the last Friday opera night. It seems the singer has been offered a job on the East coast.. Sad for us.

    2 Replies
    1. re: arizonagirl

      I finally had the opportunity to try Marcellino and I was definitely not dissappointed. It was excellent all around; food, wine, atmosphere. Not easy to spot for those that have never been there. I drove past it twice but, I won't have to worry about that happening again. My stomache and taste buds will take over where my navigational skills fail.
      BTW: They are still advertising Opera Night. maybe irregularly though?

      1. re: DonZ

        Just an update:

        According to the latest newsletter, upcoming Opera Nights with different guest singers will be tonight, Friday, 6/12, and 6/26, 7/10 and 7/24.

        Marcellino's will be closed for the month of August (last night Saturday, August 1, and reopening Thursday, September 10)

    2. Rubee,

      Great review and paints my favorite Italian restaurnat in a deservedly favorable light.

      Some years back, we introduced two food-oriented friends to Marcellino's and they cannot get enough. Wish that we had the time to get there so often. These two travel to Italy on a food/wine quest every year, and the wife writes cookbooks. They loved it too.



      PS if Italian wine is one's love, whisper to Chef Marcellino that you want something out of his private cellar. It is not likely to be cheap, but it WILL be great and will pair perfectly with the food on the table. Still, it WILL be fairly priced.

      1. Update:

        Looks like Marcellino's is moving from Phoenix to the original Digestif spot at SouthBridge in Scottsdale, planned for April:

        5 Replies
        1. re: Rubee

          Self-plagiarism of my comments on Twitter and another Web site:

          I always took pride in having Marcellino near my house and thought it really classed up an otherwise ordinary strip mall on the border between North Central Phoenix and Sunnyslope. That said, ever since we became parents, my wife and I haven't gone as frequently as we should, so I can't say I've been the most loyal customer.

          I think the move is quite a gamble. They're leaving a proven location for a troubled project where several other restaurants have already failed. They're also bucking the current trend, which is one in which high-profile chefs associated with Scottsdale have either moved to a Central Phoenix restaurant, announced an intention to do so, or opened additional restaurants Downtown. Examples are Wade Moises, Matt Carter, Aaron May, Bernie Kantak, and Nobuo Fukuda. Marcellino will be the counterexample of a Central Phoenix operation moving east to Scottsdale. That's something that occurred regularly 10 years ago, but not as much today.

          I'd probably feel better about this if Marcellino were opening a second location at Southbridge instead of relocating and shutting down the restaurant on Northern Ave. Still, if anyone can make it at Southbridge, it might be Marcellino. I wish them the best, even as I second guess their decision.

          1. re: silverbear

            Valid points, but while there are historic and geographical "centers" to every metro area, restaurants are businesses with their own core target market. As such, central to them is being central to their customer base. Nobody outside of the Marcellinos really know their business, so it's tough to speculate on their decision process.

            Likewise, just about any location is fraught with risk. Many places have come and gone in central PHX, mid town, Scottsdale, Tempe, etc. Meanwhile gems often prosper in the most unlikely of places. But to your point, outside of Bianco's, is there a thriving, stand alone restaurant in the downtown area?

            1. re: tastyjon

              Uh, yeah, there are several. I'm not going to waste my time listing them because 1) I've done so in countless threads before. 2) I fail to see the relevance of the question to a discussion of Marcellino, which isn't even located Downtown.

              1. re: silverbear

                Amen. They will do fine. We found plenty of excuses to head to Southbridge for Canal, Digestif, and Estate House. I've never been to Marcellino, but will definitely give it a try based on the solid reviews. Overall, Southbridge is very cool and should, in its own right, be a destination spot for dining and drinking, which I thought it was for awhile. Economic and other factors have hurt it, but now that the economy is stablilizing (let's hope) maybe it is a smart move. The restos that replaced Canal (which I didn't love) and Digestif were less than inspiring to say the least.

            2. re: silverbear

              Living in Chandler there is less to inspire a night out to dinner than in most areas of the city. I do not see where the move will give them the slightest problem. Customers will drive to patronize a good restaurant and they are putting themselves into a demographic with a good customer base with the money to spend on a good meal. Seems like a win/win for them. I have no problem making the drive to where they once were or to any number of nice, more centrally located restaurants that my wife and I frequent.

          2. I was a little disappointed when my friends told me that we are going to an Italian restaurant in Scottsdale that night. It had been a tough day and I just wanted to unwind. Having lived in Italy, I am generally disappointed in Italian restaurants here. Fortunately, Marcellino proved the exception to the rule. For starters, I had the tricolore salad, while my dining companions had the burrata & prosciutto and the polenta with mushrooms. My salad was fine, but I got to sample the others and they were exceptionally. Finally a restaurant that serves burrata at room temperature instead of freezing cold! And the mushrooms with just a hint of truffle were divine. We all opted for the home-made pasta – pepper pappardelle with sausage ragu, cacio e pepe linguine with an amatriciana sauce (kind of a mash-up of Roman classics!) and squid ink pasta with a mixed seafood sauce. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the sauces were memorable. We had a nice bottle of Morellino di Scansano to wash it down. A perfect meal, not cheap, but at least the quality was there. Among the most authentic Italian food I have eaten since leaving Italy. Bravo!

            3 Replies
            1. re: bropaul

              I am very glad that you enjoyed many dishes.

              We were fans, from the old location, and have had the pleasure to dine at the new restaurant several times - never enough for us.

              Also, as Chef Marcellino does so many dishes, so well, we have never been able to really try everything - maybe on my "bucket list."

              Still a favorite of ours.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I have always found Marcellino's to be fantastic, although the prices for pasta are not for the faint of heart.

                1. re: PHXeater

                  When we have dined with Chef Marcellino, we have seldom looked at the prices (though we probably should), and just gone with the recs. from Sima, or Chef. We have never been steered wrong, and have enjoyed every meal.