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PHX Trip Recap: Niccoli's Deli, The Parlor, Tao Garden, Blue Nile Cafe, Cartel Coffee

finlero Dec 7, 2009 08:33 AM

Always good to get back to the Valley for some sun, family, friends, and chow. A few recaps:

Niccoli's Deli - just wanted to give a quick nod to this little storefront as an excellent source for Italian imports. Selection is smallish, but what they do have is great. Most notably, they have three different sizes of cans of La Valle tomatoes, the de facto gold standard for San Marzanos. Totally respectable NY-style slice of pizza as well.

The Parlor - wow, nice addition to the city. Although I've been a Pizzeria Bianco apologist for almost 15 years, I can't really justify waiting three hours for a pizza margherita. And while I want to like Cibo, the ingredients and craftsmanship just don't pass muster for me. The Parlor doesn't reach the heights of Bianco at its best, but I feel like it completely obliterates any reason I might have gone to Cibo. Excellent, fresh ingredients (some grown on premises), clever twists to the generally simple Italian-style recipes, a real wood-burning oven. Highlights: Yukon potato pizza, Brussels sprouts with pancetta, duck cavatelli. Lowlights: pizza margherita (they used actual tomatoes instead of sauce, which left it kind of bland), desserts (fine, but nothing special). Thoughtful beer and wine selection. Didn't get a chance to try their various homemade "cellos", but eager to try on next visit.

Tao Garden - maybe my hopes were too high, but the chow here struck me as decent, but not stellar. Although we tried to order the less Americanized stuff, the food struck me as a little dull. I also got the distinct feeling that the best dishes probably weren't on the standard menu, perhaps only available if you knew to ask for them. Nothing bad at all, but there were no breakout hits either. A few highlights: pot stickers, peapod stems, sizzling short ribs, red bean congee.

Blue Nile Cafe - respectable little Ethiopian place. DC and I did a double vegan platter, getting to try small portions of all the different choices. Again, nothing leapt out as a going-away hit, but I'd order everything again. Injera wasn't the best I've had, but was reasonably fresh, tart, and tasty.

Cartel Coffee - well-roasted coffee, not too strong. I tend to be more of a fan of blends over single origin, and the emphasis here was overwhelmingly (entirely?) on the latter, so maybe not a perfect fit, but the product was clearly good regardless. My big complaint was the suffocating pretentiousness of the place, staff and clientele alike; maybe it's for the best that Cartel exists, as it serves as a kind of self-selecting quarantine to keep the hipsters and wannabe hipsters away from the general public.

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Pizzeria Bianco
623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Cibo
603 N. 5th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 850103

Blue Nile Cafe
933 E University Dr Ste 112, Tempe, AZ 85281

Niccoli's Deli & Pizza
6102 N 16th St Ste 9, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Tao Garden
2050 N Alma School Rd Ste 36, Chandler, AZ 85224

The Parlor Pizzeria
1916 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

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    AllPhoenix Dec 8, 2009 07:13 AM

    Thank you for the great write-ups. Especially for an update on Niccoli's, which I had almost forgotten about after not having been there for more than 15 years since moving to Suburbanville. Used to love Niccoli's pizza and entrees, and especially loved the sausage they used to make in house. Hope they still do because they made the best sausage sandwich. Definitely need to make that a lunch stop next time I'm in the old neighborhood.

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    Niccoli's Deli & Pizza
    6102 N 16th St Ste 9, Phoenix, AZ 85016

    1. Rubee Dec 8, 2009 09:53 AM

      Thanks for the great trip report - you just moved The Parlor up my list. We'll have to get together on one of your next visits!

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