HOME > Chowhound > Phoenix >


My new favorite Italian restaurant - Cuoco Pazzo

Okay, maybe it's a bit premature to say that after one visit the week they opened, but I'm pretty sure!

I first met Chef Peter DeRuvo when he was at Prado. Four of us had such a wonderful meal, we asked if we could meet the chef and thank him. He was so enthuasiastic and passionate about his craft that we’ve been big fans ever since. He recently left and is now at Cuoco Pazzo in Old Town. It’s been open for less than 2 weeks, but it didn’t disappoint. We had dinner last Wednesday and were joined by ArizonaGirl and her husband after cocktails at the pre-Grand Opening at Dominick’s Steakhouse (beautiful space). The owners here are very much into beer and wine so it was a pleasant surprise to see such a large selection of craft beers on tap and interesting wine b-t-g, 33, along with 3 Arizona wines. While we waited for our friends at the bar, I ordered my first Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter. I now see why this is a local AZ favorite, nice!

What a great menu. Once we were all seated at a table, I ordered a crisp Greek white (Skouras), and tried to decide. A bit difficult so we tried quite a few dishes. I think we agreed across the board that everything we ordered was a winner – olive oil-braised and grilled octopus with ceci beans and celery (one of my favorites), crispy fritto misto with halibut, shrimp, and calamari, mascarpone polenta with garlicky wild mushrooms, feather-light sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi with porcini and rabbit ragu, vongole pizzetta on a puffy chewy crust with clams, lemon, garlic and arugula, and the pièce de résistance - an off-menu special of fresh fettucini with parmigiano-reggiano vecchio, duck egg, and foie gras. Wow. Paired with the chef’s recommendation of a Tobin James zin, my husband is still talking about it. Too full for dessert, but we ended up chatting with the owners at the bar, where they poured us a lovely Tobin James “Liquid Love” dessert wine and Mario’s wonderful homemade orangecello to end our night. Only one visit, but we already love this place.

I’ve heard that they started Happy Hour last Friday (including half off all wine by the glass and $1 off all beer ), lunch service tomorrow, and in the future plan Italian-inspired cocktails with bitters and fresh herbs. The menu changes weekly, and they now have specials they list on Facebook. They sound fantastic:
Crispy pork sweetbreads with lentils, orange, and pistachio.
Foie gras with caramelized peaches and saba.
Scampi and grits - sauteed garlic prawns over corn polenta with duck egg.
NY Strip with sauteed wild mushrooms, arugula and lemon.
Antipasti Misti addition - duck confit with herbs and truffle.

Already looking forward to our next visit.

Cuoco Pazzo
4175 N Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Couldn't be less surprised. He was doing some great stuff over at Prado. I'm very, very anxious to get over here.

      1. re: Dapuma

        Here's the link:

        Didn't realize they had 20 craft beers on tap. I need to stray from my wine-drinking there more often. Last week we had another delicious dinner including a melt-in-your mouth foie gras torchon drizzled with saba and sprinkled with Murray River sea salt.

        As usual, ordered too much but leftovers were great - the chanterelles were delicious with pasta the next night.

        Torchon, blue crab cakes with Italian romesco made with Calabrian chiles (specials board), pumpkin tortelloni with duck confit, sage nage, and pepitas, roasted chanterelles side, trout (local - from AZ's White Mountains) stuffed with lemon, tomato, and black garlic with celeriac puree (special), oyster po'boy with giardiniera (special), and a GREAT cheese plate with Rainbow Farms Fromage Blanc (AZ), Humboldt Fog, Pecorino di Sarda, Taleggio, Verde Capra, Barely Buzzed. Chef's accompaniments included pairings with each cheese like amarena cherries with balsamic with the Humboldt and pumpkin-ginger compote with the Verde Capra, also honeycomb, marcona almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, raspberries, blackberries, pepitias, fig conserva.... (but forgot to take a picture of the decadent chocolate hazelnut torte):

        Cuoco Pazzo
        4175 N Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

        1. re: Rubee

          Omg this looks delicious! Just got the Groupon deal and can't wait to try this weekend!

          1. re: Da Beebz

            It's really fab. Second visit did not disappoint. I forgot to mention even the saba is made in-house. My husband said he'd die happy with just a big plate of the fried oysters they had in the po'boy along with the aioli they serve with the fritto misto.

            I haven't been disappointed with one dish yet. My "problem" is that Chef Peter (also part owner here too - nice!) is always creating new dishes AND there's a chalkboard of specials, so every time we visit I feel like I need to order everything since we live 45 minutes away. It doesn't help that I follow them on Facebook and Twitter so seeing all these specials, and now the lunch menu - heh - I feel like I'm missing out. The new bar menu also looks great. On our last visit, chatted with someone who had just ordered the ribs and raved about them.

            Looking forward to hearing your report back - I really hope you like it as much as we do!

          2. re: Rubee

            I went there last night and it was excellent - The beer list they have is fantastic and Mario who is a part owner was behind the bar and it was good talking to him

            Arrived just at the end of happy hour, they have $1 off draft beers for happy hour and half priced glasses of wine and there was a certain amount off well drinks but i don't recall what that is

            They are going to be working on their mixed drink menu, they wont have that ready to go for another week or two

            Started out with Schneider Aventinus, Doppel Weizen Bock,Germany 8.2% which could be my new favorite beer, it is a unfiltered wheat bock, amazing

            One of the nice touches is that they have the proper beer glass to go with each beer they have on tap in the appropriate sizes and the largest karmeliet glass i have ever seen, and they have a lot of imports on the list so they are doing great in the strong ale category - which is my favorite type of beer

            As i was looking at the menu I asked if they had foie gras because i saw a picture on their facebook page, and Mario told me they always have that as an off the item menu and it could be prepared however I would like it - which sounded great to me

            Foie Gras torchon with toast points, honey comb, apples, cherries - also had a lemon tuille and some micro greens as well

            The honeycomb was a very nice touch because it got the sweetness however the bonus was the nice texture it added to the overall

            My friend ordered Heirloom Tomatoes and Gioia Burrata and i got a taste of that, it was a great salad, and had small bread sticks and fresh pesto on it as well, very light and refreshing - just the thing after foie gras :)

            for my main i ordered the crispy half duck, it was confit duck style, the skin was very crispy and it was a huge portion - the duck was very good the crispy duck skin fat had lots of flavor with it - and i was happy to have confit again since i still dream of the chez dumonet duck i had in Paris this summer - my only change i would have made was the side items it was served with, i would have liked dauphine potatoes - with that said it was the best duck i have had in AZ, and i was happy it was not just seared duck breast

            My friends ordered the spinach Gnochi, Black Tagliolini, Mediterranean Sea Bass

            I tried the Sea Bass, which was was very good, with the skin on crispy and crab on top the pasta dishes all looked amazing, although i didnt get to try them, i will certainly be trying them on my next visit

            rubee while i was there quite a few people ordered the crispy ribs - they looked great and everyone said they were delicious

            Seems like there will be specials each day as well based on what looks good in the market, everything coming out of the kitchen looked great - finally a place with an awesome beer list and delicious food - looking forward to seeing what they do with their cocktail list

            will certainly be back and it is nice they have parking

            1. re: Dapuma

              I love duck too. Will definitely have to order that (and that foie). Glad you liked CP! I'm going to try that beer on our next visit.

        2. Just wanted to add my $0.02 on this place- we tried it the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Simply put, definitely my new favorite Italian restaurant! We tried quite a bit of the menu, between the pork loin which was ridiculously tender, to the black tangliolini which was chock full of great seafood. For starters, the burrata was incredible, as was the clams and sausage dish- mussels and grilled squid were also yummy.

          Also agreed on the beer list- went in thinking wine, left after 3 glasses of fantastic beer, including my all-time favorite Gulden Draak which is pretty hard to find at any restaurant. I just wish this place was closer, otherwise it would be my standard "no one wants to cook lets go out" joint. If you haven't been yet, you have to try it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cactuschowdah

            Nice to hear an update! Just made reservations for a return trip next with Chowhounds DrewB123 and BillB656. Love seafood, will have to order the tagliolini and clams and sausage.

            1. re: cactuschowdah

              I have been a few more times and well...the crispy ribs are very solid

              They keep updating the duck confit, when i went with my wife and some friends it had a different sauce and different sides, and it was excellent again, it was nice to see them updating the dishes with different flavor elements to keep the menu fresh

              The Black Tagliolini is one of the best pasta dishes i have had in a long time - great fresh seafood on top of a spicy tomato based sauce

              they also started doing quite a few different house made chello's

              The cocktail menu is still in work in progress it seems they had a few variations of Campari and Aperol for the evening we went - but nothing permanent yet - look forward to seeing what they come up with

              1. re: Dapuma

                Wow, this place really lived up to the Chow love! Thanks for the post! Went last night and had one of the more memorable meals of the last few years. I wish someone had warned me about the ADDICTIVE homemade focaccia which I doused in the herby/spicy olive oil ... went through two plates of the stuff!

                As per the above reviews, we ordered the crispy ribs and - shocker! - loved them. I wouldn't call them "crispy" per se, but they were lip-smacking good (with a hint of French toast flavor!). We did a cheese plate (nicely done and they didn't skimp on cheese), beet salad (light, palate cleansing and enough to share), Bibb Caesar salad (good and also shareable) and incredible orecchiette with sausage. I thought I'd had homemade pasta before but I've never had anything like this - SOOOOOO yummy.

                Attention beer-lovers: They have a very unexpectedly good selection of craft beers on tap, including 2 on nitro. Our server, Mario, let us sample the nitro-poured Lefthand Milk Stout and an ESP - both were tasty.

                We can't wait to go back!

            2. I think I'm the only one who still hasn't tried the ribs! We went Saturday but they were sold out.

              We were a party of 8 so tried a lot of delicious new and old dishes. We started by sharing new to all since it was a first visit for everyone else (first 3 pics):
              Foie gras torchon with huckleberry and Grand Marnier on brioche.
              Grande Antipasti Misti with prosciutto, sopressata, salami, robiola, burrata, fromage blanc, grapes, honeycomb, pickled celeriac, pickled brussels sprouts, cabbage cooked with apples and bacon, arugula, almonds.
              Also added at chef's suggestion the Affetati Misti with the house-made charcuterie: Crispy head cheese, cranberry & pistachio mortadella, beef jerky, roasted round tip, pickled beef tongue, roasted pork loin, pickled green beans, pickled fennel and more.
              Seriously fabulous. I'm actually hoping to be able to pick up a platter to-go for New Year's Eve for the two of us!.

              We also ordered past favorites like the fettucini with duck egg, fritto misto, polenta with mushrooms, and cheese plate. New highlights on this visit were the crispy half duck that Dapuma mentions (one of my favorites of the night), pork shank, and a seared foie gras special with amarena cherries and chocolate. I also was able to sample the stout thanks to Mario (BTW,he's one of the owners/son and in charge of the excellent wine and beer selections) and of course some of Mario Senior's 'cellos - grapefruit was my favorite.

              Polenta recipe happened to be on Tasting Table this week:

              1 Reply
              1. re: Rubee

                I was totally impressed with this meal, not to mention the wonderful company with Rubee et al. The antipasti was particularly good even if the board is a bit jumbled. I had the pork shank as my main and found it perfectly fork tender and very flavorful. We will be back soon.

              2. Back again Friday night for dinner before checking out the new cocktail lounge R + D at Citizen Public House (loved it!). I finally got to try those delicious ribs with saba and gorgonzola slaw. Also good was the bibb Caesar, and the black tagliolini with seafood is a new favorite.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Rubee

                  Wow! I was there on Friday and had the same dishes (minus the bibb Caesar). Both were stellar. It was my first time and definitely not my last. Beer list was quite good as well.

                2. My wife lives for Italian food. After reading this tread we were excited to visit CP.
                  Today we made the trip. This is a great restaurant.
                  We discussed all the dishes reviewed here with our waiter and he told us of new ones. It was the middle of the afternoon, but they were willing to let us try things on the dinner menu.
                  For example, the "crispy ribs". Forget discussing what exactly they are; they are one of the best first courses in the valley. If you have visitors who want to try something great they have not had before, give them the ribs. YUMMY.
                  Apart from this selection, everything else was also great. I am a bit of a beer snob (that just means I like really good beers) and was very impressed at the number of great brews they have...on tap!
                  They also have a very nice wine list.
                  I don't have anything to add to the positive comments of others, except that this is not only my new favorite Italian restaurant, it is one of my favorite AFFORDABLE restaurants.
                  Service, food, price, it is all good here.
                  We need to make sure this place makes it; it is a gem.

                  1. I'm looking for a spot to celebrate a friend's birthday. Is Cuoco Pazzo appropriate for an upscale birthday dinner?

                    I'm debating between this and Marcellino (still have never been). For those who have been to both, whose food do you prefer?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: crsin

                      I've only been once to the original Marcellino's (and once for drinks in the new location) but really liked it, especially the homemade pastas. CP is casual, so Marcellino's atmosphere is more formal and celebratory, and of course pricier. I don't think you could go wrong with either.

                    2. I was back again with a friend for dinner at CP last night, and it just gets better. Tried two of Mario's cocktails and both were excellent - a take on the Negroni but with IPA instead of vermouth (Rio) and a take on the Manhattan with Cynar (Little Italy).

                      We also lucked out because it was the debut of the salumi which the chef has been curing since they first opened. WOW. Smoked venison tasso, coppa, sopressata, Spanish-style chorizo, bresaola, fennel salami, duck and foie gras terrine, topped off with a pile of crispy chicken skin. Highly recommend - it was on the specials board. Between the two of us, we also had the clams and sausage (loved how nice and spicy the housemade sausage is), beet salad, seafood pasta, the 16-oz rib-eye special with roasted potatoes and black garlic butter, and the tajarin pasta special with mascarpone and radicchio (another favorite of the night). Finished by sharing the "Warm Souffle Pecan Crepes" with nutella, sambuca chocolate sauce, mascarpone, and bee pollen. SO GOOD. Great service as always, and it looks like we'll be back next week because they'll be offering.......white truffles!

                      Cuoco Pazzo
                      4175 N Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Rubee

                        Oops, last picture was supposed to be the list of 'cellos.

                        1. re: Rubee

                          That salumi plate looks awesome- thanks for the pics. Going tomorrow night- can't wait! This place has become an addiction for me...

                        2. The recent posts cause me to want to comment on two issues: 1. Although I love CP they don't yet have the artisan cocktail/cellos concept perfected. I could, but won't expand on the "cello" defects, and we only tried one cocktail,but the results were...eh. As someone who strives to make "Nick and Nora" like drinks, CP's aren't there yet (and I love the place); 2. One poster asked about CP versus Marcellino's; that is a great question. I offer one opinion: Marcellino's is as good as it gets with respect to the quality of food and ambiance of an Italian restaurant here in the valley. But, it is terribly over priced. If price is no object and you want great food ( simple pasta at more than $20 an entree) and a romantic atmosphere, Marcellino's is THE place the this area.
                          If money IS an object, but you still want the highest quality married with staff that like what they are doing and are happy you have joined them...I would go to CP. It is more casual, but/and it is great.
                          And no, I am not related, involved, or enamored of the place. I just live near there and am happy CP has opened.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Arizphil

                            I would agree their cocktails need some work - they aren't horrible but they are not great either - a bit unbalanced - JK you should help them out :)

                            1. re: Dapuma

                              Funny- I always go in saying I want to try the cocktails but I always get sucked in by that awesome beer list...

                            2. re: Arizphil

                              One note on the Italian-inspired cocktails. This is all-new and something that Mario is eagerly experimenting with and I know he would be open to your suggestions. I really liked the Rio he made me - he mentioned that he chose the IPA because of the citrus/grapefruit profile with the Campari and piney notes with the gin. I agree. He's enthusiastic and working hard creating the cocktails for CP and would love to hear any feedback, so I would share them openly.

                              1. re: Rubee

                                Yeah the beer list is amazing so usually go with the beer

                                I believe they will get better over time - mario said they are a work in progress - the guiseppe is a bit unbalaced the sweetness from the st germain and the aperol and the sparkling wine based bellini riff is a bit sweet as well imo - would like to see some italian standards - americano / negroni - I like campari aperol and cynar so hopefully they come up with some amazing stuff

                                Haven't tried the ipa one before but it looked interesting

                                1. re: Dapuma

                                  I'd love to explore beer more. On our last visit, Mario brought out a few of the different beer glasses and explained to us the shapes of the glassware and which ones were for certain beer styles. So interesting.

                              2. re: Arizphil

                                When I was dining I was thinking that the food was very close to, if not better than, Marcellino's. When the bill came, I was convinced.

                              3. There's a coupon available for CP at localdines.com - $30 worth for $15.