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Oct 10, 2011 01:10 PM

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

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  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.