Classic Italian Pizza set to reopen at end of month

Jess Harter | Thursday, April 17, 2014

Post image for Classic Italian Pizza set to reopen at end of month

The day East Valley pizza lovers have been waiting for for more than a year – the reopening of award-winning Classic Italian Pizza – is almost upon us.

Owner/chef Azhar Began says his new location, now dubbed Began’s Classic Italian Pizza, will open at the end of this month in the former Hoodlums Music space on the southwest corner of McClintock and Guadalupe in south Tempe.

The new site is in the bustling shopping center that’s also home to Changing Hands bookstore, Trader Joe’s, Mac’s Broiler & Tap, and, most recently, 24 Carrots Natural Cafe.

The credit, Began says, goes to Changing Hands co-owner Gayle Shanks.

“She’s been my customer for years,” he says. “She would always pull me out of the restaurant, grab my hand, and say, ‘Listen to me. You need to go into my shopping center. It’s the best in town.’”

Still using wood-fired oven

ClassicItalianOvenThe new space is about a mile-and-a-half from Lakeshore and Baseline, where the original Classic Italian operated for eight years.

Like its predecessor, the decor still is Old World-ish – lots of dark wood, iron, and stone – but the extra square footage (1,600, vs. 1,380 at the old location) has allowed the full bar to be twice as big.

The former brick-encased Renato wood-fired pizza oven has been replaced by a brand-new Renato wrapped in gray stone (pictured), which already has been cured for the necessary seven days and is ready to go.

Open for lunch, 7 days a week

What else is new? Began has created a selection of panini sandwiches for lunch – the old location had been open for dinner-only since its second year.

Another change: “This is a much better location, so we’re going to be open seven days a week,” he says.

The rest of the menu will be pretty much the same – 12-inch pizzas, calzones, salads, and a few appetizers – although Began is toying with the idea of streamlining it for the first few months until he settles into the new digs.

“I might just go with the four most popular pizzas we had before,” he says. “I had 15 (specialty) pizzas before, and I’ve developed four more. But if I put 20 pizzas on the menu it might be a little overwhelming.”

Reverse happy hour plans

Another idea he’s considering: Reverse happy from 10 p.m. to midnight when he offers “half off everything across the board.”

As for his sudden closure in February 2013 that caught his customers off-guard, he blames the owners of the decaying strip mall.

“I was the last tenant there for over two years,” he says. “They wanted me to sign a 10-year lease with some ridiculous numbers. Then the TI (tenant improvement) numbers they promised they slashed in half. I just couldn’t do it.”

Earlier:
• Classic Italian Pizza breaks ground on new site
• Award-winning Classic Italian Pizza closes

May 6: Sierra Nevada beer dinner at House of Brews

Jess Harter | Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Post image for May 6: Sierra Nevada beer dinner at House of Brews

House of Brews in Gilbert will host a five-course Sierra Nevada beer dinner at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6.

The menu is still being finalized, but some of the items I saw on an early version included beef brisket corned with Sierra Nevada Torpedo brine, salmon-cucumber salad, pepper-crusted pork tenderloin, and cinnamon-bourbon cake.

A finalized version will be released later this month. The dinner also will include a cigar from Fox Cigar Bar.

Cost is $50 per person. RSVP: 480-426-9787.

Founder’s Arizona release parties set for April 23

Jess Harter | Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Founder’s Brewing will hold a series of release parties next Wednesday (April 23) to celebrate the acclaimed Grand Rapids, Mich., brewery’s start of distribution in Arizona.

Three will be held in the East Valley at The Hungry Monk (5-8 p.m.), World of Beer Gilbert (7-10 p.m.), and Boulders on Broadway (TBD).

All three venues will have Curmudgeon Old Ale, Dirty Bastard, Centennial IPA, Red’s Rye IPA, Porter, Pale Ale, and All Day IPA on tap.

Sorry, KBS fans.

Biscuits opens 3rd East Valley location today in Tempe

Jess Harter | Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Post image for Biscuits opens 3rd East Valley location today in Tempe

Biscuits, the locally owned breakfast-and-lunch concept with locations in Ahwatukee and Gilbert, opened its third restaurant today on the southeast corner of McClintock and Elliot in south Tempe.

It takes over the former Windy City Cafe, and has the same menu and hours as the other two locations.

Signature menu items include the obvious biscuits and sausage gravy ($5.89, pictured), Champion Pancakes made with granola, blueberries, almonds, and cinnamon ($9.89), meatloaf with a red wine mushroom sauce ($8.89), and hand-dipped onion rings ($3.89).

Biscuits should not be confused with the similarly named Biscuits Cafe, an Oregon-based chain with locations in Chandler and Glendale.

Saturday: Wingstock festival at Mesa Amphitheatre

Jess Harter | Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Post image for Saturday: Wingstock festival at Mesa Amphitheatre

A dozen East Valley restaurants will vie for the crown of King of Wings at the annual Wingstock festival from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at Mesa Amphitheatre.

ATL Wings in Chandler will return to defend its title at the event, which is billed as “Where Music & Chicken Meat.”

Other participating restaurants: Native New Yorker, House of Brews, The VineDiamond’s, Uncle Bear’s, Cogburn’s, Fat Tuesday, On The Green, Stadium Club, Phil the Grill, and Dave & Busters.

Admission is $5 in advance or $7 at the gate. Attendees can sample wings from all the competitors. Wing coupons will be sold four for $3 or 14 for $10. One coupon will be good for one wing.

There will be a pair of wing-eating contests, and live music from Johnny Anonymous, Laura Walsh, and the Guitarnauts.

Children’s activities will include an Easter egg hunt at 10:30 a.m., bounce houses, and face painting. Children 10 and under will be admitted free with a paid adult.

Dominic Armato’s new food blog: The Killer Dish

Jess Harter | Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Post image for Dominic Armato’s new food blog: The Killer Dish

Prominent Valley food blogger Dominic Armato has a new project, and it’s killer. More precisely, it’s The Killer Dish.

Each post on the blog, which launched Tuesday, focuses on a single dish at a Valley restaurant. In Armato’s words:

[I]t aims to treat each dish as a springboard to talk about everything that goes into making that dish awesome – what techniques the chef employs, what culinary traditions have influenced the dish, whether a local grower is supplying some fabulous key ingredient – that kind of thing. In this way, it’s about more than just the dish, but everything leads back to what makes the dish fabulous.

So far, posts explore Gilfeather Rutabaga at FnB Restaurant in Scottsdale, Crispy Pig Ears at Crudo in Phoenix, and Naeng Myun at Café Ga Hyang in Glendale.

Armato first made a splash in the Valley culinary scene with his blog Skillet Doux, which was a finalist in Saveur Magazine’s 2011 Food Blog Awards.

A year ago, the Chicago transplant shifted gears and launched PHXfoodnerds, a Valley food discussion board.

Earlier: Blogger launches Valley food discussion website

Post image for It’s Wine Wednesday! Here are today’s East Valley deals

It’s Wednesday, which means deals on wine…

Today’s wine specials:

Chinese/sushi eatery Li’s Asian opens in south Tempe

Jess Harter | Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Post image for Chinese/sushi eatery Li’s Asian opens in south Tempe

Li’s Asian, a fast-casual restaurant featuring Chinese food and sushi, has opened on the southwest corner of McClintock and Elliot in south Tempe.

The menu offers a variety of Americanized Chinese dishes with chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp in a choice of two sizes – regular ($6.50-$7.50) or large ($9.50-$11.95).

In addition, Li’s has two dozen different sushi rolls ($4.50-$9.99) as well as sashimi ($6.95-$8.50).

Li’s does not sell alcohol.

Hours are 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 4-9:30 p.m. Sunday.

(Photo by John Alvarado)

Four Peaks turns 17 with Local Fest on Saturday

Jess Harter | Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Post image for Four Peaks turns 17 with Local Fest on Saturday

Four Peaks Brewing celebrates its 17th birthday Saturday with Local Fest, a festival of Four Peaks beers, food trucks, and live music, from noon to 9 p.m. in the parking lot of its Wilson Street production facility in Tempe.

There’ll be plenty of shade and mobile misting systems to keep people cool. Brewery tours will be held 2-6 p.m. Kids can get their faces painted and enjoy snow cones. Dog treats will be available for canines.

Admission and parking will be free. The first 500 people to arrive will receive a $20 Uber credit to use on transportation.

Regular beers

  • Kilt Lifter
  • 8th Street Pale Ale
  • Hop Knot
  • Sunbru
  • Peach Ale
  • Raj IPA
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Hefeweizen

Barrel-aged beers

  • Wine Barrel Aged Baltic Porter
  • Tequila Barrel Aged Raj IPA
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Raj IPA
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Kilt Lifter
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Bonehead Red
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Diablo Rojo
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Hopsquatch
  • Sirius Black

Specialty beers

  • Double Knot
  • Diablo Rojo
  • Pumpkin Porter
  • ¡Odelay!
  • Short Hop ISA
  • Single Tank Series: White IPA
  • Single Tank Series: Saison

Food trucks

Live music

  • Kung FU Grip (12:15 p.m.)
  • Bears of Manitou (1:30)
  • Gooder (2:45)
  • Walt Richardson Music (4)
  • The Pistoleros (5:15)
  • Black Bottom Lighters (6:30)
  • Sara Robinson & The Midnight Special (7:45)
Post image for April 23: BJ’s to donate 15% of sales to Lost Paws rescue