Kitchen Doors: Let’s Eat

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Posted By on August 27, 2020

Local First: Phoenix City Grille

5816 N. 16th St. |  Phoenix

Since Phoenix City Grille opened in 1997, Sheldon Knapp, who owns the restaurant with his wife, has seen the local culinary scene flourish. “There is so much more creativity and talent in Phoenix than ever before,” he said. “There is also an emphasis on doing business locally and using more indigenous products.”

Phoenix City Grille works with several local suppliers, including Ramona Farms, Rhiba Farms, McClendon’s Select, Mediterra Bakehouse, Crow’s Dairy, Mount Hope Wholesale, Mama Lola’s Tortillas, Queen Creek Olive Mill, Hayden Flour Mills, Chula Seafood and Shamrock Foods.“ As a local business, we seek out and support other local businesses and try to establish relationships with them so we can understand each other’s needs and standards for doing business. This strengthens the economy and gives all involved personal connections,” Knapp said.

The menu at Phoenix City Grille changes seasonally and specials are offered regularly. Some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes are bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cotija cheese, braised short ribs, green chile pork, Ramona Farms superfood salad, griddled corn cakes with black beans, and buttermilk pie.

Relationships are an essential part of this longstanding business. “Many of our staff have been with us for a long time,” Knapp said. “Customers return because of consistency and knowing they have a voice. We seek out and listen to feedback from both our customers and staff. We remain flexible in trying to meet their requests.”

Although the pandemic has been challenging for the restaurant industry, Knapp is hopeful for the future. “Restaurants have been, and will continue to be, a great place to meet and enjoy each other’s company while enjoying great food and drinks in a fun and creative environment,” he said.

To learn more, go to phoenixcitygrille.com.


Caring Chef: Adam Allison

Despite going through difficult times, many restaurants and chefs have stepped up during the pandemic to provide meals to people in need. Adam Allison, chef and owner of Handlebar Diner in Mesa and Secret Handshake Coffee and Tea in Tempe, saw a need and took action.

“I had a conversation with a woman on welfare,” Allison said. “The schools were closed because of COVID and the lunches her kids received at school were no longer available and they were the best meal of the day for the kids. If I wasn’t a chef, I’d probably be a teacher, so that bothered me. Being in my profession and having the means to help, it was impossible to sit back.”

At the start of the pandemic, Allison was providing about 75 meals weekly for students, and it has grown to 1,200 meals weekly with donations, volunteers and the support of local businesses including NakedQ, Frasher’s Smokehouse, CHZBURGR, Frites Street, Sonoran Pasta Co., Phoenix Microgreens, Proof Bread, Noble Bread, Shamrock Foods, Accurate, and American Legion Post 44.

Allison also prepares meals weekly for healthcare workers.

“I have always been one to help the less fortunate,” Allison said. “I will donate meals as long as we continue to get the donations and funds needed to keep it going.”

Allison, who won “Chopped” on Food Network in 2018, got COVID-19 in June and has since recovered. He is grateful for the community support in this challenging environment.

“We are lucky at the Handlebar because we have such a supportive community,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough. They’re like family. However, a lot of my chef friends are struggling.”

To contribute funds to Allison’s meal programs for students and healthcare workers, visit handlebardiner.com. To volunteer, send a message to feedthekidsaz@gmail.com.


New in Town: Stratta Kitchen

8260 N. Hayden Road  |  SCOTTSDALE

You may not expect to find a James Beard-award winning chef cooking healthy food in a fast-casual restaurant, but that’s where you will find chef Alex Stratta, known for his high-end, award-winning cuisine at luxury resorts like The Phoenician and Wynn Las Vegas.

Originally scheduled to open earlier this year, Stratta Kitchen opened in August in Scottsdale, offering fresh and healthy Mediterranean-inspired food for delivery, pickup and dine-in.

Stratta’s father worked in the hotel industry and Alex grew up all over the world, which influenced his cooking style. As a young chef, Stratta came to Arizona to work at the acclaimed Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician. He left Arizona and worked in Las Vegas for many years, winning several impressive accolades. A few years ago, he decided to return to Arizona to raise his family.

“I had a good run in Vegas and did everything I wanted to do,” he said. “Arizona is where I had my first chef job, and I have roots here. I wanted to rebalance my life.”

A battle with colon cancer changed Stratta’s eating habits and life. He became more active and lost 100 pounds with a Mediterranean diet, which is the inspiration for Stratta Kitchen.

The menu at Stratta Kitchen can accommodate a variety of dietary preferences and includes shareable items such as hummus, baba ganoush, and baked artichoke, spinach and goat cheese dip. Other offerings include grain bowls, salads and a selection of proteins such as Alaskan salmon, free-range chicken and grilled halloumi cheese served with a choice of sauces including chimichurri, Moroccan spice tahini, and elderberry balsamic vinaigrette. There are also delectable desserts such as goat cheese panna cotta and baklava, as well as a variety of teas, fresh fruit juices, beer and wine served in a contemporary setting featuring local artwork.

“The Mediterranean diet is inherently healthy, flavorful and diverse. The menu is what I eat,” Stratta said.

For more information, visit strattakitchen.com.


Cheers to Marcellino

7114 E. Stetson Drive  |  SCOTTSDALE

Like all restaurants, Marcellino Ristorante in Old Town Scottsdale is trying to serve customers in the safest way possible and provide an enjoyable dining experience.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant hosted intimate wine dinners a few times a year at the chef’s island. “As we cannot follow safety protocols at the chef’s island, we created a new series of twice-monthly wine dinners in our dining room. Our goal is to provide a fun, educational experience while allowing guests to be safely socially distanced,” said Sima Verzino, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Chef Marcellino.

Each wine dinner highlights a different Italian vineyard, region and menu with four courses, including an antipasto, a handcrafted pasta dish, entrée and homemade biscotti for dessert. Sommelier Dario Soldan of Classico Wines pairs Italian wines with each course. Throughout the evening, guests learn about the wines and the meal, and why each wine pairs so well with each course.

“We weren’t sure what to expect, but the wine dinners have been a big hit,” Sima said. “Several guests have mentioned that they felt isolated at home and appreciate that they can enjoy an entertaining evening out in a safe, socially distanced setting.”

In the fall, Chef Marcellino plans to resume his popular cooking classes with modifications for social distancing. “It will be very similar to my classes in the past, but guests will be seated in the dining room, not at the chef’s island. After the class, guests will enjoy the dish I prepared for lunch with a salad and biscotti,” he said.

Sima and Marcellino are adapting to the changing environment. “When changes in life occur — good or bad — we take stock, reinvent and move forward with a plan,” Marcellino said. “We know that to survive long-term, we must be diligent with our protocols and constantly come up with creative ideas.”

To meet distancing guidelines, guests must make reservations in advance. For the schedule of wine dinners and cooking classes, visit marcellinoristorante.com.

Shoshana Leon

About Shoshana Leon

Shoshana Leon is a culinary writer for Frontdoors Media and creator of Foodie Fo Sho.