“Something you don’t need but, for whatever reason, you want.” Chef Rocco Pezzano may have had tongue planted firmly in cheek when he named his restaurant “Sfizio,” but he understated the attraction of this Italian eatery.
Family-owned and family-run, Sfizio Modern Italian Kitchen is a cozy neighborhood restaurant in north Phoenix where the warm atmosphere owes as much to its proprietors as to the wood-fired oven that dominates one wall of the dining room. Occupying nearly the full length of another wall is the bar, where the name “Sfizio” was torched onto the surface as part of the project Chef Rocco shared with his architect son.
“Back in the saddle,” as he describes it, Chef Rocco brings to Sfizio his previous experience as a restaurateur with seven successful restaurants. Offering Old World flavors with a modern twist, he imports the ingredients from his home region in southern Italy and gives the menu a refresh every couple of months.
The signature lunch dish is Sfizini, which was inspired by Chef Rocco’s childhood memories of his mother using a piece of bread to scoop up various tasty fillings. As Chef Rocco serves them, they are halves of freshly baked bread whose insides have been partially scooped out and overflow with any of seven fillings that include breaded eggplant parmigiana with house-made tomato sauce; chicken cacciatore with house-made tomato sauce; and hand-crafted, three meat ragu meatballs with San Marzano sauce. (The scooped-out bread makes its way into Sfizio’s meatballs, resulting in meatballs softer than if made with breadcrumbs.)
Like everything else on the menu, pasta is freshly made from scratch onsite — some in the new pasta machine but some still made by hand. One flavorful entrée is Rigatoni with vodka sauce, which is served topped with a mound of rich and creamy ricotta cheese and can be beefed up with chicken or sausage.
For a lighter appetite, Arancini is one of an assortment of small plates. Served with the house-made tomato sauce, this is a dish of three tasty, deep-fried and crispy balls of risotto, three-meat ragu, provolone and fontina cheeses.
Salads, desserts and scratch pizza round out a full lunch menu every weekday and further expanded dinner menu seven days a week.
Sfizio Modern Italian Kitchen
21050 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix
Fresh pan-seared eggplant and signature cheeses served with San Marzano sauce
|Frutti di Mare
Jumbo shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, fresh cod fish and squid-ink pasta served with a light, spicy, red sauce
|Short Rib Rigatoni
Braised short ribs, hand-crafted rigatoni, fresh burrata and garlic confit
Did You Know: With Sfizio, Chef Rocco Pezzano comes back to the business he loves after a hiatus from the restaurant industry to spend more time with his family — encouraged this time by his son Marco, who joins him in this enterprise.
Photos courtesy of Sfizio Modern Italian Kitchen