Cibo is a refreshing burst of Italy in the midst of the desert. The quaint trattoria offers authentic woodfired pizzas and an array of antipasti, under the talented hand of Chef Guido Saccone. The restaurant inhibits a restored craftsman bungalow, boasting an absolutely charming, casual setting. Tables pepper the house’s original rooms, while exposed brick walls, original windows, and built-ins lend a historic charm. A detached carriage house accommodates larger parties, while an outdoor patio offers a delightful setting for cooler evenings. Whether you’re drawn to the casual, charming setting or the authentic, flavorful pizza, Cibo is one restaurant that should always be on your radar.Read More ...
Tucked in a restored craftsman house on a corner lot, Cibo boasts a spacious yard and a cozy interior. A yellow cement wall lines the perimeter of the property, and coupled with carefully landscaped trees and shrubs, provides a sense of privacy from the quiet block. What was once the front yard has been converted into a front patio, which is kept cool in summer months by strategically placed misting fountains. Walking up the stone pathway to the front door, guests can catch a hint of the mist’s coolness, the first indication that Cibo boasts a comforting, accommodating setting.
The house at 603 North 5th Avenue was restored by Tony and Karen Martingiglio, who purchased the property after falling in love with its architecture. After much renovation and restoration, with the help of their son, Michael Krassner, they debuted Cibo in 2004. The menu, a simple collection of pizzas and antipasti, is intentionally casual, conceptualized by Michael and overseen by Chef Guido Saccone.
The first thing you see when you step foot inside the double doors is a window into the soul of the restaurant: the kitchen. A flurry of activity bustles behind the open square in the wall, the chef scurrying back and forth between the wood burning oven and the counter. At 6:00 on a Wednesday, the restaurant is already packed with a slight wait—even the U-shaped bar in the main room is peppered with guests, playing host to friendly exchanges and casual conversation.
The space is warm and welcoming. Dim pendant lights infuse the main room with a warm glow, which matches the warm din of conversational chatter. Unadorned wood tables and simple wood chairs are spaced closely, bringing guests close together in this casual space. The décor is unfussy, composed mainly of the restored craftsman architecture, which is dramatic and comforting. Muted yellow walls alternate with exposed brick ones, both peppered with the original, thick wood door-and window-frames. In the main room, a stone fireplace infuse the space with a cozy farmhouse vibe, while in adjacent rooms, large oversized windows infuse the space with a cheery glow. Seating is spread out among the house’s original rooms, as well as in a second building—the original carriage house—which also accommodates private parties.
The wine selection is short but sweet, with 24 exclusively Italian selections, offered by both bottle and glass. It affords a chance to dive head-first into Italy, to be wooed by a Nero D’Avola, to be enlivened by an Orvieto, or satisfied by a simple Chianti. For such a short selection it is surprisingly diverse, and I relish in debating a suitable selection.
The one-page menu is filled with flavors and textures that nearly leap off the page. Just over a dozen pizzas comprise the main section of the menu, with a variety of salads and antipasti offering flavorful starters. The back of the menu introduces the sources of imported Italian ingredients such as prosciutto crudo and bresaola.
We begin with the Antipasto Speciale, a venerable appetizer sampler that spans both color palette and taste spectrum. The dish is offered in two sizes; we order the smaller but are still overwhelmed by its generous portions. A large plate arrives brimming with simple yet flavorful preparations—prosciutto crudo, bresaola with arugula and paramigiano, roasted red peppers with black olives and capers, caramelized cipollini onions, fresh bocconcini mozzarella, and what the menu describes as “a fantasy of olives.” Thick slices of fresh bread accompany the plate, and we set to work dismantling this generously sized sampler.
The arugula is vibrant and fresh, and it lures me as my first bite. Its peppery essence is the perfect foil to the subtle smokiness of paper-thin, nearly crisp bresaola. Next it’s moist, clearly fresh mozzarella balls, and onto salty and tender prosciutto. My fork gravitates toward the roasted red pepper medley, a tangy blend of tender capsicums, plump capers, and pitted kalamata olives. Tender peppers studded with grated parmesan taste sweet, interrupted by the piquant tang of capers. Another gem of the sampler is the caramelized onions, deep brown, wilted bulbs that prove sweet and resonant, but with an almost vinegary kick. Finally, roasted zucchini slices burst with moistness, but not without a firm underlying crispness.
The Antipasto Speciale is certainly all we need to begin this meal, although, there are a host of other starters that capture my attention. The Three Pairs of Bruschetta looks tempting—several diners around us order the dish, which is served on a simple pizza peel. Three oversized bread slices are piled high with different toppings—grape tomato and basil, cannellini beans, and prosciutto crudo with mozzarella. The presentation is colorful, and the range of flavors includes both light and refreshing and resonant and hearty. A vegetarian version of the Antipasto plate, the Mixed Vegetables offers the same diversity by simply omitting the cured meat, and several salads offer flavorful and healthy introductions to the meal.
Cibo’s Pizza offerings are divided into Pizze Rosse, pizzas with red sauce, and Pizze Bianche, pizzas without sauce. Two versions of calzones are also offered, one with red sauce and the other with white. I’m tempted by several white pies, including the Rustica—a simple mozzarella pie topped with prosciutto crudo, and arugula after it comes out of the oven, and the Salmone, featuring mozzarella, smoked salmon and fresh basil. There’s even a pie topped with potatoes—the Salsicca con Patate, featuring mozzarella, sausage, and roasted potatoes.
In the end we settle on sharing a pie from the Pizze Rosse menu, the Capricciosa. As with the antipasti, portions are generous, and the one-sized pies could easily be shared or polished off by a big eater. The Capricciosa arrives pushing the boundaries of the large white plate, a thin, crisp crust ringing a colorful medley of melted mozzarella, pink slices of prosciutto cotto, slivered mushrooms, pulled artichokes, and black olives. A thick, vibrant sauce peeks beneath the melted cheese, delivering a tangy acidity to each bite.
This is my kind of pie. The paper thin crust is just thick enough to support the myriad of toppings, while the sauce is just present enough to lend flavor, rather than overwhelm with moisture. The first bite is eminently satisfying, the flavors of tangy artichoke and sweet black olives dancing across the tongue. The toppings are spread thin, so each bite is slightly different than the last—a bite of olive and mushroom lends a hearty, woodsy flavor, while one of artichoke and crudo is sweet and tangy. Then there’s the crust—light and airy, with a slight char from the wood burning oven lending a crisp, toasted flavor, I’d dare call it perfect.
Well, perfect to me at least. Our neighbor at the bar, a regular, has his own preferences, and orders a Funghi pie, specifying light cheese and “burnt” crust. The result is a pie that looks even more authentically Italian, with a crisp, flaky crust that delivers a crunch with each bite. The simple pie is classic in its execution, a thin layer of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, topped with a medley of sliced, glistening brown mushrooms.
The dessert menu at Cibo is comprised of sweet crepes, a tempting selection that includes several nutella variations as well as the classic crepes Suzette. The Nutella and Marscarpone version seems otherworldly, and while I almost give in to temptation, I look at my watch and realize we have a concert to catch.
Instead I take one last bite of the spread before me and realize I am tasting the essence of an Italian trattoria.
Simple and unfussy, yet full of fresh, resonant flavors, a meal here is what every casual meal should be. While the food is transporting on its own, it is the combination of simple, rustic fare and the warm, unfussy, and cheery setting that makes Cibo a required destination. As I pluck one last olive from my plate, savoring the perfection in such a simple bite, I realize how lucky Phoenix is to be this close to Italy.
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