Chris Bianco Changes Up the Kitchen at Italian Restaurant, But Is That Enough?
Claire Lawton Scene from Chris Bianco's Italian Restaurant
When pizza guru/restaurateur Chris Bianco brought chef Claudio Urciuoli onboard to run his generically named Italian Restaurant -- which opened in Central Phoenix last January -- the partnership promised to be interesting, at the very least.
Both men have earned stellar reputations for their meticulous sourcing, and both have definite opinions about what Italian food is and isn't. As it turns out, their opinions regarding the direction this particular Italian restaurant should take simply were too different to make the alliance work.
The two have parted ways amicably, and if the conversations I had with each today are any indication -- both offering such a flurry of "good luck" and "I love you, man" -- there's no denying they're still brothers from another mother.
But tastes definitely differ.
For his part, Urciuoli wanted what might best be described as an Italian-Italian restaurant, offering the seafood he grew up on in Campania as well as other interesting, authentic dishes Valley locals might not have seen before.
Bianco, on the other hand, prefers the "simple, less is more" Italian-American food of his own childhood. "The restaurant didn't feel like my intention," Bianco acknowledges.
It's a sentiment Urciuoli obviously agrees with, adding, "He has one vision; I have another."
Clearly, Bianco respects his bro's mad skills. "I don't want to take someone out of their zone," he says of Urciuoli, who presided over three resort restaurants -- Taggia, Different Pointe of View and Prado -- before heading to Pane Bianco in 2010. Robbie Tutlewski, a 28-year-old Pane Bianco alum with a "good pedigree," will be taking over the kitchen at Italian Restaurant.
"His style is still developing," notes Bianco, while "an experienced chef already has his own template."