Chris Bianco Changes Up the Kitchen at Italian Restaurant, But Is That Enough?

Categories: Buchanan

italian restaurant.jpg
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."

Location Info

Venue

Map

Taggia

4925 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Different Pointe of View

11111 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Prado

4949 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Pane Bianco

4404 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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15 comments
Ottis
Ottis

Yo Maya, I mean Anonymous Farmer, look around again, its not that grand in that place.  Its all smoke and mirrors

nopale
nopale

while the cat is away, the mice will play

Guest
Guest

I hada dinner there a few weeks ago. Only table in the entire restaurant and all the servers did was dick around and chat at the bar. The thing that shocked me is that chris did the same thing. No point in enjoying the food when the service staff basically gives the finger to every diner who walks in. No one even say hello or good bye. The service is beyond awful. Its pathetic when baby kays give you worse food but better service. If bianco thinks he can survive on his name alone and give awful service, he's in for a huge surprise.

Ottis
Ottis

Yo Bianco... go back to England.  They know less then Phoenix, maybe you can be a star there.  Reinvent fish and chips!

The right palate for the prose
The right palate for the prose

It's encouraging to see someone with Nikki's food-journalistic chops chewing on some content for this site.

Ottis
Ottis

If we are going to talk about going down hill.  Lets talk about the New Times. BLOWS

Hzdhshsb
Hzdhshsb

"Clearly, Bianco respects his bro's mad skills"

What frat boy wrote this?

I stopped reading after that.

Ottis
Ottis

Hzdhshsb.  Your giving Bianco too much credit.  The guy is a shoe maker.  He has no communication skills.  Have you ever talked to him?  F bomb after F bomb.  He is lucky for the French Connection giving him a chance.  Bianco is the next spokesmodel for Don't do drugs!  KIDS FINISH SCHOOL!

Guest
Guest

. . . and please, bring back the 'old' tomato, mozzarella and basil sandwich at Pane. Whatever has been served there over the past couple of years has been entirely different in taste and texture (although looking the same). I used to get one of those a couple of times per month - despite not working or living in the area. No more.

Ottis
Ottis

Different everything.  You will never get back the 'old'.  Bianco has gone corporate!  Jamie Oliver has ruined it for him.  Should have kept Susan around!

Guest
Guest

Yeah it does seem like once he bought Susan out the philosophy changed. Went from limited production, limited hours, high quality to changes in venues, hours, and oversight that may have affected quality. 

Hungry
Hungry

Claudio is a talented cook.  No question about it.  People get turned off by his perpetual scowl and thick accent, but he has chops.  The service at Italian Restaurant was horrific.  Insulting at every level.  The bottom line is that someone has to be accountable, and that someone should be  Bianco.  Pizzeria Bianco may have a four hour wait but the room at Italian Restaurant is mostly empty, save the tables Bianco has reserved for "his guests."  Clean house in the front and start over, Mr. Bianco.  Someone let Claudio do what he does best, and someone tell Mr. Bianco that success at Pizzeria and Pane don't grant him automatic success at his "humble" little trattoria.

Guest
Guest

Been a big fan of Pizzeria, Bar, and Pane for years, so I went into Italian Restaurant without the chip on my shoulder that some people seem to have about the sometimes too-cool-for-school atmosphere, service and selection.  After two visits where I was generally ignored by the staff and surprised at the cost for what I received, I'm left with that chip. Here's hoping it gets back on track to being the neighborhood, simple yet delicious spot that was contemplated at the outset.  

Ottis
Ottis

The Bianco kingdom is falling.  How is it a guy gets all these accolades, from various publications in Phoenix and across the US for the best pizza in the US, and the pizza they are talking about has changed.  Before you write about how great the pizza is, or take articles and copy and paste them together to get a new and improved view on how great Bianco's pizzas are, go there, wait in the "line" and taste it!  He has changed all the products he uses to make his famous pizzas.  How is it still the best!?  Its not the same; not the same people making it, or same ingredients, its totally different.  Yes, one thing has remained the same, over cooked for the most part and round!  

Urciuoli, open your eyes!  You don't want to call this guy your brother, look at how he treats his own bro.  Like a mushroom, kept in the dark all the time. 

anonymous farmer
anonymous farmer

I can speak for the ingredients.  I am in their walk-ins every week.  It is crammed full of locally produced product - Maya, One WindMill, Udder Delights, Superstition Farm among local eggs, produce and cut flowers. They are grinding wheat for their pasta!  Who does that?!

The Bianco's are walking the walk in sourcing locally and their attention to detail in the kitchen is second to none.  I am proud to have my product in their dishes.

Anonymous Farmer

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