Local chefs and bartenders bring major flavor to Phoenix

Katie Couric
Global Anchor

By Alexandra Zaslow

Phoenix is starting to say goodbye to chain restaurants and hello to locally owned establishments.

“We’ve really emerged as a culinary destination,” R.J. Price, vice president of marketing and events for Downtown Phoenix Inc., said.

The pizza at Pizzeria Bianco can’t be beat. The award-winning chef and owner, Chris Bianco, brought New York-style pizza to Phoenix after moving to the desert city in the 1980s.

“I was young. I was 23,” Bianco said. “I was just looking for a place that would let me hang out for a while. And the rest is kind of a mashup of good fortune, luck and good people around me.”

Bianco loves working with locally grown ingredients.

“What’s happening now is we’ve got incredible farmers,” Bianco said. “I think that’s a great palette to work from.”

When it comes to drinks, Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour is the place to go. The bar has enhanced the city’s nightlife and put a creative twist on the ordinary cocktail.

“I felt like the city was ready for taking it up a notch on the cocktail front,” owner Ross Simon said. “We were definitely first in the city to be built from the bar up and have our focus on cocktails.”

Simon’s drinks have a personality of their own and change yearly based on the theme of the menu.

“It was appealing to me personally to come to a city that was on the diving board, getting ready to jump,” Simon said. “Really kind of helping with some great people really do something fun that wasn’t being done before.”

Barrio Café has become a Phoenix staple and is known for serving some of the best Mexican cuisine the city has to offer.

Upon returning from a trip to Mexico that chef and owner Silvana Salcido Esparza called a “voyage of discovery,” she opened Barrio Café in 2002.

“I do the best I can to represent my culture,” Esparza said. “And it’s because of the heart.”

She makes sure that every dish coming out of her kitchen is authentic.

“As the city changes, I hope that they embrace the influence of other communities that are now part of the fabric of our community,” Esparza said.