Cue the strings, fire up the oven and pour a glass of fun while surrounded by friends and family. What better way to experience the comforts and flavors of Italian culture than in a boho-chic restaurant reminiscent of Mama’s kitchen? In fact, that’s where the idea for Marcella’s Italian Kitchen started.
Meet Marcella Libertini, the chef and house manager for the Tuscan villa where nationally acclaimed restaurateur, Cameron Mitchell, vacationed every summer.
“Marcella inspired me to bring authentic Italian cuisine and the atmosphere of a bustling Italian cafe in Rome to our guests in Columbus, Ohio, and Scottsdale, Ariz.,” Mitchell says.
The Scottsdale location, Mitchell’s second concept to hit Arizona — the first being CityNorth’s Ocean Prime — opened Oct. 15. And the best way to experience Marcella’s is to think big. Bring lots of family and friends to eat lots of savory food, and remember what Mama told you — share your food.
To start the night off right, you have to order the braised veal meatball appetizer — or as Marcella’s fondly calls it, The Eighth Wonder of the World. Is it the size that makes it the eighth wonder? Personally, I find the wonder in the presentation of the sweet meat surrounded in marinara and cheese. The way it melts in your mouth also makes this savory concoction live up to its nickname. Other great starters include the calamari with fried zucchini, roasted garlic aioli and a hint of lemon; as well as the roasted garlic and cheese bruschetta.
Executive Chef Geoff Baumberger does not disappoint, as we experienced the full Italian-style pantry Marcella’s offers, stuffed with antipasto, meats and cheeses, bread racks and endless reserves of wine.
“Our menu is unpretentious and we are committed to keeping things fresh every day — that goes for our food and our personality,” Baumberger says.
Prompt service provided by our server, Natalie, who has been with Marcella’s for the past two years and relocated to Scottsdale to share with us her knowledge of the delicious Italian fare, only made the night that much better.
The ravioli mezzaluna filled with goat cheese, cabbage, Italian bacon and mushrooms provided an explosion of flavor. The homemade pasta, sauce and mixture of flavors created a good balance of tastes paired perfectly with a glass of merlot. Another favorite was the salmon al fresco surrounded by brick-oven tomatoes, kalamata olives and roasted potatoes. Drizzled in a lemon juice and olive oil mixture, the savory fish was light and delicious.
And what’s an Italian restaurant without lasagna? Marcella’s lasagna is even better than what Mama used to make, with homemade pasta sandwiched between housemade sweet Italian sausage, juicy tomatoes and marinara layered with alfredo sauce.
Despite being stuffed, we couldn’t say no to dessert. An Italian classic, tiramisu, along with profiteroles, provided a terrific end to the night. The tiramisu was light with a delicate balance of espresso and creamy goodness.
The profiteroles followed suit, replete with creamy pistachio, chocolate and honey vanilla gelato melted between warm chocolate ganache.
For those who need a good meeting place, the 10,800-square-foot restaurant features three private dining rooms — all named after a region in Italy. The rooms accommodate 20 to 40 guests and are fully equipped with audio-visual capabilities. Additional seating also is available in the interior terrace, which seats up to 52 guests.
So make sure to follow the advice on the wait staff’s apparel: “For a good time, call (480) 947-2105 — for reservations silly.”
If You Go:
Marcella’s Italian Kitchen
7014 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale