Hidden behind the former Crown Imports building on 7th Street in Phoenix is a little slice of heaven.

Growing up in New York, every neighborhood had its favorite Italian restaurant where friends would gather to revel in two- or three-hour dinners, laugh at a lifetime of shared memories, and share a bottle or six of wine. Pubblico Italian Eatery is that neighborhood Italian joint for the Central Corridor.

That is very fitting since the English translation of “pubblico” is public. Pubblico — with its great patio, hip yet intimate look and feel, fun atmosphere, and the best seven-day-a-week happy hour in Central Phoenix — is a perfect gathering space for dinner with friends, business associates, or date night.

Pubblico is a family owned and operated restaurant led by Chef Danny Garcia, who goes to great lengths to make sure only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients are used to create the deliciousness served on Pubblico’s palate-pleasing plates. Highlighting Pubblico’s menu are hand-crafted pastas and wood-fired pizzas, but you can start your meal with incredible small bites such as shrimp scampi ($14), a variety of bruschetta ($9), antipasto board ($18), or the amazing mozzarella carrozza ($9)  — ciabatta bread stuffed with fresh mozzarella, breaded, deep fried and served with marinara sauce. You’ll want to make a meal of the mozzarella carrozza, but don’t because you’ll want to leave room for Pubblico’s amazing salads and main dishes. Some favorites:

A lot of restaurants do a Caprese salad — vine ripe tomatoes, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil — but Garcia sprinkles some magic onto Pubblico’s Caprese ($10) that makes it stand out from the crowd.

The strawberry salad ($8) — mixed greens, fresh strawberries, gorgonzola cheese, caramelized walnuts, and wild-berry vinaigrette — tastes so fresh, vibrant and healthy that it will take away any guilt you might have over ordering that second plate of mozzarella carrozza.

Rigatoni, clam linguini, lobster ravioli in a mouth-watering lobster-brandy sauce, and lasagna are just a few of the luscious pasta dishes, but it’s the old standby of spaghetti with meatballs ($17) in which Pubblico raises the bar from exceptional to perfection. The house-made spaghetti tossed with beef and pork meatballs, tomato sauce and fresh basil is the best plate of pasta you will find in Phoenix.

For chicken lovers, you cannot go wrong with the chicken parmesan ($18) — which stacks up with the chicken parmesan created by even the most loving Italian grandmother — or the chicken marsala ($22), which is topped with a mushroom and red wine marsala sauce that will delight even the most discerning foodie.

And while most gluten-free foodies have to bypass Italian restaurants, Pubblico sets itself apart from the competition by offering gluten-free options — including pasta and pizzas — that are so delicious, it won’t feel like a sacrifice.

Pubblico’s amazing happy hour is daily from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. It is located in the back of the Crown building on the corner of 7th Street and Palo Verde and there is plenty of parking, which is rare for 7th Street’s burgeoning culinary scene.

And while it’s easy to miss if you’re driving down 7th Street, this is one neighborhood Italian joint you definitely don’t want to miss.

Pubblico Italian Eatery

Location: 5813 N. 7th St., Phoenix, AZ 85014

Phone: 602-601-5651

Online: pubblicoitalianeatery.com