Chris Bianco, the James Beard award-winning chef, who has a national reputation some say, for the country’s best pizza has himself another winner, with his newest venture, Tratto at 4743 20th Street in Phoenix’s Town and Country shopping center. Tratto opened quietly in May 2016, and it wasn’t long before it started to win the hearts of many. In fact, it took the number one spot for Restaurant of the Year in Phoenix Magazine. It is no secret that Phoenix isn’t exactly known for its culinary scene, but things are slowly starting to change. Chris Bianco has stood above most, and it’s not for fine dining. In fact, his restaurants are all casual. But he uses the best local farmers, ranchers, millers and local artisans from the southwest. He sources seasonal ingredients and you can taste the difference.
The restaurant is small, rustic and homey, a real welcoming space, the whitewashed interior with a mix of worn antiques seats 38, including the bar seats. The tiny kitchen is open where you can see the chefs busy at work. The marble countertop of the kitchen is brim with preserves and vegetable displays. Chris was not there on the night we dined, but his able chef de cuisine Anthony Andiario made our wonderful dinner.
Everyone received a small plate of local heirloom carrots, cucumbers, and cheese from Wisconsin. They were simply seasoned with a great olive oil and sea salt, yet they were soulfully good. The homemade bread and focaccia comes from his Pane Bianco restaurant and are excellent. One thing you won’t find at this restaurant is Chris Bianco’s famous pizzas. You can get them next door at his sister restaurant or at his other two places.
Our extremely polished and knowledgeable server, Randy, guided us through the menu, which changes every couple of weeks. One thing that doesn’t change is the format – the menu is small and focused. There is always a couple of salads, a farinata, two kinds of pasta, two entrees, and two vegetable side dishes. The food is simple, Italian-inspired and very satisfying.
We started with farm bitter greens from Steadfast Farms, garnished with mini apricots, toasted almonds, Crow’s Dairy fresh goat cheese in a lemon-honey vinaigrette. We had a wonderful, thin and crispy farinata with olives and rosemary. Then we moved on to a creamy chicken liver pate on heirloom grain crostini with a cherry mostarda and crispy sage. I think I need to start taking Lipitor after that dish. We couldn’t decide between both pasta offerings, so naturally, we had both. A tagliarini with tomato passata, chives and ricotta salata and a garganelli with a tender beef cheek ragu. If I had to make one negative comment, it would be the use of too much salt. Otherwise, the pasta was cooked to a toothsome perfection.
For our main, we had grilled piccolo chicken from Two Wash Ranch, done in a delicious, but salty brine of tarragon and lemon. Our vegetable side dish were the most flavourful and crispy purple viking potatoes from Blue Sky Farms, with a salsa verde. The wine list is also Italian-focused, leaning heavy on Italian reds. There is also some good craft cocktails and beers as well.
For dessert, there were three choices, a tiramisu, and a rich chocolate dish, but we happily went with the citrus custard tart, which was like a decadent creme brûlée pie served with a vanilla bean cream.
All in all, we were genuinely satisfied with this unpretentious and adorable restaurant that showcases goodness from Arizona farmers.
Tratto is currently open for dinner six nights a week, Monday to Saturday. However, during the summer they will be closed Sunday and Monday.