Restaurant of the Week: The Sicilian Butcher

Restaurant of the Week: The Sicilian Butcher

The Sicilian Butcher in Phoenix puts a fresh, unique twist – Craft Meatballs and Charcuterie Bar – on Italian dining and lives up to the reputation built by The Maggiore Group over 40 years.

When discussing The Sicilian Butcher, it should all start with the meatballs. Specifically, Tomaso’s Sicilian Meatballs.

Growing up in New York, my family would get in our Plymouth Voyager and make the two-hour-plus trek to South Jersey to visit my Italian-immigrant grandparents. Grandma seemingly never left the kitchen at any point before or after our arrival. Her father owned a pasta company in the old country and her wide range of authentic recipes were legendary in the extended family and in the neighborhood. As with many “chefs” from her generation, the recipes weren’t written down. They were all in her head, honed and perfected over the years. Once dementia wracked her memory, it was too late to get the recipes and the specifics were lost forever. Although my family had a couple other members who excelled in the kitchen, nobody ever came close to her meatballs.

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Fast-forward to my first bite of Tomaso’s Sicilian Meatballs at The Sicilian Butcher. “They’re my Grandma’s meatballs,” I said softly to my dining partner. My eyes welled up as every delicious, but distant, memory of trips to Grandma’s came flying back. That’s how good – and authentic – the veal, pork, and beef standard meatball is here.

The atmosphere at The Sicilian Butcher is a step above casual but maintains a modern, neighborhood-friendly vibe. The bar has seating indoors and out and the patio has plenty of seating. The open-style dining room has tables close together to encourage making new friends, but not so close that you feel like you have to be best friends.

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All of the craft cocktails are twists on familiar favorites with enough changes to make it their own. One of the most popular choices in the early-going is The Italiano, a bourbon-based cocktail with Averna, amaretto syrup and a dash of orange bitters. The Averna and orange bitters add bite to the cocktail while the amaretto adds a touch of sweetness to bring balance. They also take a torch to the wooden board the drink comes on which looks awesome and adds what is probably just an olfactory touch of smoke. A gin cocktail, The Grazi, is another staff recommendation. In addition to the gin, it contains red wine, a strawberry reduction, lemon juice and egg whites. Each ingredient is recognizable and blends together without one overpowering the rest.

The wine list is one of my favorite things about The Sicilian Butcher. Sicily is one of the most underrated wine-growing regions of Italy and if you want wine at The Sicilian Butcher, you’re drinking Sicilian wine. The climate of Sicily allows for a variety of styles so even if you’re a fan of a specific region or style, ask for a recommendation and you will probably discover a new wine to enjoy. Beer drinkers aren’t forgotten with six beers on tap including some craft selections and a small collection of bottles and cans.

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In addition to the meatballs and charcuterie boards that are featured both in the menu and in the restaurant’s subtitle, there’s a variety of appetizers, salads, Sicilian-style bruschetta boards, panini, and flatbreads. If you’re with a large party, the Sicilian in Strada is a must-have. Served on a five-foot board, it includes some of the best that The Sicilian Butcher has to offer.

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Although the Tomaso’s Sicilian was the meatball that brought a tear to my eye, there are numerous other options – all of which are hand-rolled. When you choose your meatball, you also pick a sauce and a bottom. Some examples of the sauce choices are spicy arrabiata, carbonara and truffle mushroom. Bottoms include a variety of housemade pastas and other choices like risotto and polenta. The combinations are almost endless and you’ll be hard-pressed to make a wrong choice. If you save room for dessert, you’ll be rewarded with options like an Olive Oil Cake with sweet mascarpone cream and honeycomb or a deconstructed cannoli.

The Sicilian Butcher is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. They offer Happy Hour in the bar all-day, every day. For more information, visit thesicilianbutcher.com.

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