Carefree Restaurant Week celebrates its dedicated following

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Jo Gemmill believes there’s power in numbers.

Collectively, Carefree’s restaurants and coffeehouses—including her English Rose Tea Room—will make their mark with the third annual Carefree Restaurant Week from October 1 to October 11.

“It’s a chance to say ‘thank you’ to all the folks who have supported us through the pandemic,” says Gemmill, who also serves as the Carefree Restaurant Association’s chairwoman.

Restaurant week offers participating restaurants the chance to showcase their menus at discounted prices. Some restaurants will offer a special lunch menu, others a three-course dinner for dine-in or takeout customers.

The prices—per person, excluding alcohol—are $18 for a two-course lunch; $35 or $45 for a three-course dinner menu.

Gemmill will serve a two-course lunch menu of cottage pie, pumpkin spice scones and a seasonal tea, as English Rose Tea Room at 201 Easy Street, Suite 103, isn’t open for dinner.

“It’s a little different than the cucumber sandwiches that people expect us to provide,” she says with a laugh. “We’re hoping a lot more gentleman callers will come by because of the meat-and-potatoes menu.

“Unlike many other towns, Carefree’s restaurant base is made up of independent, family-owned businesses. Therefore, no large corporate chains dictate menu, pricing or marketing campaign. Rather, the individual business owner can determine the look, feel, style, concept and brand their own restaurant based on their own individual culinary expertise.”

Gemmill says Carefree Restaurant Week follows Arizona Restaurant Week, which was in September.

“Arizona Restaurant Week is sometimes cost prohibitive for smaller independent restaurants to take part,” she adds.

“When we started Carefree Restaurant Association, we decided there would be free membership, no dues. We just work on the goodwill of our community and neighbors. Carefree Restaurant Week is a free event to take part in for the restaurants. We’re offering a discounted menu and a chance to say, ‘Hey, we’re still in business.’”

Adele Giordano owns one of those businesses—Giordano’s Trattoria Romana at 7275 E. Easy Street. The Italian eatery has been in her family since 2004.

“During this pandemic, I have to say, I’ve had the most supportive regulars and all of the customers were consistently taking out prior to May 12, when we were allowed to have indoor dining with all the CDC guidelines.

“I love restaurant week. It’s a way to give a special menu to the people and thank them for all the support throughout the years.”

Giordano’s Trattoria Romana’s menu will feature escargot, house or Caesar salad; pollo gorgonzola, linguine con vongole, lasagna Bolognese, cannelloni Florentine, pollo Parmigiana, eggplant Parmigiana or gluten-free penne pasta ($35); or salmon fra diavalo, vitello francese, vitello marsala, vitello piccata, pork chop voldostano or cioppini frutti de mare ($45); and tiramisu or New York cheesecake.

Paul Keeler, of Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse at 7212 Ho Hum Drive, says the overriding theme of Carefree Restaurant Week is “great.”

“We feel that Carefree has just so many great community- and independent-driven restaurants that need awareness, especially in these times,” he says.

“It builds awareness. The awareness is good within the greater Carefree/Cave Creek/North Scottsdale area, but this reaches out a little bit farther and gives people a great cross section of offerings.”

Keeler’s offers high-quality steaks at a lower cost than most standard steakhouses, like Capital Grille or Morton’s The Steakhouse, he says. During restaurant week, it will offer three courses for $45 per person—tomato bisque, Keeler salad or French onion soup; 8-ounce prime rib, California sea bass, baseball cut steak or half chicken; and chocolate cake a la mode. 

“In our area, they like the fact that they don’t have to go ‘down the hill,’ so to speak, to get a good steak,” Keeler says about Carefree residents. “It’s a very versatile menu. Our happy hour is robust. We have several different venues—a courtyard, patio that’s adjacent to us, a rooftop deck that opens on October 1.”

During the event, participating restaurants will follow all CDC guidelines regarding safety measures and limited dine-in capacity. Keeler’s has taken COVID-19 so seriously that the Arizona and Carefree restaurant associations have used it as an example of how to operate during the pandemic.

“We adhere to 50% occupancy,” he says. “People have the option to dine in or dine out on the patio. More people are comfortable with open air. We have a good curbside to-go program as well.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of Carefree Restaurant Week. We feel we have a lot to offer with the independent restaurants. Kudos to Jo, who’s the president, for organizing it.” 

Carefree Restaurant Week

Thursday, October 1, to Sunday, October 11

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