Couple brings their hometown flavors to Cave Creek

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Federico Venturini and Viola Tagliaferri, the husband-and-wife duo behind Carefree’s Pizzicata, are expressing their love for their home country of Italy with Pomodoro Italian Grill & Seafood in Cave Creek.

The couple says, in Italy, the most important part of the dining experience is the company. They believe in those interactions, and they want to make a dining experience incredible with their new upscale Italian steakhouse.

The two partnered with Cave Creek resident Philip Igneri on the concept, which moved into the former location of Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine, which closed in December after 19 years.

“We met in a restaurant about three years ago, became friends and then I went and visited him and his family in Italy,” Igneri says about Venturini.

“We went all over Italy. I met his family, aunts, uncles and grandma. I sponsored the family to come back here. He invested in my company, which is window coverings, and that’s how it started.”

Pomodoro opened September 28 with Tagliaferri at the helm as chef. The date is important to the couple and Igneri; it’s the year anniversary of Pizzicata’s opening.

“We did serve pastas and stuff there (Pizzicata), but we were looking to open up a nicer, full-service, full-scale Italian restaurant with meats and fish,” Igneri says. “We wanted to bring a taste of Italy here. Pizza is one thing, but Italian food is much different than the food that you eat in most of the American-Italian restaurants now. The styles of cooking are different. Things are Americanized here. Chicken parmesan—there’s no such thing in Italy. The parmesan over there is eggplant.”

Tagliaferri will bring her traditional style of cooking to Pomodoro as well. She split the menu in six sections.

Antipasti terra, or appetizer of the land, features cannoli burrata e pesto, caprese bufala e prosciutto; carpaccio bresaola; fiori fritti, zucchini flowers stuffed with seasoned goat cheese, green pea cream sauce; antipasto Italiano; zuppa del giorno, or soup of the day for $15 to $25.

Antipasti mare, or appetizer of the sea, includes carpaccio di tonno, wild-caught tuna with capers, lemon olive oil vinaigrette; scallops al pesto; cozza tarantina, mussels in garlic tomato sauce with parsley, chiles, olive oil, white wine; frittura di mare, hand-battered calamari and shrimp; and gamberi e bacon, bacon-wrapped shrimp for $14 to $25.

The available salads are Caesar, bleu, Pomodoro, farro and crab ($9 to $25).

First-course pastas, or primi piatti, include spaghetti, gnocchi, tortellini and ravioli ($20 to $35).

Second-course chops and steaks ($29 to $129) are perfect for those who prefer meat over pasta. Veal is offered as marsala, piccata, Parmigiana and chops ($29 to $42). The 24-ounce pork shank is $29. Grilled lamb is served with raspberry reduction for $39. The showpieces of the menu are the 40-ounce tomahawk and Fiorentina ($119 and $129, respectively). Both are served with seasoned vegetables.

The second-course seafood features a platter of grilled salmon, scallops, calamari, shrimp skewer and mussels au gratin (grigliata di pesce) for $59. Chilean sea bass, tuna steak and twin lobster are on the menu, too, for $39 to $69.

“We have a lot of good ingredients,” Tagliaferri says. “I’m just going to play.”

The wine and spirits will complement the entrées, says Jennifer DeWitte, who’s in charge of the wine program. The wine list will feature about 60% to 70% Italian wines. A sommelier will be on the floor on the weekends to help guests choose the correct wine.

“We will also have American, Napa, Sonoma, Oregon, Washington and Arizona wines in there,” DeWitte says. “We’ll have some French bubbles and a couple of wines from France in there. The focus, though, is really to have wine that complements the food.”

Opening Pomodoro in the former Cartwright’s location came with benefits. Venturini was introduced to DeWitte, who was a server and bartender in Cartwright’s. She assists Venturini with front-of-house management and wines.

“We’re going to bring fine dining to a brand-new level in Cave Creek,” she says. “I’m super excited. I haven’t seen anything like this since I worked on the East Coast. I’m not just saying that. It’s very, very exciting. The food has blown me away.

“As an American, I had no idea how incorrect my perception was of Italian food. It’s fresh, and I never have to use butter again, now that I’ve discovered Italian olive oil. This city is hungry for a restaurant of this caliber, and we’re ready for it.”   

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