Valley chef Chris Bianco debuts traditional Italian Restaurant in central Phoenix

Valley Chef extraordinaire Chris Bianco opened his new creation, Italian Restaurant, in central Phoenix on Monday. The eatery offers a small menu of traditional Italian cuisine. (Lillian Reid/DD)

Known for his famous Italian restaurant, Pizzeria Bianco, chef Chris Bianco continues to experiment with the opening of his new, cleverly titled eatery: Italian Restaurant.

The restaurant, inside the Town & Country Shopping Center at 20th Street and Camelback Road, held its grand opening Monday.

Italian Restaurant is the Bianco family’s only restaurant outside of downtown Phoenix, but not their first. Italian Restaurant is near where Pizzeria Bianco once stood before it relocated to Heritage Square.

Chris Bianco’s brother Marco Bianco, who works at the Bianco restaurants, said the location takes the the family back to their roots.

“There’s a lot of activity,” he said. “The thing about (Phoenix), that area is much more active than downtown Phoenix. 10 or 15 years ago, downtown Phoenix was dead at night, the city just kind of died out. Coming back to 24th Street, that’s where the activity has been for a long time. They’re both very special, it’s very special.”

The space includes indoor and outdoor dining areas, seating roughly 45 inside and 30 outside. Like Bianco’s other eateries, Italian Restaurant is small in relation to the large crowd it draws.

According to Marco Bianco, the building’s landlord approached Chris when the space became available. When asked why they chose this location, Marco Bianco said, “It was the right time and the right place.”

The brothers wanted to expand and feature items on the menu besides pizza. Compared to Pizzeria Bianco and Pane Bianco, the sandwich spot on Central Avenue, Italian Restaurant is “sophistication in a simple way. It is a very simple, home-style Italian restaurant,” Marco Bianco said.

Before entering the restaurant, glass windows give a clear view of the kitchen and allow diners to watch food being prepared.

The single-page menu offers a small variety of antipasti, pasta, secondi and contorni. Menu items include house-made mozzarella and wild arugula ($9), butternut squash ravioli ($14) and Francesca’s meatballs with Hayden Mills polenta ($18).

Marco Bianco said he hopes his brother will soon be able to relax after a busy year. 2011 was full of projects for the business owner. In the last year, Chris Bianco opened and expanded Pane Bianco; partnered with English chef Jamie Oliver, opening restaurants in London; and helped create the menu for the Phoenix music venue Crescent Ballroom.

The brothers’ goal for the future is to have a majority of their projects exclusively use materials produced in Arizona. Current projects include milling their own flour, planting wheat and hand-making all breads and pastas.

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  1. It’s a bit sad to see Chris expand his empire, because I know this will inevitably mean the loss of his individual touch on Pizzeria Bianco. But such changes are always inevitable with a superstar chef like him, and we can’t expect him to work so hard for so long without at some point cashing in his chips. I wish him the best in these endeavors and hope simply that he maintains his strong connections to Phoenix. We love him here!

  2. I’m happy to see Chris be able to expand further into AZ & abroad to share the roots of food: from the back door out – the only way the pizzeria and other restaurant endeavors such as Bianco puts forth is through SUSTAINABLE efforts – local first. It’s super special that he’s able, at this point in his career, to deepen connections with grain growers, tomato farmers & all of the other projects he is probably working on that we’ll read about someday soon! If he would have stayed at the oven, we may not be able to enjoy his food at the quality he continues to bring. Thanks Chris! You are an inspiration.

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