Stepping into BATA, you are immediately met with the definition of refinement. The same goes for Barbata. These are destinations for special occasions or well-needed treat-yourself moments.
If you want that same culinary culture chef Tyler Fenton is known and applauded for, then your next option is obviously Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink — a bit more relaxed but still has that touch of downtown date night distinguishment.
Then, if you are on the north side of town, right around Oracle and Ina Road, and are craving that BATA and Reilly realness, then you have found some immediate solace with the new concept: Fentonelli’s Pizzeria & Bar.
As the story goes, when Fenton's parents began dating 40 years ago, his Italian mother worried that her grandmother would disapprove of a non-Italian suitor. In a way to appeal to her nonna, she claimed that his last name was Fentonelli. The story remains a laughing point for the family and its playfulness of it lends itself to the spirit behind the restaurant.
Fentonelli’s is the most casual concept by the Fenton's to date while still keeping some of Reilly’s favorites. Although, the food and beverage menus are unique at each location. The spaces wink at each other but have different vibes. They both feature the same commitment to excellence, a focus on high-quality ingredients, well-curated beverage programs, and friendly service.
On the Fentonelli’s menu, you will find a local favorite that keeps them flocking to Reilly: their Crispy Brussels Sprouts appetizer.
Made with a house hot sauce and pecan brittle, this has always been a dish to get the pizza party started off right. If you haven’t tried it, you so need to. Bets are on that you’ve at least seen it posted on social media with the hashtag #best, #yum, or perhaps #areyoukiddingme.
Something that is strangely missing on the Tucson food map is big East Coast-style slices of pizza. Fentonelli’s has you covered with a selection that goes for a mere $5 each on their lunch menu.
Other items available only in the afternoon, and something new to the Reilly family of food, are hoagies. They are serving up an Italian Grinder, Meatballs, and Chicken Parmesan, just like they do in the old country —the Bronx.
Tough Luck Club, which resides underneath Reilly on Pennington, along with BATA and Barbata, are known for inventive if not innovative cocktails. Fentonelli’s is keeping that tipsy tradition with a full bar featuring house drinks and rotating wines and beers.
Sure, Fentonelli’s has adult fare and adult sips but it is also the first concept to feature a kids’ menu, making it a family-friendly affair where everyone can join in on the fun.
Now here is where things get next level.
For dinner, Fentonelli’s features a line of pizzas that come in one size only — 16 inches. Oh yeah, another first for the Fentons! Plus, they offer gluten-free pizza crust at this location.
There is a roasted mushroom pie that features truffled cheese, a fennel sausage option with roasted peppers and provolone, or the aptly titled Tyler’s Pie as the chef has incorporated pickled chiles, a house cream sauce, three cheeses, red onion, and fresh oregano.
The carb party doesn’t end with the pizzas because Fentonelli’s has the pasta.
You get to choose from housemade spaghetti or rigatoni with sauces ranging from tomato, vodka, alfredo, and something called Sunday Gravy. If you have a gluten intolerance then they have you covered with a gluten-free penne pasta choice.
Fentonelli’s also features a large outdoor patio and can be rented out for full or partial buyouts. Online ordering is also available.
Fentonelli’s has yet another first in that they offer a Happy Hour. This includes deals on drinks and appetizers so if you need that late-afternoon bite and buzz then you have found your home away from home.
All of their pasta is extruded in-house using a blend of flours including local durum from BKW Farms just up the road. Fentonelli’s is constantly tweaking its processes to provide guests with the best experience possible.
The pizzas were specifically developed to travel well, too, meaning takeout is a great option, and if you're dining in, reservations are recommended.
Fentonelli’s is decidedly Italian-American whereas Reilly is more of an exploration of Italian and Italian-American food. Be it downtown or the northwest side, the Fenton’s have you covered with some of the best Italian grub on any side of town.
Now stop reading and let’s get eating.
Fentonelli's Pizzeria & Bar is a Foodie 500 Restaurant Partner.
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Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...