Growing Healthy

The Garden Kitchen offers seed-to-table gardening and cooking education, while empowering families to make nutritious meals on a budget.

Imagine a place where people in our community who are struggling with poor nutrition, obesity, and the challenges of staying healthy and well fed on a low income can learn about proper diet, and how to grow many food staples.

You are picturing The Garden Kitchen — part cooking school, part hands-on gardening workshop.

A partnership of The University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension, along with the city of South Tucson and Pima County, it started up in October 2012. Its venue is a former Mexican restaurant, which closed in 2009. Pima County purchased the site, and it was renovated and the garden was planted. The final portion of the project was the installation of the kitchen equipment in 2017.

Though the approach is multi-pronged, Program Director Jennifer Parlin says of The Garden Kitchen’s mission, “The primary aim is whole health. We base this on three education and policy pillars: gardening, both home and community; nutrition education and culinary skill building; and physical activity opportunities.”

The Garden Kitchen has about 30 community partner sites and also supports around the same number of community gardens that cater to low-income families.

Current programs that run through The Garden Kitchen include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education; Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program; and a Diabetes Prevention Program.

The garden itself is located behind the kitchen, and was a collaboration between the staff and Pima County Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners. The Master Gardeners hold talks and consult for us, while much of the planning and planting is done by our staff and volunteers,” explains Parlin.

“A lot of people come in and say, ‘I have a black thumb,’ so we usually start people off with herbs because they’re a little bit more forgiving. Also, they are an important part of many of our cooking classes.”

The on-site garden is mostly for demonstration, but it showcases many important culinary areas. “We have fruit trees — pomegranate, peach, lemon, lime, apple and fig — growing along the fence,” Parlin notes. “A large cistern catches rainfall and provides needed water. Gourds grow easily and can be trained to twine over a pergola to provide shade. We even have a coop for our chickens!”

This garden features several raised beds, usually spanning four feet by four feet, that illustrate what a small garden looks like. This design works well because it’s low cost and promotes active participation and education. That participation isn’t limited to just adults, either. Through gardening, children learn about plants, foods and, of course, patience, while using fine motor skills.

Two of the program’s goals are to assist with setting up gardens in the community, and to provide practical information and education to help residents make their lives better by teaching low-cost, healthy cooking with an emphasis on gardening.

With the final completion of the cooking stations in 2017, The Garden Kitchen is fully equipped to conduct hands-on cooking classes. Since the start of this program, more than 250,000 Pima County residents have received education at The Garden Kitchen.

And by the way, you can participate yourself at home, and benefit the work of this unique community resource, by purchasing The Garden Kitchen cookbook. Visit for details.


Read Cooking With Class on page 116 for an up-close look at The Garden Kitchen’s educational program.

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Remodeling was necessary to bring this 50-plus-year- old home into the 21st century.

Written by Romi Carrell Wittman | Photography by David Olson

Mid-century style — a term describing the clean, minimalist designs from about 1945 through the late 1970s — is having a moment. You see its influences in everything from new home design to home décor at both high-end and mass-appeal stores. Need proof? The once collector-only furniture brands Herman Miller, Knoll and Eames are almost commonplace today.

What most people don’t realize is that Tucson is home to some of the country’s best examples of classic mid-century design, and the Windsor Park subdivision is one of Tucson’s master-planned, mid-century gems. Located on the northeast side, this small community of about 125 homes was built in 1962 by developer J. Herbert Oxman. Marketing materials from the time advertised the homes as “almost living outdoors,” with the average three-bedroom home featuring some 575 square feet of glass. Double carports, angled roofs and large, one-quarter- to one-third-acre lots were among the community’s other selling points.

This iconic style is what drew Jim Eck and Roxanne Rossi to purchase a house in Windsor Park. The couple has long been a fan of mid-century modern style and architecture. “We spent vacations in Palm Springs and were really drawn to that style,” Eck says.

“We looked at various locations (in Tucson), but this area is an enclave of mid-century homes — not just one or two,” Eck elaborates. They estimate they looked at 30 houses before finding “The One.”

Rossi realized the moment she walked through the doorway that it was home. “When I saw the wall of glass, I just knew,” she says of the 1,700-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home.

But it required some TLC before they could move in. As with many older houses, it had been altered a bit through the years and it needed some updating to make it a comfortable, modern living space. The U-shaped kitchen, common to the era in which it was built, divided the living and dining rooms. The fireplace sat in a room that had no windows.

“The previous owner had a teenage son and they called it the ‘man cave,’” Eck says with a laugh.

The first order of business was to open up the kitchen and living room and transform them into a great room. There was one problem: the kitchen wall was load-bearing, meaning it couldn’t be removed without devising another means of supporting the roof.

The couple turned to architect Chris Evans for help. Evans is known for his work with the Tucson Historic Preservation Society, and has extensive experience renovating and updating mid-century homes.

“We didn’t want to go into historic preservation mode of pink tiles and a lot of that,” Eck says. “We went more contemporary with the goal of retaining the design aesthetic. We landed on ‘open and light,’ with the use of mixed local materials like adobe to maintain the character.”

“They wanted to combine all the living spaces — kitchen, dining, living,” Evans explains. “The big challenge was trying to figure out how to open it up.”

A large support beam was installed so the existing walls could be removed. New windows, a concrete flooring overlay, and the addition of a window to the fireplace room also were addressed during the remodel. The couple plans to renovate the bedrooms in the future.

Most recently, they constructed a 400-square-foot studio for Rossi, who is a mixed media artist. Her artwork — as well as that of the couple’s son, a potter — is featured prominently throughout the home. Rossi, a former art teacher, observes, “I’m a maker — I have to create things. I’m inspired by my environment, people, and the places we go.”

The couple loves the “new” home and its one big room for living, cooking and entertaining. “It’s a very comfortable house,” Rossi concludes.


Architect Chris Evans,

Artist Roxanne Rossi,

A Tucson snowbird’s winter garden is filled with colorful plantings, which proved to be a temptation for some hungry wildlife!

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Editor’s Picks

Previews of upcoming events

JAN 15-16


The St. Lawrence String Quartet, which has played for AFCM numerous times, returns for two nights of different concerts, each celebrating the music of Beethoven. Jan. 15 will include Beethoven’s String Quartets No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 18 No. 4, and No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135. The group also will play John Adams’ String Quartet No. 2, written specifically for them, and referencing two of Beethoven’s piano works — the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110 and the Diabelli Variations. On Jan. 16, the program will be comprised of Beethoven’s String Quartets No. 10 in E-flat Major, Op. 74, “Harp” (so called because of the string plucking in the first movement), and No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131. The group also will perform Haydn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20 No. 5, an intense and dramatic work that prefigures the middle and later quartets of Beethoven. Leo Rich Theater. 577-3769.; .

JAN 19


The Bay Area-based group Agave Baroque, which specializes in string chamber music from the 17th and 18th centuries, has a long association with renowned countertenor Reginald Mobley.

The group has recorded several CDs with Mobley, including 2015’s Queen of Heaven, which features the music of Isabella Leonarda. Leonarda was a 17th century Italian nun who dedicated her compositions to the Virgin Mary. In 2018, Agave Baroque worked with Mobley again on the album Peace in Our Time — Music of Love and Loss in the Shadow of the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) took place in Central Europe and involved numerous countries, including Denmark, Sweden, England, and nations from the Holy Roman Empire. The casualties from battle, disease and famine that resulted from the conflict topped eight million.

For the Tucson concert (which is part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival), Agave Baroque will perform a concert entitled American Originals, centering on composers born in the Americas, and including works by African American composers Florence Price (1887-1953) and Josiah Holland (1819-1881). 3 pm. Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

JAN 24, 26


Windows into Song

Part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival, this eclectic program will feature everything from 150-year-old choral works to Respighi’s instrumental interpretations that relate to passages in the Bible, to the world premiere of a work for chorus and orchestra by local composer Robert Lopez-Hanshaw.

One of the highlights of the concert will certainly be the opportunity to hear rising operatic star Federica Lombardi perform pieces by Gioachino Rossini. The Italianborn Lombardi says that her love of classical music began at an early age. “I have been studying opera since I was 16 years old as a result of the love I always had growing up for classical music. This journey took me to great experiences, such as master classes, competitions and then performing opera roles. It has been a beautiful process of continuous development and learning,” she enthuses.

The soprano studied at the Liceo Musicale Angelo Massini, as well as the Conseratorio Bruno Maderna. She was part of the Accademia di Perfezionamento per Cantanti Lirici of the Teatro alla Scala, and participated in the young singers program at the Salzburg Festival. Her recognitions have included being a two-time winner of the AsLiCo competition in Como, Italy.

Along with performing Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, she has performed the roles of the Countess Rosina in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Elettra in Idomeneo. Asked about some of her favorite parts to sing, she says, “Every time I sing a new role or a new piece I fall in love with every single part of it. Right now I’m fascinated by two of the characters I sing the most: Donna Elvira, and the Countess, both by Mozart; they are strong women who are in love and they fight in different ways for a love that has been betrayed, singing the most beautiful music. Aside from Mozart, I feel very confident with the role of Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello. I recently recorded this opera for a CD, and I can’t wait to bring this character to life on stage!”

For the TSO, she will perform selections from Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, Messa di Gloria and Stabat Mater. “I’m extremely happy to perform something new in my repertoire,” she comments. “I believe this music creates a glorious atmosphere, and it’s able to move my soul in a very intimate way.”

Speaking of atmosphere, Lombardi observes that she has been to the Old Pueblo before and loves it here. “I have been in Tucson twice already, and I’m always impressed by the beautiful landscape. The first time, I visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The second time I spent more time in the lively downtown, which is developing so quickly, and offers great entertainment options. It has that unique feeling that makes Tucson a very special place to be.”

This year, Lombardi also is slated to perform as Desdemona for Deutsche Oper Berlin, and she also will return to La Scala for a new production of Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Rè. Fortunately, travel is one of the things she most enjoys doing. “Apart from using my free time to study and prepare for future engagements,” she says, “I like to visit and discover the places where I’m performing. I think it’s part of the good fortune of an opera singer!” Jan. 24, 7:30 pm; Jan. 26, 2 pm, TCC Music Hall. 882-8585.

JAN 24-26


America Sings!

When bass Morris Robinson returns to Tucson (he was previously here in 2013 to sing Verdi’s Requiem with the TSO)

Morris Robinson sings with True Concord, Jan.
24-26. Photo by Lawrence Brownlee

it will be to help bring to life music that is in our country’s DNA. The phenomenal singer, whose résumé includes roles such as Fasolt in Das Rheingold, Ferrando in Il Travatore, and concert performances of works such as Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, will take part in a program that’s part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival.

The mix will include spirituals, popular songs by Stephen Foster (the author of some 200 works, including “Beautiful Dreamer”), and Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs.

Written in two sets in 1950 and 1952, Old American Songs is a re-setting of a number of tunes from long ago, including the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” (also used in his Appalachian Spring Suite), the children’s song “I Bought Me a Cat,” and the hymn “At the River.” Jan. 24: 7 pm, St. Francis in the Valley Episcopal Church (Green Valley); Jan. 25: 7:30 pm, Catalina Foothills High School; Jan. 26: 3 pm, Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 401-2651.

JAN 31- FEB 2


Made in America
Jenna Johnson, Vasily Boldin & Taylor Johnson
in “Unsquare”. Photo by Ed Flores Photography

Part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival, Ballet Tucson presents this showcase featuring a revered work by iconic chorographer George Balanchine, along with two premieres. The reprised work is Serenade, the first ballet created in the U.S. by the Russia-born Balanchine. Set to Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48 by Tchaikovsky, the work is especially haunting and beautiful. The new work Unsquare, by BT choreographer Chieko Imada, uses the music of jazz legend Dave Brubeck. The third piece, Recollections, was choreographed by Mark Schneider, and features popular turn-of-the-century American songs and period costumes. Jan. 31: 7:30 pm; Feb. 1: 2 pm and 7 pm; Feb. 2: 1 pm. PCC Center for the Arts. 903-1445.



La Bohème

Premiering in 1896 at the Teatro Regio (with a young Arturo Toscanini conducting), La Bohème was reportedly met with a lukewarm response, but the opera soon became a success throughout Italy. Today, it’s one of the most popular operas in the repertoire.

It’s easy to see — and hear — why. Puccini’s music is both romantic and heartbreaking, and the compelling story of the young lovers and their tragic fate has resonated throughout generations.

Though set in the 1840s, the opera is often updated to a different era. Director Baz Luhrmann transported it to 1950s Paris for one production, and the Broadway musical Rent transferred the storyline to New York’s East Village in the 1980s. The fluidity of the opera is just one of its many appeals. Observes soprano Ellie Dehn, who will be singing Mimi on Feb. 1, “I’ve done Bohème only in traditional productions, but I think of all operas, there’s a case for being able to update it, and doing it in all kinds of different periods and locales.”

Dehn has the advantage of knowing the work from several different angles, having sung the role of Musetta, as well. “I’ve done Mimi three times, but I’ve sung Musetta at all the major houses,” she relates. “Definitely Musetta is written in a more fun way, but Mimi has all the blood and guts — literally — written into the part. I think they’re both really fun to play, and it also keeps it fresh every time you do it when you can look at the opera through different perspectives.”

It may be difficult to picture the sunny and charming Dehn in a tragic work such as Massenet’s Manon, or Dvorak’s Rusalka, but Dehn reveals that what first draws her to an opera is the underlining qualities of the music. “For me it’s always the music first and foremost,” she says. “Using Rusalka as an example, you hear the score and immediately get goosebumps, and you feel this pain underneath the music. That’s what I need to get a sense of sometimes. And the storytelling is what completes the whole picture.”

Tucson audiences may recall that Dehn was in town to perform in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in 2018. Though that magnificent work doesn’t call upon the talents of vocal soloists until the end, Dehn says she doesn’t mind. “Usually we’re off stage until about halfway through the piece, so we can kind of do whatever we want — warm up, primp and get ready. In the case of Beethoven, I love sitting through the third movement, and then the finale is the finale. I love being on stage for the Ninth. Audiences just go wild. It’s written that way. It’s a really exciting piece.”

She says that the last time she was in town she was pregnant with her daughter Arabella (named for the Strauss opera). Being exposed to classical music both in the womb, and now in her toddler stage, has had an impact. “I sang Manon at five and a half months pregnant with her,” Dehn reveals. “When she was a newborn, she would calm down if I would play Manon for her, or Messiah, because I did a bunch of Messiah concerts in my sixth and seventh months. She recognizes opera and music from the womb. She sings constantly, so she definitely learned to have the music bug. She literally sings in perfect pitch. It’s incredible.”

Dehn’s parents, who will be wintering in Scottsdale, will join her in the Old Pueblo while she is here, and the soprano says that although her favorite downtime activities used to be yoga and reading, they are now often child-related. She hopes to get in some hiking while she in Arizona, however, though probably on a flat trail so that Arabella can enjoy it, too.

And soon after, Dehn will be jetting off to St. Louis for a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. “Now that I have a little one, concert work is good to find because it’s a shorter term,” she says. “Instead of a month to six weeks for an opera performance, you’re only gone four to seven days max. Doing a full opera is definitely my first passion, but I’m doing about half and half now.”

That variety of concert work and a wide range of operas definitely ices the cakes for Dehn. “Not only am I exploring different languages, but in different time periods,” she concludes. “I can do a score that’s very tonal, and then a newer work that’s completely atonal with different harmonies and orchestrations. Mozart is a completely different animal from some of the modern pieces, which always keeps it fresh. The same goes for languages and styles, too. It definitely never gets boring.” TCC Music Hall. 293-4336.;

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Painting the Town


Private Space II

A vignette from a barrio dwelling, this work was the beginning of my painting local scenes and adding colors that actually might not be there. That technique helps me to tell the story of how I feel about a place, rather than trying to exactly replicate it.



First Light

The Four Seasons in North Scottsdale commissioned this painting of Pinnacle Peak, and it has become one of my gallery’s most-popular images. In preparation for painting, my husband Miro and I spent the night at the hotel and began photographing at dawn to ensure we would capture the moment when the first light illuminated the top of the peak.




Greek Table

A painting trip to Greece in 1993 changed my life. It prompted me to sell my sports marketing company and become a full-time artist. I have never regretted that decision, and still get as excited about a blank canvas as I did all those years ago. Six years after that trip, Madaras Gallery opened.






Fly Me to the Moon

The Spirit Animal collection is my first extensive series, and creating these images has been joyous. I committed to painting 20 spirit animals to celebrate the gallery’s 20th anniversary, and have now completed 25. More are on the drawing board. Each one has five common elements including a tattoo. The original paintings are sold, so we now offer the entire collection in canvases, prints, coasters and ornaments.









Funky Cow Medina

This painting represented a breakthrough for me. For the first time, I gave myself permission to play and experiment, rather than trying to re-create a life-like scene. Having my own Gallery has afforded me the freedom to explore, whereas oftentimes, if an artist is successful with a certain look, the gallery will insist they continue to create in that style.



Afternoon Sun

One of 80 paintings selected as an award winner out of more than 1,000 entries in the Western Federation Show in 1998, held at the Tucson Museum of Art. This award helped give me the confidence to open my gallery.




Saguaro Matisse

This is the fourth painting I have done in the style of the masters, using subject matter I frequently paint. Preceding this were Saguaro Matisse, Saguaro Nieto, Saguaro Picasso, Saguaro Klee and most recently, Wildcat Picasso.

















A commissioned painting, this portrait incorporates the bird’s feathers and eggshells. The mixed media work later received national acclaim and was included in a book on the Best of Acrylic.




King of Sandibe

This was the first painting I finished after returning from a three-week African safari. I was sent there by Destination Southern Africa to shoot photo reference for a show to benefit charities in Africa and Tucson. This painting raised $10,000 for the charities, and it embodies the spirit of giving back that is a part of my gallery’s culture.


Meet Diana Madaras

Madaras earned a master’s degree from the University of Arizona in 1977. Before opening her art galleries, she operated a high-profile sports marketing company in Tucson, promoting major sporting events including LPGA and PGA golf tournaments. A month-long painting trip to Greece in 1993 changed her life, prompting her to sell her marketing company and devote her career to painting.

Her art has appeared on the covers of nine magazines, including Art Book of the West, The American Veterinary Hospital Journal, and Tucson Lifestyle. Her coffee table book Private Spaces includes 152 of her works, and her newest book, The Colors of Tucson, is a tour of “The Old Pueblo” through her imaginative paintings.

Madaras has completed commissions for all of the major resorts in Tucson, along with eight paintings for the estate of a former President of Mexico.

She is founder and president of the nonprofit Art for Animals Foundation, which has raised more than $200,000 to help abused, injured and orphaned animals. For the past several years, she has concentrated her fundraising efforts on the Tucson Wildlife Center and was the chair of their benefit in 2018. The event raised enough money to hire dedicated veterinarians for the first time in the Center’s 20-year history.

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Eyes on the Pies

Each of these distinctive local restaurants could win awards for their mouth-watering pizza

by: Betsy Bruce

Scordato’s Pizzeria

It’s 10:50 on a Monday morning and cars are already pulling into the parking lot at Scordato’s Pizzeria, waiting for the 11 a.m. opening. It’s no surprise that an establishment bearing the name of legendary Tucson restaurateurs is so popular. The eatery, made of brick and beams, sits where Stone Avenue meets River Road on the near northwest side. Seating 130 guests, dining areas encircle the central bar, which features high-tops and cherry-wood stools to pull up to a granite slab bar. The dining areas are made intimate under corrugated low angled ceilings, dark wood tables and hardwood floors. Framed posters — Cinzano, Barrilla — adorn brick walls. Sporting events air on a pair of big screen TVs; cold drafts are pulled from a 12 spout tap.

Scordato’s Manager Jeff Happoldt says, “The key is using high-end ingredients and making everything from scratch.” Dough is made daily using imported Caputo flour and crafted with the same level of skill as the finest bread. Favorite pies include the house made sausage and roasted cippolini onion with mozzarella and fresh sage leaves; and the Japanese eggplant, zucchini and roasted red pepper with aromatic trugole cheese drizzled with pesto and finished with Pecorino Romano. Takeout is available, but it’s suggested that customers savor a Scordato masterpiece in house to ensure the perfect crunch of crust, bubbling cheese and piquant pepperoni. Says Happoldt, “Fresh out of our 620-degree oven is the best you can possibly get.”

Be sure to look up as you enter and exit to take in a gasp-inducing silver and crystal chandelier that Liberace himself would have lusted after … as well as the pizza, of course.

4911 N. Stone Ave., 529-2700


St. Philip is the patron Saint of Joy … so what better place to get a heavenly slice of pizza than “Proof” at St. Philip’s Plaza on Campbell and River. GM/Owner Grant Krueger says he and his partners dug the double meaning. “We not only liked the name due to the rise of bread, we wanted to highlight our bar with the proof in alcohol. We’re very proud of our house-made pizza dough, pasta and bread, amazing craft cocktails and eclectic wine menu.”

Southern Arizonans experience a good part of the year in temperate temps, so half of the tables at Proof are outside. Fourtops sit under a roan-colored planked canopy lit by firefly strings; a fire pit warms when fall arrives. Inside, a “sleek, modern feel with rustic ambience” was the goal, with whitewashed wood floors, and a granite bar surrounded by industrial stools.

Pasta, salads and sandwiches are offered, but artisanal pizza highlights the menu. The oven-charred crispy thin crusts accommodate heirloom tomatoes, housemade mozzarella and other premium toppings. “Our Margherita pizza is our most popular,” say Krueger. “If you are going to measure an Italian restaurant, go authentic.” The mushroom pie is another favorite, combining mushrooms, goat cheese, truffles and scallions. Krueger’s personal favorite? “It’s got to be the potato! It’s so simple, but it takes technique. I like to add some crispy prosciutto if I feel like spicing it up.”

Brunch is offered Sundays at “Proof,” and its St. Philip’s sisters, Union Public House and Reforma. Check for musical performances in the shared courtyard.

4340 N. Campbell Ave., 789-7447

Fiamme Pizza

The aromas of mesquite wood and oregano greet hungry guests ambling toward a sliver of restaurant in the foothills, Fiamme Pizza, tucked into a supermarket strip on the southeast corner of Swan and Sunrise. Once inside, guests glimpse the source of olfactory delight, the brick pizza oven at the front of the house, shooting sparks (fiamme is Italian for “flames”). An open marble-slabbed kitchen is adjacent to the oven, and this is where fresh dough is worked into rounds and embellished with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh Fior de latte mozzarella, full-leaf basil, 24-month-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a variety of locally sourced ingredients.“The pizza at Fiamme is unique because we use ingredients and cooking methods that create a product that is one of a kind,” says Owner/ Chef Scott Volpe, adding, “The pizza is made with naturally leavened dough and cooked to a light, airy, crispy yet soft finish.”

The wide variety of pies include the Pizza Picante, a white pizza with Calabrese salami, Calabrian chiles, onion and mozzarella; and the “Grandma,” with family recipe sauce, garlic, olive oil, mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta and basil.

Two-tops progress along the pristine white walls, which are adorned with framed travel shots of both mother Italy and beloved Tucson. Grandmother Volpe is framed, pink-cheeked and 1930s coiffed, next to the myriad medals awarded grandson Scott, the six-time gold medalist at “Campionato Mondiale della Pizza,” in other words, the best pizza dough tossing artist on the planet.

An open ceiling soars above pewter-colored, wood-planked floors. Frank Sinatra segues into “Sh-Boom” and a vintage poster of Sophia Loren gazes at diners from the wall, her elegant fingers holding a margherita pizza, no doubt almost as delicious as can be had at Fiamme.

4704 E. Sunrise Blvd., 529-5777

Renee’s Organic Oven

What has blonde spikes, a big appetite and drives across the country in a vintage Camaro SS? Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri, of course, host of the Food Network’s wildly popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. That famous rag-top pulled up to Renee’s Organic Oven right here in Tucson last year, and Renee and husband/chef Steve have been surfing tsunamis of tourists and Tucsonans when it re-airs — a dozen times so far. The obvious query is which Triple D designation does Renee’s fit? “That’s what we said,” responds Renee. Her conclusion simply stated is, “This is a guy, no pun intended, who just wants to highlight what people do really well.” Fieri joined Steve in the kitchen to make The Tailored Tony, “Our kind of foodie version of a Sloppy Joe,” according to Renee, using organic grass-fed beef, marinara, roasted red pepper, fresh basil and mozzarella on house-made organic focaccia. “When the episode airs, we have focaccia stacked from tabletop to ceiling.” Also composed for the affable television personalitywas the signature Spinach Dip Calzone, with creamy spinach, artichokes, organic free-range chicken, roasted green chiles and cream cheese wrapped in a flaky, browned crust. Guy’s first-bite review? “This is dangerous Bro.”

The star of Renee’s is the pizza, despite the worldwide publicity for the sandwich and calzone. “We’ve been perfecting the all-organic pizza crust for as long as we’ve been open,” says Renee. “The key, however, is not being too fussy. We are not jamming to Beethoven in the morning, doing exacting science; it’s about the integrity of the ingredients.” No matter what area of the country a guest is from they find something about the pizza, which has a local flair, to love. “I truly feel we make a Tucson pizza,” remarks Renee. Favorites include the “Old Town,” elegant in its simple composition: fresh basil, Parmesan and Bacio Mozzarella (with a kiss of Buffalo milk). The sausage and roasted red pepper pie is a new addition and an instant favorite. “Jeff’s II” is named after the couple’s 17-year-old son, and it features organic free-range chicken (moist and flavorful), pesto, mozzarella, feta and pine nuts.

The 40-seat establishment, (mostly inside, with outdoor seating for 12), has been celebrating innovative, delicious, healthy food on the southwest corner of Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon for 15 years, earning more than 160 five-star reviews on Yelp. Cement floors and honeycomb light cylinders brighten and warm, while the tangerine walls display art and expressions of encouragement. Renee invites diners to make reservations, and adds, “We are grateful we are loved and filled!” Fingers crossed, Renee’s will double in size next year, as the neighboring business plans to move one door down. 7065 E Tanque Verde Rd., 886-0484


The incandescent Anello doesn’t take reservations for parties under five, or even have a phone number. Look for the redbrick façade on Sixth Street, illuminated after sundown by an ebony cylinder, just across the alley from Crooked Tooth Brewery. Owner Scott Girod indicates he’s really too busy to answer the phone; too busy keeping his promise to his wife and young sons to make this enterprise soar. Anello means “promise” in Italian, as well as “ring,” the shape of a pizza.

Slight of build and inky maned, the now 33-year-old Girod wanted to “see what Neapolitan pizza was all about.” He spent three months cycling across Italy from Rome to Tuscany, to Sienna to Florence, “eating as much pizza as I could.” Naples found him perfecting his talents at pizzeria La Notizia, “The News.”

The kitchen at Anello occupies a full third of restaurant space and a third of that third is lorded over by the Ferrari of pizza ovens, a Ferrara, introduced to Girod in Italy. At 2 p.m., the beast is already growling, turning pecan wood into glowing coals. Crates of fresh herbs and tomatoes from local purveyors have just arrived, waiting to be composed.

Feasting at Anello, on any given day, is decided by the bounty that arrives through the massive blonde wood front door (there is no backdoor). This evening’s menu includes Asian pears shaved thin, pecorino, pistachios, thyme, pickled jalapeno, drizzled with honey and lemon. “Fresh, bright, not what you’d think of as a salad,” says Girod. “The starter is to kind get your appetite going.”

Headlines on the dynamic menu are more abbreviated than Haiku: “Bite … Pizza … Sweet,” a Trip Advisor review mirrors the poetry — “Small place, incredible pizza, delicious deserts.” House favorites include: Bianca, with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, olive, basil and chiltepin; and Margherita, featuring tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and basil. Guests may add a curated protein to any pizza. Among the sweet finishes is a olive oil cake.

It takes just 30 humans to fill Anello’s blonde wood communal table and twotops. Polished cement floors reflect the warmth cast by spiraling gold lights, a pink accent wall peeks out from behind the Ferrara. A Chandler native, Girod offers words as delicious as his food when asked why he chose the Old Pueblo to open his business. “I was over Phoenix. Tucson offers so much more. For me it’s all about food and pizza and bringing people together. I hope people see something familiar, but taste it in a new way, and how flavorful a few things can be when done well.” Reservations for parties of five or more can indeed be made on line.


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Tucson Lifestyle

Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.

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