One of the restaurants in the Arcadia District of Phoenix that I have wanted to try but never got around to it is La Fontanella. It sits right there on East Indian School Road around 42nd Street and is in a pretty stand alone building that could have been a converted house. But La Fontanella has been there for ages and I just never got a chance to drop in for dinner.
As fate would have it, J. was craving Italian food and we decided to invite our friend Winedubar along for the ride. The cool weather and the demand from our bellies for comfort food had us trying to find someplace in the Phoenix area and by inspiration or insight I suggested La Fontanella. Everyone was on board, but by the time we got around to things it was pushing 8:30 PM and I suggest we just drop in and see if they could seat us. Luckily, they were fine with finding a table for three, but we did have to wait a few moments.
We were then taken to a spacious but comfortable table for four in one of the anterooms. We took our seats and reviewed the menus. All of us were craving a hearty pasta dish, so we headed for that section of the menu and debated on what to get.
Our server approached and told us he would be with us momentarily, but in the meantime, he set down water and a basket of warm Italian bread. Like vultures circling over a dead body, we each pounced on the bread. It was warm to the touch and each piece gave us great satisfaction. I loved the salty taste of the interior and the crisp texture of the crust, but what really surprised me was the slight buttery aftertaste that really made this a great way to start the meal.
When our server returned, he took our drink orders of three Diet Cokes ($2.50 each) and three mini-bottles of Prosecco ($8.75 each). We also ordered our appetizers. Winedubar started things off by ordering the Stuffed Mushrooms ($7.50). J. selected the Sliced Prosciutto ($8.75). I had the Suppli ($4.50) plus a House Salad ($5.00). Our waiter retreated to the kitchen and we nibbled on the bread as we waited for our appetizers. He returned with the sodas and the Prosecco and we then were ready to place our entree order. I thought the Manicotti special ($15.75) was calling my name and J. had the Lasagna ($15.75). Winedubar had the Mezzaluna ala Zucca ($15.75).
We had just each polished off a glass of the light and crisp Prosecco when our starters arrived. My Suppli was a very simple preparation of rice mixed with ricotta cheese, formed into a ball and deep fried. It was then laid to rest in a small puddle of Marinara sauce. The results were delicious. The crusty shell crackled a bit when I pierced it with a knife and then cut it into thirds. The rice and cheese were soft and creamy and paired so very well with the sauce. Winedubar and J. said it was outstanding.
Winedubar’s Stuffed Mushrooms were six medium size caps stuffed with cheese and breadcrumbs and ladled with a bachamel sauce. I thought they were quite good with the earthy flavor of the mushrooms and the saltiness of the cheese. The sauce was also good. J. and Winedubar thought they were excellent, but we all agreed that the presentation needed to be tightened up a bit as they looked rather scattered on the overly large plate.
J.’s Sliced Prosciutto was killer. The plate was completely covered with large pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto and two nice sized slabs of Mozzarella cheese. The prosciutto was top notch and absolutely decadent. The mozzarella was soft and slightly spongy and had a mild, sweet taste that really contrasted well with the Italian ham. We all were amazed, however, by the amount of meat on the plate. It was almost too much.
My House Salad offered a lot more than I expected. The tossed greens also had sliced red onions, radicchio, walnut halves, gorgonzola cheese and an herbed vinaigrette that was slight tangy and slightly sweet. The vegetables were fresh and I loved the addition of the walnuts and cheese. It was a pleasant palate cleanser that set the stage for our meals.
J.'s Lasagna was a veritable brick of pasta, meat, cheese and sauce. The very large dish contained layers of pasta, provolone cheese, peas, tomato sauce with sausage, eggs, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. It was then baked until the top was dark and bubbly. The dish was incredibly dense and rich and the flavors melded together. J. was very pleased with the dish and noted how much cheese was used in the mix. All in all, this was one of the better lasagnas J. had had.
Winedubar’s Mezzaluna ala Zucca was the prettiest plate of the bunch. A dozen or so half moons of pasta were filled with butternut squash and then topped with a walnut cream sauce and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. This was the winning dish of the evening. It was fantastic. The taste of the squash along with the cream sauce and walnuts was pure heaven and we all ooh’d and ahh’d with each bite. Winedubar was thrilled with her dish and I was very happy she offered to share. Additionally, the serving portion was beyond substantial. I determined that the next time I go to La Fontanella, this would be the dish I would order without one second of hesitation.
My Manicotti was a very straightforward presentation. Two large tubes of pasta were stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheese and then topped with a thick Marinara Sauce. There was nothing novel or unique about this version, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do which was to give me some comfort. The pasta was excellent and the sauce had a slight sweetness to it. The cheeses were plentiful. The only quibble I had was that I wished my food had been just a bit hotter. It was in the “very warm” range, but I would have preferred it in the very hot range instead. That was a personal preference, but I think a hotter temperature would have enhanced the dish.
After polishing off our entrees, we were full, but did have some room for a bit of dessert. Instead of each getting one, we got two to split: the Spumoni ($5.00) and the Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake ($5.00). Our server placed the order and then refilled our drinks and cleared the table for the end of the meal.
The Spumoni arrived and I was a bit caught off guard by the presentation. The Spumoni was cut like a slice of cake and placed in a fried shell and then place on a plate with a drizzle of raspberry sauce and some whipped cream. It was a clever and appealing presentation. The spumoni was very good and quite rich, which was okay with all of us. I didn’t particularly like the fried shell, but everything else on the plate was quite grand.
The Pumpkin Cheesecake was golden brown and also served in a decorative fashion with more raspberry sauce and whipped cream. This was an incredibly thick cheesecake and it clearly had plenty of cream cheese and marscapone cheese and a light pumpkin taste. I thought it was very good, but it was a bit overwhelming as we got to the end of the dish. Overall, I think we liked the Spumoni slightly better.
We were stuffed to the gills and decided to declare victory and request our check. Our meal was $134.85 which included tax. We thought it was a very good value for the portion size and quality of the dishes. The service was very professional, engaging and friendly. We were treated well and everything ran on track. We stumbled back to the car and each expressed how pleased we were with La Fontanella. Our goal had been reached as we were each comforted and satisfied.
As we made the short trip back home, I indicated that I could have kicked myself for not getting to La Fontanella earlier.
I could not help thinking of the all the Mezzaluna ala Zucca I had been missing.
4231 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Dress: Resort Casual
Hours: Monday through Sunday - 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Notes: Portions are quite large. Reservations are encouraged.
Alcohol: Full bar service.
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com
La Fontanella Italian Rstrnt
4231 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018