Yesterday I decided that I wanted to have a ladies’ night out with my mom and Stacey, a night where we could dress up fancy and get dolled up to enjoy ourselves. While thinking of what we should do, I remembered that my favorite chef Scott Conant (known for his work as a judge on the Food Network show Chopped) recently moved to Scottsdale and opened up an Italian restaurant in Phoenix last month called Mora Italian. I went to their website and there was an open reservation at 8:30pm, 8/31, so I went ahead and booked it, informing my mom and Stacey to be ready to leave my house at 7:30pm. I didn’t tell them where we were going — only that they should pamper themselves and be ready to eat good food.
We left on time and arrived promptly at 8:30pm, where the courtesy valet took our vehicle and parked it for us. I checked us in with the hostess, and I immediately noticed that Scott Conant himself was in the kitchen, viewable from our seats in the waiting area just outside the front doors. I pointed him out to my mom and Stacey, and while I swooned and freaked out in my seat, Stacey took it upon herself to ask the hostess if it were possible for us to meet him. Instantaneously, the hostess had gone to fetch him, and he dropped what he was doing and came right over! I was so surprised that amidst the craziness (the restaurant was packed with people, so much so that they were running behind on reservation times) he up and left what he was working on to come over and introduce himself to us (as if we didn’t know who he was!), and pose for 4-5 pictures. He was so kind and warm (with that classically perfect hair and smile). I was so shocked and star-struck that I was meeting one of the few celebrities whom I admire (not just because of his television fame, but more because of his talent, drive and accomplishments as a human being) that I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I didn’t say much at all. I did smile like a big goof during the entire encounter, though.
Shortly after Scott graced us with his presence, the hostess came to get us and escort us to our table. We ended up with a nice table in the corner on this small patio in the far side of the restaurant. We had a great view of the very spacious layout, and a direct view into the kitchen as well. There was ambient lighting, with music playing in the background that added to the laid back atmosphere.
Over the course of our three-hour dinner, we enjoyed four courses of delectable cuisine.
Country bread, Stromboli, Focaccia, and Ciabattina
Served with artichoke bomba, mascarpone butter, roasted garlic spread & eggplant caponata
Pasta for the Soul
Ricotta & Mascarpone Gnudi
Served with concentrated tomato sauce
This pasta left me at a loss for words. The pasta was freshly made in-house, and despite not having any traditional meat sauce, one bite of this was enough to prove that no meat was needed to enhance this dish! The flavors were so exquisite, and it tasted better than any other pasta I’ve ever had.
Never before had we been able to cut through a rib eye with a butter knife until tonight. This cut of meat was to tender that we were easily able to slice through it, but the tenderness of the meat didn’t compromise the flavor. Perfectly cooked, this ribeye was paired with soft-centered veggies with crusted exteriors and roasted garlic butter.
Just like my mom’s rib eye, my pork chop was so tender that I was able to slice through the meat with only a butter knife. The first bite I took blew me away because there was so much flavor packed in the mustard seed crust, but the second bite I dipped in the caper butter, which added a whole other dimension of flavors to the meat. The entire time I ate my meal I had to resist my urge to grab my chop by the bone and go savage on it.
Here are a few other random pictures from our evening out:
On our way out, we walked past chef Aaron Sanchez, another Chopped judge and Food Network star, who was enjoying a meal with three companions. As much as I wanted to get a picture with him, I didn’t want to interrupt his meal, so I settled for blatant staring as we walked past.
By the end of the evening, we were all full and beyond satisfied. We agreed that never in our lives had we enjoyed such delicious food, and it’s very likely that we will forever compare future meals to this outstanding one. I highly recommend that anyone who lives in the Valley (or who visits the Valley) stop by Mora Italian to enjoy quality food.