On a balmy Saturday night at The Sicilian Butcher, a packed house dines under a billboard-size black-and-white image of a man rolling meatballs while rakishly dangling a cigarette from his lips. The man? Legendary chef and restaurateur Tomaso Maggiore, who, with his brother, opened Maggiore’s and Tomaso’s, two iconic Phoenix restaurants, in the 1970s.
The photo—and The Sicilian Butcher—are an homage, a filial love letter from chef/co-founder Joey Maggiore to his father, Tomaso, as well as his two Sicilian grandfathers who were, as you can guess, both butchers.
“I’m a concept kind of guy,” explains Joey, who grew up working with his father and uncle at both restaurants, then studied at the Scottsdale Culinary Academy before launching his own restaurants in California and Arizona. “After my wife, Cristina, and I got our brunch restaurant, The Hash Kitchen, running, I wanted to do something that spoke to my Sicilian roots and to my dad’s legacy.”
Joey and Cristina, along with CEO Flora Tersigni, opened The Sicilian Butcher in a 3,800-square-foot space in northeast Phoenix formerly occupied by Modern Grove. The interior was transformed with the help of 3rd Story, a Scottsdale architecture and interiors firm known for such projects as Fat Ox. In addition to the portrait of Tomaso, the restaurant features a clever divider made of meat cleavers; an indoor-outdoor bar; and a spotlit charcuterie cooler, where meats and sausages double as art.
Channeling his family recipes and childhood summers spent in Sicily, Joey made meatballs the stars of the menu, letting diners choose combinations of meatballs, sauces and “bottoms” to customize their meals. The handrolled meatballs include Sicilian-style, made with ground veal, prime beef, pork, raisins and pine nuts; as well as lamb, turkey, eggplant, dry-aged steak, and lump crab and shrimp options. With sauces such as a creamy truffle mushroom, carbonara, marinara, and a pesto made with almonds and tomato, plus bottoms like housemade pastas, risotto and polenta, the combinations are seemingly endless.
But one does not live by meatballs alone. The menu also includes charcuterie boards featuring meats and cheeses imported from Italy; panini; Sicilian spiedini; a current- and pine nut-stuffed pork cutlet; and schiacciata, or flatbreads.
The bar displays an all-Sicilian wine selection, including selections from Tomaso’s own winery. Birra Moretti and Peroni are on tap, and the signature cocktail is The Italiano, a smokey bourbon concoction with Averna, amaretto syrup and orange bitters.
Judging from the crowds and repeat guests, Joey has a hit with The Sicilian Butcher and has his plate full with the opening of two more The Hash Kitchens later this year.
And Tomaso? After being surprised by the unveiling of his portrait at his son’s restaurant on opening night, he went back to work. Though Maggiore’s closed years ago, he’s in the kitchen and front of the house at Tomaso’s, just as he has been for some 40 years.
Now that’s amore.
15530 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, 602.775.5140
Cocktails, $10; starters, $6-$12; salads, $10-$12; charcuterie boards, $13-$15; entrees, $16-$18; desserts, $8-$10
Sun.-Thu., 11am-10pm; Fri. & Sat., 11am-11pm