Rott 'n Grapes RoRo: A Delicious Addition to Downtown Phoenix
Almost a year ago, I visited the original location of Rott n’ Grapes for the first time (you can read that here). “It's a gem of a bar tucked away below Landmark Towers on N. Central Avenue offering bar snacks and 80 craft beers and 95 wines by the glass,” I mentioned back then. I’m thrilled to see owners Patty Gii and Keith Shanks’ success grow into a second location - this time in the heart of Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Since my initial visit, chef Christopher Newstrom (formerly of Upwards Projects) joined the team to expand the menu for both locations.
The name Rott n’ Grapes is a nod to the owners’ love of their Rottweilers and passion for wine. The newest location, RoRo, is a three-level bar and restaurant serving lunch, dinner and brunch with an extensive craft beer and wine selection (40 wines by the glass), a convenient bottle shop, and a speakeasy-inspired hidden bar.
You’ll also find well-crafted cocktails and, although it’s hard to stray from the many wines by the glass, I started with The Bitter Truth (bourbon, Campari, raspberry syrup, lime)
I had a chance to sit down with owner Patty Gii and executive chef Newstrom to learn about the new menu which features seasonal dishes sourcing local ingredients. “I think of it as made-from-scratch and Italian-American inspired food,” said Newstrom. “We wanted a menu that appeals to everyone. You might want a great burger, or you might want a really nice risotto. We have a lot of vegetarian options, a lot of vegan options, and gluten-free too.”
“I spent a lot of time working on this menu to make sure that everyone who comes in will love what we have to offer. It’s good food you can eat every day at a great price point.”
“Our food isn’t overly complicated. I try to execute ‘simple’ really well. We have clean, clear ingredients like this harissa and grilled vegetables,” Newstrom said as he pointed to the vegetable of the day, on our visit a melange of tender grilled zucchini with torn basil and house-made harissa, a flavorful North African spice paste made with chiles and scented with ground coriander and cumin.
You’ll find Newstrom’s wonderful charred eggplant puree and creamy hummus rounding out a charcuterie plate piled with prosciutto, finocchiona, cheese, dried fruit, olives, cucumbers, guindilla peppers, and Noble Bread toasts.
I also learned that Newstrom has perfected his pizza dough using a blend of three flours to impart a chewy, blistered crust, while his tomato sauce is inspired by a memory as a young chef. “We used to make a pizza sauce that was thick and strong in oregano flavor, so I recreated my version of that. It’s a mix of Stanislaus tomatoes, cooked down with sweet onions and garlic and dried oregano. Then I tear up a bunch of fresh oregano and basil and add it at the end, so it’s a really bold, rich tomato sauce.” Meat-lovers will be just as happy as we were with The Jet, topped with pepperoni, bacon, and local Schreiner’s sausage.
As I commented on a wonderful late-summer corn risotto accented with sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh peas and the delicate anise aroma of chervil, I was told the seasonal risotto would soon give way to one made with wild mushrooms and sherry - a good excuse to return ASAP!
My order of the Chef’s Seafood Special was so fantastic that it will be hard not to try the special again when I return. On my visit, I savored every bite of a superb filet of pan-seared Chula Seafood black cod napped in a tangy-buttery lemon caper sauce and served on a bed of Swiss chard and roasted mushrooms.
My husband declared his juicy NY strip just as terrific. Aged, marinated in chermoula herb sauce, grilled, and served with a red wine reduction and compound butter, it comes with your choice of two sides. I highly suggest the mac and cheese, made with a creamy-gooey combination of fontina, young cheddar, aged cheddar, and parmesan, and sauteed greens on top of that addictive hummus.
Our fun night didn’t end there - Rott ‘n Grapes RoRo is also home to Onyx, one of my favorite hidden bars in Phoenix. Look for the door marked with a painting of Patty and Keith’s dog Onyx and then head down a flight of stairs to a subterranean lounge.
You’ll discover a cozy room lit by dark ambient lighting and lined with cozy seating for intimate groups. Black and white movies are shown on a screen and creative craft cocktails include The Watson with scotch, ginger shrub, passionfruit and pineapple, and The Pug with Suntory Toki Japanese whisky, Yuzuri yuzu liqueur, Aperol and lime juice.
Cocktails, a glass of 40-year-old tawny port (thanks to Patty and her generous friend!) and desserts - chocolate hazelnut budino with torched marshmallow and panna cotta - were a decadent finale to our introduction to Rott ‘n Grapes RoRo and Onyx.
Reservations for Onyx are accepted through the website for Thursday through Saturday starting at 5 p.m. Daily specials at RoRo include Bottle-Schetta Night (a bottle of wine $30 or under and four bruschetta for $25) and Wacked Out Wednesday (two entrees and two drinks for $48). Brunch is served from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and Happy Hour is every day until 8 pm.
Rott ‘n Grapes RoRo is located at 1001 N 3rd Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003. For reservations, please call (602) 346-0068.
I received a complimentary media invitation.