Aiello's Fine Italian Dining

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5202 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix

Although I've found hits and misses at this upscale neighborhood Italian restaurant, I'm making it a Nikki's Pick for one simple reason: when Aiello's is good, it's really good. The house-made focaccia, served with herbed butter, is one stellar example of what this place can do; the spaghetti and meatballs is another. Native New Yorker Joe Aiello uses his mother's recipe for his miraculous meatballs — tender, giant-size orbs made with pork and veal — which just may be the best in town. The Tre Colore salad, lightly dressed with EVOO and lemon, prompts me to put another check on the "pluses" side of the score card, as do the breaded and fried artichokes, stuffed with mascarpone and finished in light cream sauce. Yummy! Grilled cheese sandwich fans won't want to miss the Italian version, called Mozzarella en Carozza (mozzarella in a carriage), served with a lemon-wine sauce, salty with anchovies and capers. As for desserts, there's a light, creamy ricotta cheesecake, dreamy zabaglione with strawberries and a fine chocolate torte. The misses are found in between, meaning entrees that are good but certainly not great. Are the good dishes enough to outweigh the mediocre ones? You'll have to decide for yourself. Lunch M-F; Dinner nightly. $-$$$