GOODYEAR, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- As football season kicks back off, there is one beloved food often found at any tailgate, grill out, gathering, or wherever people find themselves to cheer on their respective team -- the chicken wing. People love wings for their simplicity, ease to eat, and of course, the conduit they serve as for delicious sauces! If you're a wing enthusiast and enjoy braving new and creative sauces, look no further than to the west of Phoenix in Buckeye, Goodyear, and Surprise. Each of these West Valley cities is home to locations for Booty's Wings, Burgers, and Beers, whose owner, Andy LiButti, just brought home to Arizona THEE national title for champion of wings.
LiButti and his team take wing ambition to the next level, and Booty's Wings has the award record to prove it. Over Labor Day weekend at this year's National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, New York, Booty's Wings won 2021 Festival Favorite - National Champion of Wings, and took home awards for placing first in Traditional Medium and second place for best in show with their Arizona Elote wings. These three awards rack up Booty's Wing's total to 18 trophies in 7 years!
I stopped into the Goodyear location near Dysart and McDowell roads to congratulate LiButti and his team and check out what these award-winning wings were all about! LiButti's energy and passion for wings, sauce, and his patrons' happiness is apparent and fills his restaurant with a certain atmosphere, reminiscent of feeling like you're at home. It's a very relaxed vibe and friendly environment; quite a few patrons either seemed to know each other already or were quick to bond over sporting events on TV or just to be social. The attentive and kind staff were quick on their feet, making sure that tables were being taken care of and fresh supplies of napkins, wet wipes, or refills were on hand. It's clear LiButti runs a tight ship, and the quality of food and number of awards shows that.
"I believe that I have the best wings anywhere in the world, so I go to Buffalo to see how my wings compete with everybody else. This year, we cleaned up. We won the top award in Buffalo; it's called the festival favorite, basically the national champion of chicken wings. We served more wings than any other wing place there. We were by far the most popular booth in Buffalo; everyone wanted to get Booty's Wings, so that was a big deal for us," LiButti said.
LiButti wasn't joking; out of the 24 booths there, he said they went through over 25,000 chicken wings! For a two-day festival that sees over 50,000 attendees, that's a lot of wings! And while LiButti proudly brings home these awards, he says it's really about the experience and sense of comradery within the wing community.
"For the people that are really passionate about wings like I am, and we've built some great relationships with some of these wing places from all over the country; they have great wings too. There are some great wings out there, not just in Buffalo, New York." LiButti explained. "I have a friend that lives in Wyoming; he competes there, great wings. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, great wing places that are all over the country that know they have great wings, so we all go to Buffalo and compete against each other. It's a friendly competition; we're all supporting of each other and very congratulatory when people win."
It shouldn't come as a surprise buffalo wings come naturally to LiButti, who says he grew up on wings in his hometown of Rochester, New York. LiButti says he learned how to cook growing up in an Italian household, and over the years, experimented with his medium sauce to perfect it. It's a sauce that LiButti says is near and dear to his heart, and after making the final slightest of changes a couple of years ago, it brought home the first-place trophy.
When it comes to stepping outside of the traditional sauces most are familiar with, LiButti and his team draw inspiration and ideas from other foods and cuisines. It's where LiButti got the idea for his Caesar Fire wings, which is a spicy rendition of Caesar dressing, featuring a five-spice blend into the dressing, atop wings with crushed croutons and shredded parmesan cheese. LiButti's Arizona Elote wings, which took home the second-place award for best in show, pay homage to Mexican and Southwest cuisine.
"Everybody puts in their best wing. We took second place in that category, best in show, with our Arizona Elote wing. Basically, we take the idea of Mexican street corn, and we put it on a chicken wing, and it is delicious!" LiButti said. The idea for this sauce came from LiButti's partner, Peggy, who suggested putting it on top of wings one night when she and LiButti were enjoying street corn.
Now that you know the story, now it's time to break down the award-winning wings themselves! To give an idea for some of the other creative sauces and concepts at Booty's Wings, LiButti served up some previous award winners as well, his Buffalo Chipotle Garlic and Caesar Fire wings.
A genuinely remarkable control of flavor and heat. The years of sauce science put in by LiButti and experimentation and slight tweaks along the way have resulted in this phenomenal wing sauce. The heat hits you right out the gate, but it's not too spicy; it's just an explosion of flavor. The heat hits just right and gives way to a sweet finish thanks to the elements of brown sugar LiButti uses. The sweet and peppery finish, along with a nice medium heat, really makes these wings stand out, and it's clear why this sauce took home first place!
For starters, the color scheme and overall presentation will have your stomach rumbling before you're even able to grab the first wing. These wings represent our state well and are a must-try if you go! Heavy use of cotija cheese gives the outer exterior and first texture a lovely fluffy, cheesy rush of flavor, which helps hide the heat of LiButti's Crazy Hot sauce. It's just slightly above an average heat level and have napkins on hand cause this one will get messy but in a good way! It's just an excellent array of flavor throughout and one fine chicken wing!
Buffalo Chipotle Garlic
Garlic enthusiasts will love this one! It's a notch or two spicier than the medium and actually uses that sauce and gets combined with fresh minced garlic and chipotle peppers. The end result is a nice thick, sticky sauce that brings the heat and flavors garlic fans crave.
The spice is strong with this one! The Caesar Fire packs a kick; it's definitely bringing the heat while still maintaining the classic creamy and saltiness of Caesar dressing. The use of crushed croutons throughout the sauce is ingenious in terms of creativity and definitely out of the ordinary when it comes to ordering wings. The final topping of shredded parmesan cheese is both appreciated and enjoyed by this cheese enthusiast as well.
It may seem like a drive for anyone east of Phoenix or in the southeast Valley. But rest assured, if you find yourself in the West Valley or need to make a pitstop for food on the way out to California, Booty's Wings is a great spot to grab some award-winning wings, food, beer, in a friendly and warm atmosphere. Enjoy!