Viola Tagliaferri and her husband, Federico Venturini, of Pomodoro Italian Grill and Seafood, will show foodies how Christmas Eve is celebrated in their home country with the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
The Cave Creek restaurant’s $70 per person menu includes frittura di calamari e gamberi (fried calamari and shrimp); mousse di baccalà su crostini di polenta (salt cod mousse on polenta crostini); polpo grigliato e verdure (grilled octopus and vegetables); cozze e vongole saltate (sautéed mussels and clams); seven pesci cioppino (seven fishes cioppino) and ravioli aragosta o salmone Mediterraneo (ravioli lobster or Mediterranean salmon).
“It’s a tradition in Italy to have a big fish dinner with family and friends,” said Tagliaferri, the head chef.
“The menu will be a mix of appetizers, plus a choice of entrée. It’s a simple menu: many different fishes cooked different ways. It’s an Italian tradition and people who know about it are interested to come. We are excited.”
This is Pomodoro’s third year serving the Christmas Eve meal. Tagliaferri previously held a special dinner for friends and family at the couple’s other restaurant, Pizzicata Ristorante Pizzeria in Carefree.
“It was a little more like family and friends,” she said about the Pizzicata offering.
“His family was over for Christmas, so we invited customers who became friends. It was a traditional dinner, all together, and it was very nice.”
For New Year’s Eve, Pomodoro will stick with family traditions and an expanded menu.
“I’m going to do something with lentils,” she said. “It’s good luck in Italy for the new year.”
Venturini and Tagliaferri moved from Gualdo Tadino, Italy to the Valley in December 2018. Pomodoro was opened in 2020, featuring the couple’s deep-rooted Italian heritage and authentic hospitality. It’s pure Italy, from the dining experience to the imported Italian ingredients to the cocktail menu and decor.
Prior to the couple moving to the Vallley in 2018, Venturini visited Arizona to gauge the culture, economy and small business landscape.
During one of his trips, he met Phil Igneri, who visited the couple for a summer in Italy. The three forged a partnership over family farm tours.
In 2019, the trio opened Pizzicata and a year later, Pomodoro joined the family, offering elevated Italian cuisine. Tagliaferri’s Pomodoro menu boasts authentic Italian pasta dishes and land and sea (terre e mare) family recipes.
Staying with tradition, Tagliaferri uses olive oil from her family’s olive farm, cured meats from Italy and local in-season vegetables.
Complementing the food is an extensive beverage program helmed by bar manager Roman Khomoutinnikov. The menu features a fine wine list with more than 70% from Italy.
“Most of the menu is from central Italy,” Tagliaferri said about the food. “Sometimes we do a wine-tasting dinner, and we go from the south to the north to try to discover different kitchens.
“But we’re always really attached to traditional food. I like to keep it traditional, so when people come in, they feel like they are in Italy. It’s not modified. Everything comes from family recipes.”
Family meals and tradition are important to Tagliaferri and Venturini. Her grandmother strived to find quality ingredients, meat and fish. When the meal was served in her hometown of Gubbio, Italy, the family took their time, enjoying each other’s company.
“It’s nice when I see people who enjoy the food and they leave the restaurant happy,” Tagliaferri said about Pomodoro.
“They have a good time around the table with good food and wine. We’re giving them a good time. In the U.S., people don’t really take that much time to sit at a table with family and friends and just enjoy the meal — no rush.
“I think we are trying to give them that kind of experience. I had a big family. Between cousins, uncles, parents, aunts and us five children, there were at least 25 people. It’s like a small restaurant there.”
Pomodoro’s menu continually evolves, based on customer requests. Tagliaferri removed filet mignon from the menu because of rising costs and her desire not to overcharge customers. When guests asked for its return, she obliged. The veal chop parmigiana, which was once housed on the menu, is now on the list of specials.
“We have extra specials so people can try different things,” Tagliaferri said. “Of course, it depends on what I find at the market at a reasonable price. It’s hard to find things. They’re expensive and hard to find. Sometimes it’s a challenge.”
Six months ago, Tagliaferri began serving infused pasta and fettuccine. The options include fettuccine infused with tomatoes and garlic, served with lobster meat, lobster tail and marinara sauce; parsley- and lemon-infused linguini served with pesto and shrimp; and fettuccine infused with mushrooms and rosemary and served with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in a creamy sauce.
“Some will eat the pasta with just butter and parmesan,” she said. “You can taste the ingredients, and the color looks very nice on the plate.”