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We’re on mission to eat our way through the Valley. This week, our challenge is simple: How far can we stretch a budget of $20 without sacrificing flavor, portion sizes or the quality of our dining experience? We’ll visit local restaurants that are appealing to all ages and report our findings stat. And, in the interest of saving a buck, we’ll skip the cocktails this time.
Craving pizza this week and slightly overwhelmed by the choices of gourmet pizza joints in town, La Bocca Urban Pizzeria + Wine Bar makes the cut for my latest $20 dining challenge. Located on Mill Avenue, La Bocca is reportedly part of the new businesses that are breathing new life into Tempe. I frequented Mill Avenue back my college days, but hadn’t been back in years after a depressing afternoon years back when there seemed to be more vacancies than ever. Revisiting my old stopping grounds this week gave me newfound hope for the area, especially after visiting La Bocca.
At first glance, La Bocca doesn’t offer anything new or groundbreaking to the Valley’s dining scene. But, considering this is the only gourmet pizza/wine bar off the top of my head near the university, La Bocca targets what many college students and young professionals want: a sophisticated, fun environment that doesn’t break the bank. And the crowded dining room on a Tuesday night proved this concept was a no-brainer.
La Bocca’s straightforward menu offers selections of bruchetta, appetizers, salads, pastas, pizzas and calzones. I kick off the evening by ordering warm Queen Creek olives and artesian toast ($5). This is the only appetizer that fits within my budget — the other selections are bigger cheese and antipasto plates — and that’s fine with me. I love supporting local businesses, and Queen Creek Olive Mill’s olives are the best. The plate is simple: a small bowl full of juicy, pitted green and kalamata olives sprinkled with fresh herbs and toast slices for scooping. It’s little pricey for the serving size, but delicious none the less.