September 2013 – Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink is a Downtown Tucson newbie. However, the 3-story brick building in which this establishment is now located is fairly old by Tucson standards. Built in 1906, this was the Reilly Funeral Home from 1908 to 1990.
Reilly opened just recently, but I had heard so many good comments about it that I suggested to friend Jeffrey that we make it the location of our next lunch.
Reilly is located right across Pennington Street from our favorite Mexican restaurant, Susanna Davila’s magnificent Café Poca Cosa. This means it’s also across the street from the public parking garage that sits atop and behind Poca Cosa. I point this out because, while downtown parking is sometime problematic, it’s a non-issue here. Just remember to take your parking ticket with you because you’ll need it in order to pay at the machine on the ground level sidewalk. Also, it will help if you have 2 to 5 one-dollar bills handy because that’s what the machine likes to eat. Continue reading
As I crossed the street I looked up at the Reilly building. In its day, it must have been an imposing structure. I also wondered if, once I enter through the front door, I would smell the unmistakable scent of embalming fluid. However, once inside, the pleasant aroma of baked dough, pastas, and pizza pies was the only scent tickling my olfactory sensors.
I arrived a few minutes ahead of Jeff, so I took the time to look around and make inquires. Seems two brothers in their twenties, Tyler & Zack Fenton, designed the interior and now operate the restaurant located in a building owned by their father, Steve Fenton, a developer who acquired the long-vacant property in 2007.
I must say, the brothers did a fine job. My immediate impression of the interior was of a chic warehouse. The original hard wood floors had been beautifully refinished. The very high open ceiling reveals exposed ductwork. Some portions of the original brick walls have been left exposed.
Juxtaposing the old are contemporary lighting and furnishings. Except there is one large round table built from the Reilly Funeral Home’s original elevator gears. Very clever. Above this round table is a completely out-of-character crystal chandelier. I asked if it had once resided in the Funeral Home and the brothers had kept it as a memento from the past. The answer was no. “Too bad,” I thought, “could have made an interesting conversation piece.”
Our waitress was Angela; she with the extraordinarily beautiful gray-green eyes. Angela took our drink orders and, upon returning, explained the menu items. For most Tucsonans, the Reilly menu will require some explanation. I was no exception.
Jeff & I were only interested in sampling the pizza, and the menu suggests some rather interesting flavor pairings, such as:
- calabrian salami + roasted fresno chile sauce, mozzarella, fontina ($15); or
- roasted squash + ricotta sauce, fresno chile, mozzarella, fontina, fried sage ($14).
All of this and much more sounded very modern. Nevertheless, Jeffrey & I are old and set in our ways. I asked if we could pick & choose from the variety of toppings mentioned on the menu? Angela assured us that we could.
I wanted a pizza topped with sautéed mushrooms and sausage. However, the menu specified specific kinds of mushrooms and sausage with which I was unfamiliar. So, I asked Angela to explain:
- fennal sausage;
- cremini mushrooms.
Totally out-of-place crystal chandelier above the big round table fashioned from the original elevator gears.
According to Angela, fennal sausage is pretty much just common pork sausage with some fennals added. Really?
Also according to Angela, a “cremini” mushroom is merely your ordinary, everyday mushroom.
“Fine.” I told Angela, “I’ll have a pizza with fennal sausage & sautéed cremini mushrooms.” Jeffrey ordered something similar, but I don’t recall the particulars.
If I had had my iPad with me, I wouldn’t have had to reveal my hopeless ignorance. I checked when I returned to my computer. Angela was correct in a sense.
According to that fountain of all knowledge, Wikipedia, almost all table mushrooms are of Agaricus bisporus variety, including portobello, cremini, and white button mushrooms. The difference is age. White buttons are the youngest. Portobellos are the biggest because they are the oldest … meaning they were allowed to grow longer. Creminis are middle aged. The older they are, the darker the color, the firmer the texture, and the more flavor they tend to have.
Fennel sausage is a spiced sausage made from meat, usually pork, and flavored with fennel seed, a flavor-rich herb that is both sweet and slightly bitter. Other spices are often included in fennel sausage, including salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne pepper and sugar.
So now you know and don’t have to demonstrate your ignorance to Angela.
“So Jim, how were your pizzas?” Thanks for asking. Jeff & I agreed. Excellent! Two of the best pizzas we’ve ever enjoyed. They can call their pizza “craft” or “gourmet” or “upscale”. Whatever, a Reilly pizza is damn good pizza.
Talking with the staff before Jeff arrived, I teased out 2 interesting bits of information about the brother’s plans for their fine establishment. There is sufficient room behind the building for a craft beer garden. Moreover, they intend to renovate the basement and turn it into an underground nightclub.
Should these plans come to fruition, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink will quickly become an important downtown destination. Jeff & I wish them good luck.
And if the Modern Streetcar ever gets running, Downtown Tucson, with all of these new businesses and more to come, is going to be The Destination for young & old, locals & visitors alike.
We are giving Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink 4-Saguaros at this time; meaning Very Good! If the brother’s plans work as planned and this really becomes the “Destination” we think it can, then they could earn another Saguaro: Best of the Best.
Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
101 E. Pennington Street Tucson
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