The High Life

By Dena Roché

The High Life

Alto means high in Italian, and Alto ristorante e bar at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch is taking Italian food to new heights with a new chef and new menu.

The popular Italian eatery’s entire menu was reimagined by Executive Sous Chef Joaquin Estolano Jr., with a focus on traditional dishes with a twist. Chef Estolano uses his own “secret” recipe to make all of the pasta from scratch, and relies on local bakers, farmers and purveyors to source many of the ingredients for the dishes.

“While I like traditional preparations, I also like to push the envelope and create unique flavor combinations,” said Estolano.

Alto has been honored by Wine Spectator magazine for its wine selection, including many Italian offerings like the 2013 Allegrini from Verona my friend and I shared on a recent dinner.

Start the meal off with the grilled octopus on a bed of bitter greens with preserved lemons and a chili aioli sauce. Chef Estolano tells us that the secret to keeping the octopus tender is to simmer it with a bit of wine with the wine cork, yes the cork, in the liquid. It’s an old wives tail, but chefs swear that it helps tenderize the octopus.

Alto offers several meat, cheese or bread boards. I’m not a huge bruschetta fan normally, but the version here topped with fresh burrata, oven dried tomatoes, balsamic and basil is fantastic-proof how when done well, the simple things are exquisite.

If you’re a pasta lover try the traditional Bolognese with veal and pork in the sauce or the venison osso bucco saffron risotto.

For the main course my friend and I both had the scallops with stewed leeks and tomato chutney. It is served with a fancy orange tuile on top that the waiter cracks tableside for a bit of dinner theater.

There are plenty of decadent desserts to choose from including the Limoncello cream cheese tarte, or chocolate hazelnut mousse cake, but we opt for the local Sweet Republic sea salt carmel ice cream to put a sweet exclamation point on the night.