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'Escape the World For a While' At Pa'la, Downtown's New Wood-Fired Restaurant

by Fara Illich
Bars & Nightlife Featured Food, Restaurants & Dining Fara Illich August 18, 2021

Located at 132 E. Washington Street, Pa’la Downtown opened in May 2021. (Photo: Fara Illich)

Stepping through the doors at Pa’la Downtown feels like walking into another world, and in some ways – it is. Located on “Historic Washington Street,” where the buildings date back to the 1890s, Pa’la is reminiscent of a different time and place.

And that’s kind of the point, according to general manager and interior designer Weston Broadrick.

“It’s the sort of place you can come in, and just kind of escape the world for a while,” he said. “We know we have great food here — chefs Jason and Claudio have created that — we have a great wine list, which is predominantly small, Italian vineyards; but we also feel like we have a great ambiance. It’s rare you get a restaurant that puts it all together, and that’s what we’ve done.”

The interior is a blend of old and new. The garage doors, exposed ductwork and single-bulb lighting fixtures give the interior a modern, industrial look; but at the same time, exposed brick, an antique chandelier, and dark-wood tables bring a classic, old-world feeling to the space. (Photo: Fara Illich)

Pa’la Downtown is the second location for owner Omar Alvarez and Chef Claudio Urciuoli, who opened their first restaurant in a cozy historic bungalow on 24th Street in 2017. Staying true to its roots with organic, local ingredients, wood-fired cooking, fresh vegetables, grains and seafood dishes — the downtown location definitely has its own vibe.

With Scottsdale chef Jason Alford at the helm, you’ll find Japanese robatayaki dishes, sushi and chirashi bowls, alongside pizzas, pastas and tapas. The cooking is still wood fired, but the menu, which changes two to three times per week, is a blend of Urciuoli’s Mediterranean influences with Alford’s Japanese fine-dining background.

“Doing something in a space that’s this unique, that’s food-driven, chef-driven, and in the middle of downtown — this is where I want to be,” Alford said.

Downtown is typically the heart of any big city’s food scene, but Alford said he didn’t always see it that way. He spent the past 10 years at the Japanese steakhouse Roka Akor in Scottsdale, and never thought of opening a restaurant downtown.

“I came down here, walked around, Claudio showed me the space, and I fell in love,” he said. “Downtown is awesome.”

Pa’la’s $13 roasted mushroom, mozzarella and Fra’mani salami pizza is perfect for sharing as an entrée or appetizer. (Photo: Lauren Potter)

Alford and Urciuoli’s collaborative menu features seasonal salads like shrimp with fennel, radish and snap peas; a roasted mushroom, mozzarella and Fra’mani salami pizza; and tapas like burrata, tomatoes and prosciutto, served with a baguette.

In addition to shareable salads and tapas, many of the entrées are served family style as well. For a recent off-menu special, the seared beef tataki New York strip was served in five perfect slices — each perfectly dressed with black garlic shoyu, fermented red peppers and roasted mushroom, great for sharing.

With an extensive wine list, local beers and lots of organic liquor to choose from — predominantly from small, local producers — the drinks are pretty gourmet too.

The upstairs area seats about 50 guests and features a full bar, leather couches, private dining and event space, and serves drinks and light bites. (Photo: Fara Illich)

In terms of ambiance, the space is just as eclectic as the menu. Located in the former Sky Lounge building, the upstairs seats about 50 guests and features a full bar, leather couches, private dining and event space — and serves drinks and light bites.

The downstairs dining room seats about 90 guests, and features large prints of the Amalfi Coast, transporting you inside an old black and white Italian movie. Between the splash of color in the bar, the antique chandelier, exposed historic brick and ductwork — everything is meant to be timeless, according to general manager Weston Broadrick, who worked on the space with his design partner Allison Irwin.

“Pa’la means ‘for the people’ in Spanish,” Broadrick said, “and that’s what we want to be here — a place where you want to be, where we don’t ask if you’ve been here before, we know if you’ve been here before. We want you to feel like we’re inviting you into our home.”

Current hours:

Tuesday-Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.



Weekend reservations are encouraged, and can be booked through Open Table.