Phillip Hesslau makes a promise to all his restaurant's customers — he'll be there every day to greet you when you arrive, and to thank you for your patronage when you leave.
"It's a challenge, but it's what I do to put a personal touch on their experience," the Chicago native said.
Hesslau owns Phillip's Italian and American Cuisine, a spacious restaurant tucked behind the water fountain courtyard at Casa Blanca Plaza on Oracle Road.
"I opened Phillip's because I always wanted my own Italian restaurant," Hesslau said. "I've always had partners in the restaurant business and Phillip's gave me the opportunity to create my own personality in the place."
Hesslau has a lot of experience in opening restaurants. He and a partner bought the Uno Chicago Grill in Oro Valley in 2007, a restaurant that he opened for the prior owner in 2002.
Before that he was regional manager for Bravo Restaurants, worked in several other private restaurants, and started his career with Jewel Food Stores, the largest food retail chain in the Midwest.
Opening a restaurant in today's downturned economy is risky, Hesslau observed, but he thinks he has the solution to making it work.
"The days of being a distant owner are gone," Hesslau said. "You have to want to work, to be at the restaurant because every penny counts. If you're going to be distant, so will your money."
Ultimately, it comes down to being one step better than the other guy, he noted.
"I enjoy communicating with the customers," Hesslau said. "When people come in and try our food, I like to guide them through the dining experience, greeting them, talking with them and thanking them."
The food is authentic Italian, Hesslau said, drawing inspiration from his Italian mother's side of the family.
"And with our executive chef Michael Veres in the kitchen, I'll put our food and restaurant up against any others in Arizona," Hesslau said. "Everyone who leaves here tells us the food is incredible."
Some of the dishes that customers are talking about, he noted, include the shrimp scampi (sautéed jumbo shrimp with garlic, onion and tomato in a white wine butter sauce over linguine), chicken riggies (seasoned with oregano, garlic, red bell peppers and onions and served in a tomato cream sauce over rigatoni), and two parmesan dishes — veal and eggplant — each prepared with marinara and mozzarella, and served with cappellini.
Grilled salmon, chicken picatta, steamed clams, lasagna, chicken fettuccine, mushroom bowtie pasta and beef medallions are among other dinner entrees. For lunch, Phillip's offers soups and salads, fish and fruit, and sandwiches — from grilled chicken and hot Reuben to Italian subs and seaside open-faced sandwiches.
Phillip's Italian, American Cuisine
6060 N. Oracle Road, Casa Blanca Plaza
Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday
Call 219-7225 for reservations.