New Italian restaurant concept replaces Reilly North

Fentonelli’s Pizza and Bar’s open kitchen design makes every seat in the dining room unique. With tables and booths created by local fabricators Midtown Artisans, 10 bar seats and eight chairs at the pizza counter, there are plenty of options from which to choose. (Fentonelli’s Pizzeria and Bar/Submitted)

It’s fun to say “Fentonelli’s,” the name of Tyler Fenton’s newest restaurant.

It’s also fun to eat there.

Fentonelli’s Pizzeria and Bar opened February 9 on North Oracle Road. It replaced Fenton’s Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink North, which opened August 1, 2021.

“We’re celebrating East Coast-inspired Italian American food,” Fenton says. “It’s the kind of family food we grew up eating.”

Fenton, who owns Downtown restaurants Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink, Bata and Barbata, opened Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink North to provide a North Side option.

In a three-day period, the former Reilly’s North was revamped and reimagined into Fentonelli’s. About 85 can sit inside and another 20 or so on the patio.

Fenton calls it “the opportunity to do something similar but through a new lens. I picture this as a restaurant being in your regular rotation.

With 40 employees, Fentonelli’s boasts a 3,200-square-foot space, which underwent minor tweaks to the decor, such as adding neon signs, a television and checkered throw pillows. The playlist has been replaced with old school tunes. Think Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

“We just kind of felt we wanted to make some changes,” Fenton says.

He blames his “restless mind” for wanting to do something new.

“It kind of snowballed,” Fenton says. “It went from easy to hard and then to exciting.”

So far, Fentonelli’s appears to be a hit.

“Every opening is fun and wild and a learning experience,” Fenton says.

The menu underwent a more dramatic tweaking. The menu offers six starters ($8 to $15), ranging from Parmesan-truffle crinkle fries ($8) to juicy and oversized tomato-braised beef meatballs with garlic bread ($15).

Reilly fans will rejoice when they see the crispy Brussels sprouts with hot sauce and pecan brittle ($10) cloned on the Fentonelli’s menu. The appetizer has the same blend of spicy, sweet and savory flavors.

Less adventurous diners can opt for cheesy garlic bread ($9), fried bread sticks ($10) or house-made mozzarella sticks and marinara ($12).

When it comes to the three salads, the Caesar ($11) is a giant. The teetering pile of romaine was liberally dusted with parmesan and dressed with a roasted garlic dressing and tasty croutons. Overall, it was very filling and enough for a satisfying meal.

Other salads include the house ($10) with mixed greens, carrot, celery, red onion, parmesan, choice of dressing, and the chopped ($12) with romaine, salami, pepperoncini, provolone, artichoke hearts and olives.

The pizzas are a more generous 16-inch size versus the 12-inch pies at Reilly’s. Six varieties include the marinara ($18), which is a cheeseless pie that is topped with tomato sauce, garlic, bread crumbs, oregano and basil; fennel sausage and roasted peppers ($25) with tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone; and roasted mushroom ($24) with cream sauce, mozzarella and truffle cheese.

The dough’s long fermentation renders a crust with a crispy exterior, and a fluffy, somewhat chewy interior with a slight char. The pizzas experience a longer bake time with a slightly lower oven temperature, resulting in added structure. 

For a spicy kick, try Tyler’s pie ($21), which is a cream sauce with pickled chiles, red onion, mozzarella, fontina, parmesan and oregano.

Mariana Belgado, a CNA in Oro Valley, enjoyed a pizza recently at Fentonelli’s with her husband, Mario.

“I loved it,” says Belgado, who ordered the marinara pizza. “I’ve been to Reilly’s before, and that’s really good, too, but I like the smaller restaurant size. It’s cozy.”

Extra toppings cost $3 for extra cheese, pickled chiles or roasted onion; $4 for roasted mushrooms; and $5 for pepperoni or sausage. Add a $1 dip of ranch, hot sauce, marinara or pesto.

“We’re focused on quality; finding things that make us happy,” Fenton says.

For example, Fenton is a fan of small cupping pepperoni. He found Ezzo, a company that supplies pepperoni and other meats to pizzerias around the country.

Except for the gluten-free penne, the pastas ($15 to $24) are made in house. The rigatoni with Sunday gravy ($18), or meat sauce, is ideal with perfectly made pasta. Other sauces are tomato; vodka; creamy alfredo; and shrimp scampi. Add chicken, sausage or a meatball for $5. Other East Coast-inspired staples on the menu include chicken parmesan ($24).

If there’s room for dessert, there’s Nutella budino with whipped cream ($10) and soft-serve chocolate, sweet cream or swirl ($5). Add 50 cents for a variety of toppings.

So, why Fentonelli’s? When Fenton’s parents began dating 40 years ago, his Italian mother worried that her grandmother would disapprove of a non-Italian suitor. To appeal to her nonna, she claimed that his last name was Fentonelli. The story remains a laughing point for the family and its playfulness lends itself to the spirit behind the restaurant.

“Mom’s side is Southern Italian, and Dad was born in New York,” Fenton says. “It’s a collision of those two worlds.”

Fentonelli’s bar features five categories of cocktails, including three versions of the spritz, three negronis, three old fashioned, two margaritas and two mules. The wine list offers a sparkling wine, three whites and four reds from California and abroad with several domestic and imported beers. Happy hour is offered from 4:30 to 6 p.m. with $1 to $2 off many drinks and starters.

The lunch menu includes pizza by the slice, salads and Italian hoagies. The lunch special features a slice, simple salad and soda for $12. A children’s menu features mini pizzas and pastas.

“I think the goal is to just be a restaurant that’s embraced by our neighborhood, a place you can be regular at,” Fenton says. “In the end, I want to make food that makes people happy.”

Fentonelli’s Pizzeria and Bar

7262 N. Oracle Road, Tucson


11:30 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to

9 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays.

Closed Mondays.

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