Steals on meals: Tempe's La Bocca

Each week reporter Tanner Stechnij explores some of the affordable options for local eateries around campus so that even college students can feel luxurious.

Upscale and pizza are two words that don’t really intrigue me when used in harmony. I like upscale dining and I like pizza, but I am content with my Domino's, Papa John’s and the plethora of other fast food options. Thus, despite living in the area for nearly two years, I never visited La Bocca Wine Bar & Urban Kitchen. But, I decided that my prejudices for well-dressed, low-brow foods had to come to an end this week.

The vibe that La Bocca radiates during the evening is quite different than the brighter, warmer afternoon setting. I was greeted by a sign that said “Please seat yourself,” when I walked in, which was easy to do considering only 1/3 of the tables were full. Despite going into the meal with pizza on my mind, I couldn’t help but be attracted to the bruschetta planks. The middle-aged woman next to me was enjoying the bruschetta, and I was in a time crunch that pizza couldn’t solve, so I ordered the brie, salami, ricotta and prosciutto options.

Each table was accented with a candle and small bouquet. The bar featured an esteemed collection of wines and spirits and a huge portrait of a woman I didn’t recognize. The atmosphere was a little odd —  the aesthetic borrowed from new world and old world in a way that clashed but almost worked. 

The playlist bouncing off the walls of the eatery was equally eclectic. When I walked in, the restaurant was playing a song that sounded like Spanish to me, which struck me as strange. The next song to come on was Kimbra’s (remember her?) magnum opus, the bop “Settle Down,” followed by a swingin’ ’50s sounding cover of “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service. Odd barely begins to sum up the late-lunch vibe, but I had no complaints once the food came. 

Nothing is more attractive to me than a beautiful bruschetta board, and this one fit the bill. Crispy bread, charcuterie and fresh fruits are all in-tune with my taste buds. I worked my way from right to left, starting with the ricotta, which was garnished with rosemary and honey, and it was delicious. 

Next was the salami with house-made pesto, which had a bit of kick to it and the salami proportion was generous. 

I skipped over the prosciutto, saving it for last, and started on the brie which was slightly overpowered by the kumquat marmalade — good problems. 

Finally, the prosciutto was delicately and thinly cut, and complimented the fig and mascarpone well.

A photo posted by Yelp Phoenix (@yelpphoenix) on

I could’ve settled for half of the platter, but since I have no self-control, I ate the whole thing. It is hard to say who would win the battle of bruschetta between Postino and La Bocca, but the varieties and strengths are different, so the two eateries will have split custody of my stomach.

Unfortunately for my underaged self, La Bocca’s happy hour only offers drink specials, albeit good drink specials. From 3 to 6:30 p.m. everyday La Bocca offers $5 off of all bottles of wine, $2 off of draft beers and $1 off of bottled beers.

The bruschetta ran $12, but the proportions were generous and a frugal pair could share the board. 

La Bocca Urban Pizzeria + Wine Bar is located at 699 S. Mill Ave. and is open late on the weekends for after-hours wining and dining.

  Related Links:

Steals on meals: Downtown Phoenix's Taco Guild

Steals on meals: Tempe's House of Tricks


Reach the reporter at tanner.stechnij@asu.edu or follow @tannerstechnij on Twitter.

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