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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Anzio Landing
Falcon Field, Mesa, AZ

Story by Cindy Paulsen, photos by Irene Burnett

Facing another gorgeous weather weekend day in the Southwest, the question that inevitably comes up is, “where do you want to go for lunch?” If you fly, that decision is not based so much on what kind of food you want, but how much time do you want to commit to the quest.

Even in a 180-hp Cessna 172, one can get quite far before hunger pangs become problematic, if you start early enough that is, so the Phoenix area is often our objective from home port in Albuquerque. A great option for staying out of Class B airspace and avoiding the hassle of transitioning over various airports awaits at Falcon Field, on the east side of the “Valley of the Sun,” home of Anzio Landing Italian Restaurant. Finding Anzio Landing doesn’t necessarily rank with discovering the fabled Lost Dutchman’s gold mine in the nearby Superstition Mountains, but for starving aviators, it’s pretty close.

Anzio Landing serves up great Italian cuisine in a tastefully decorated setting with Old World charm. The restaurant is just south of the approach end of runway 22L on the east field boundary, and is easily accessible via its own taxiway, leading to the large lighted tie down area directly in front of the dining room. The restaurant has wonderful windows facing the runway, through which all tables have a super view of incoming aircraft against a beautiful mountain backdrop (with occasional exciting landings, thanks to Falcon Field’s numerous flight schools). Once inside the Landing, the attractive Italian countryside murals and airplane theme transports you away from everyday cares to a relaxed Italian villa of the 1940’s.

This theme is surprisingly appropriate here. Mesa’s Falcon Field began in 1941 as a British R.A.F. training base, exploiting Arizona’s good weather and wide open spaces. After the war, the base was turned over to the City of Mesa, and has grown rapidly ever since. Falcon Field’s Anzio Landing was opened in 1989 by Rex and Marry Ellen Griswold, who continue as the restaurant’s owners and hosts today. Rex’s father was raised on the Swiss side of the northern Italian border, and flew with the Flying Tigers in China during World War II. Since Rex was raised around Italian food and airplanes, it was a natural combination for Anzio Landing. The restaurant’s décor reflects this heritage, weaving W.W.II aviation memorabilia into its aviation theme, including an extensive photo history of Falcon Field’s R.A.F. history, and a Flying Tigers bomber jacket belonging to Rex’s father.

Anzio’s offers a full lunch menu, with prices and portions appropriate for midday fine dining. The upscale atmosphere and dishes need not deter the typically underdressed flying enthusiast from popping in, as many of the clientele enjoy the bill of fare attired in flight suits or blue jeans. The smiling maitre d' welcomes those who fly in and park on the ramp out front just as graciously as the locals who drive in from Mesa and neighboring Apache Junction.

No one will ever confuse this fine restaurant with the typical “greasy spoon” associated with on-the-fly eating. From eggplant Parmesan to chicken and portobello mushroom ravioli, the food at Anzio Landing is masterfully prepared and presented with flair. Deliciously hot rolls covered in a buttery array of herbs accompany the soup or salad that is included with each entrée. Having all these extras is not a common pairing with lunch, and is a real treat for the value conscious flier. (As if flying to Phoenix for lunch is so cost effective!)

I specifically recommend the veal piccata, having enjoyed the dish on two occasions. The quality of the veal was excellent, and the piccata sauce a delicate blend of white wine, capers, and lemon – a very tasty choice. My copilot tends to go for the daily pasta specials, experiencing mixed results. On our last outing, he feasted on a heavenly creamy garlic chicken served over penne pasta – absolutely wonderful. However, ordering the salmon and linguini special in the landlocked state of Arizona proved unwise, as he found the salmon to be too fishy tasting on that particular day, although the fresh pasta and accompanying soup were outstanding.

The service is fast, especially in light of the care taken preparing each freshly made meal; lunch can be accomplished in about an hour. The wait staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, and some are especially well versed in the finer points of the menu and presentation of meals.

Believe it or not, there may be a few “downsides” to lunching in a place this good. First, lunch portions, although just the right size for a hungry pilot, are just a little too big to encourage dessert. If you have a sweet tooth, you may have to skip the salad/soup course to save room for some decadently sinful selection (but don’t forego at least a taste of the wonderfully hot and fresh rolls). I couldn’t resist the lovely mixed greens with vegetables salad or the rolls, so sadly, I have not yet had the experience of sampling any of the desserts. They do offer a tasty and unique selection of specialty salads for lunch, such as chicken and strawberry salad that will surely allow tummy room to include dessert. Second, the Landing has an extensive and incredibly tempting wine list. It’s a real distraction, but the waiters understand flying and alcohol don’t mix, so they quickly whisk the pinot griegio glasses away once you make your initial non-alcoholic beverage selection. Third (and this really is a downer for weekend fliers), Anzio Landing is NOT OPEN ON SUNDAY – Anzio’s is a Mesa restaurant after all, and observes the old “blue laws” custom (this also means no smoking anywhere in the restaurant). And, finally, don’t come too early, because they don’t serve breakfast.

Anzio Landing is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. The menu ranges in price from $8 to $11 for lunch and $11 to $17 for dinner. Reservations are recommended, though we haven’t had any trouble getting in for early (11:30-ish) lunches. The restaurant frequently hosts private parties, such as group fly-ins or wedding receptions, so a call to double check availability before you climb into the airplane is a good idea (480-832-1188).

Dinning at Anzio Landing Italian Restaurant is a wonderfully relaxing and pleasurable experience. With fabulous views and atmosphere, good service, and great food, your landing at Anzio’s will make you feel like you’ve struck it rich.
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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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