Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano celebrates 25 years

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, January 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Champagne luxe satin chairs surround cozy tables set with crisp, fine linens and sparkling stemware. Rough stone arches and pillars frame the setting while dark wood, gilded accents and bejeweled lighting suggest the timeless ambiance of a Tuscan trattoria. The syncopated swing of a jazz trio swirls amid guests’ subtle conversations, and Lisa Dahl breathes a thankful sigh. She is proud that “her baby”—Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano—grew up to be as lovely as she had imagined it 25 years ago.

Remarking on the transformation over time, the chef-owner said, “We had absolutely zero budget, but every time there was a little extra money in the bank, we did something to bring more beauty to the restaurant and the cuisine’s flavors.”

Dahl had left the Bay Area and everything she loved before planting an Italian restaurant on a corner in Sedona across the street from another Italian place. Nothing like head-to-heart competition. But the self-taught chef had a secret weapon—moxie—exhibited as courage, spirit and heart.

“It had to be Italian for multiple reasons,” Dahl said. “It was the ‘90s, and Italian was trending in spots one, two and three, but it was always my plan. Now, we’ve arrived at our silver anniversary, and although many things are bittersweet this year, we’re still commemorating all of the hearts and palates we’ve touched over the years.”

Dahl & Di Luca pioneered Sedona’s fine-dining scene and is celebrating that silver lining. Now through Jan. 30, a four-course, prix-fixe menu, priced from $65 per person, honors some of the most popular dishes over the years. The menu features an antipasti of the Caprese d’ Amore and Arancini, a primi of Ravioli Romana, an entrée choice of Vitello Picatta or Prawns Fiorentina, capped with a dessert duet of tiramisu and baby cannoli.

For pure pleasure, the star-studded jazz trio of vocalist Vismaya Hagelberg, bassist Theodore Sistrunk and pianist Ioannis Goudelis will entertain from 7-10 p.m.

Dahl feels an unspoken higher purpose to dining which also translates as community goodwill. As a result, Dahl Restaurant Group will be donating a generous percentage of anniversary sales to the Children and Family Services Center Foundation.

From the beginning, Dahl envisioned her cuisine signaling a shift in her own style—healthy, with a lighter flair to the traditional approach with a comfortable elegance. The restaurant’s affectionate nickname, D & D, embodies that image.

Dahl has refined the art of delicate, yet sophisticated, dishes, utilizing the highest quality purveyors, organically grown produce and wild-caught seafood.

“From a robust red to delicate lemon to cream sauces with a hint of truffle, there is balance in the meats, sustainable seafood and colorful plates,” Dahl said. “We have the freedom to grow the menu and work with the chefs to be innovative, while revering the classics.”

The Arancini are handmade risotto balls. Sweep the crispy morsel with a molten center of baby peas, spicy peppers and mozzarella through the signature sauce and allow all the sensory elements to collide.

New menu items also emerged in the New Year. The Chilean seabass is pure white, pan sautéed, topped with Gulf Rock shrimp scampi and served over primavera vegetables tossed in an orzo pilaf. The calamari steak is sautéed dore style accompanied by jumbo seared scallops with a white wine garlic, parsley and lemon sauce on angel hair pasta—reminiscent of abalone. Another show stopper is aragosta fra diavolo with chunks of Canadian lobster swimming in spicy Vodka sauce over tubular garganelli.

Dahl is a James Beard-featured chef and was named Arizona Top Chef in 2018 from the Arizona Restaurant Association’s Foodist Awards. With a strong commitment to excellence, the team consistently retains TripAdvisor’s fine dining spot. An expansive wine list, cataloging more than 1,000 bottles, supports the Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence for the past 15 years. Alongside D & D, other Dahl dining successes include Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill and Butterfly Burger.

The soul longs for whiff of gala, so D & D encourages guests to strut their stuff with resort casual dress guidelines. Or dine more casually al fresco, where wrought iron and pavers coupled with statuary and columns form a classy courtyard.

“Our signature style at D & D is that the place gets better with age,” Dahl said. “It doesn’t venture from consistent quality, delicious food and upscale service.”

Old World charm meets modern romance. Come and celebrate, and then, come again. NAMLM

If you go

Visit www.dahlanddiluca.com for location details and reserve a table by calling 282-5219 or visit www.opentable.com/dahl-and-diluca-ristorante-italiano


Butterfly Burger: An elevated experience from Chef Lisa Dahl

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, February 2020

Written by Gail G. Collins

The humble burger appeal lies in its affordability, portability and customizable form. But who created the hefty handhold? Some believe a meatball stand owner flattened his product and served it between bread slices, while others think the concept is owed to a hotdog substitution in Hamburg, New York. Still, Texans believe it evolved from a breakfast patty with glazed onions sandwiched between French toast. Regardless, these ideas helped build a $129-billion industry and the best burger.

Lisa Dahl’s posh Butterfly Burger in Sedona is the latest comer to a hungry market.  A sleek, marble bar with amber lighting and rose-gold mirror present a lux lounge billing more than 40 bourbons and spirits, accessible via the rolling library ladder. Exotic faux alligator booths add classy contrast to rough-hewn planks of mushroom wood, cobblestones and bold, butterfly imagery.

Of the couture lounge, Dahl said, “The popularity of a burger made well and elevated experience isn’t for the masses—it’s indulgent and sublime with a top shelf cocktail and jazz setting the stage for a sultry experience.”

Dahl is a successful stalwart of the Red Rock culinary scene. Her 20-year career began with Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante Italiano—still drawing national attention—adding Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill, and in September, Butterfly Burger, becoming the area’s largest restaurant group. The James Beard House featured chef is self-taught, claiming Top Chef in Arizona at the 2018 Foodist Awards. Recently named in the Best Chefs of America Hall of Fame Award by National Elite, Dahl gathered wide attention grilling against Bobby Flay on the Food Network and appearing on Travel Channel’s Food Paradise.

Hailing from the Midwest, where the family vied to barbecue the best burger on a Sunday, Dahl still tests her skills. She entered the Scottsdale Burger Battle with a Latin version of the American model to win the People’s Choice award in 2016, and in 2017, she earned 2nd Runner Up.

When it comes to the title of Burger Master, Dahl said, “I take it about as seriously as a heart attack.” In 2018, she netted the Judges’ Choice with a funky, mushroom-rich entry. The logistics and prep of the contest are difficult, and she was thrilled to, “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” in her wins.

Dahl believes flavorful, well-made burgers are worthwhile. This is evident in 8-ounce patties served medium rare, though marinating and further prep delivers moistness even when well done. The burgers are cooked over wood, an active challenge that sears a patty perfectly. A higher consciousness for meat in feed and humane treatment also matter to Dahl.

Butterfly’s menu boasts a dozen signature burgers with whimsical titles. The art is in the layering of ingredients. The Butterfly Burger begs a bite with Manchego, all-natural pepper bacon, guacamole and chipotle aioli on an artisan bun. The Oui Oui Monsieur is a patty melt, smothered in charred onions, Gruyere and Dijonnaise sauce on grilled caraway rye, served with a side of onion jus.

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Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill

Mtn Living Mag September/October 2015

Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins

mariposa 999Latin American cuisine—it transcends national borders, yet finds its personality regionally. From South American countries like Argentina, Peru and Chile, north to Mexico, plus the Caribbean countries of Cuba and Puerto Rico, Latin food is more about cooking style and native crops than nationalities. Climate, altitude and history shaped the recipes. This means dishes evolve as one travels from the seashore to inland areas and the mountains. Maize, peppers, beans, ancient grains and Spanish-influenced rice mix with beef, chicken and pork as well as seafood in coastal locales.

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