Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, July 2022
Written by Gail G. Collins
An anniversary is meant to be celebrated. Doing so demonstrates the event was significant. It also gives us the chance to reflect and push forward. Importantly, an anniversary nudges us away from our daily work to honor and rejoice in its results.
For Josephine’s Modern American Bistro, twenty years of business has added up to some well-deserved praise. Diligent and happy patronage voted it Best Fine Dining this past year, and chef-owner Tony Consentino earned the title, Chef of the Year.
Alongside his wife Marlene, Consentino said, “We’re present on the premises every day with administration and cooking. Marlene takes care of the intangibles—hugs and behind the scenes help, adding warmth.” He attributes Josephine’s appeal to, “the atmosphere and consistency of customer service and food.”
Like the landmark it is, sitting above downtown Flagstaff, the bistro exemplifies a relational tie to the historic home in which it resides. The Craftsman home was once owned by John Milton and other noteworthy figures. Built in 1911 and faced with native, volcanic malpais, it is listed on the Register of Historic Places. Like the home, Josephine’s has stood the test of time as a treasure in the neighborhood.
Josephine’s Modern American Bistro sits on the hill in a Craftsman bungalow just above downtown. It is an icon as far as the building’s historic stature—built in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places—as is the restaurant, which has striven to offer classy, classic fare since 2002. Such diligence and happy patronage has earned Josephine’s the Best Fine Dining award.
Owners Tony Cosentino and wife Marlene, who manages the operations, shared, “We are honored and proud for the award. What makes us stand out is that we are owner-run; it is not just about business for us. We are and have been a part of the community for decades. We love Flagstaff and want to put our contribution into making it a special place.”
As the bistro is chef-owned, the menu of comfort foods with a fancy twist is forefront. Cosentino is notable in his own right, gathering experience as Executive Chef at Forest Highlands and L’Auberge Restaurant in Sedona before founding Josephine’s. Still, Cosentino, a Chef of the Year recipient, gives enormous credit to his chefs, Manny Ramirez and Ivan Fuentes, who total 15 years’ combined experience at Josephine’s. Remaining teachable and humble are their team strengths.
“Often you meet chefs, or for that manner, people in many professions, who think they know all there is to know. We are not afraid to step back and learn something new,” Cosentino said. “That gives us the ability to continue to improve.”
Improving on gold standards keeps their menu lively and engaging—the kitchen has offered a fried green tomato dish each summer for years. This past season, the chefs varied the prep to create pepita cornmeal fried green tomatoes with grilled panela cheese, pepita pesto and pickled red onions.
“This is a good example of how we keep things fresh,” Cosentino said. “We aren’t afraid to take an old restaurant standard item and change it up to improve on it.”
Southwestern influences are natural, too, and expected by tourists and locals alike.
A headline choice is the osso buco, a traditional Italian dish of braised pork shanks. The bistro puts a twist on the herbs and spices to showcase an achiote demi-glace served with sweet, green chili polenta for regional flare and a side of sautéed baby vegetables. A Lapis Luna Zinfandel is suggested for pairing.
Alongside popular menu items, seasonal showstoppers arrive with the harvest produce. Menus regularly reflect updates on favorite dishes or innovative new ideas, sometimes found on a trip to Mexico or a cruise in French Polynesia.
Overall, Josephine’s menu is comfort-food driven. Many people have mouth-watering memories of meals that tug at the heartstrings, especially in the winter months. Perhaps that is why entrees like Diablo Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese with its seashell pasta in smoked Gouda sauce, topped with sun-dried tomatoes and pickled red onions and wild Mexican shrimp retains firm footing with diners. Cosentino recommends sipping a St. Francis Chardonnay.
The menu gently guides diners to perfect pairings with the bistro’s creative cuisine, but an extensive wine list broadens the choices. It has been featured on the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for years running.
The casual and comfortable bistro is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Two fireplaces chase away the chill of wintery weather and add romantic ambiance. On warm days, the landscaped patio beckons. That garden space is set for expansion with new decking, pavers and more umbrellas to make the most of our elevated summers.
“Food and service are crucial in the fine dining experience, but the whole package includes the atmosphere, and our patio rocks it,” Cosentino said.
As others in the industry coped, Josephine’s also met the pandemic challenges with safety protocols and procedures, and the patio afforded pleasant, outdoor seating options.
Like the heritage home on the hill, Josephine’s Modern American Bistro appreciates the classics, but focuses excitedly forward.
“Whether it is in the kitchen or the front of the house,” Cosentino said, “we keep on top of our game to provide the full experience for our guests. It truly is the people working on our team who make the difference.” BESTofFLAG2020