By Matt Russell
Courtney Fenton fondly remembers her birthday celebrations growing up in northwest Tucson.
Her parents and two brothers, Tyler and Zach, would start the day by waking her up with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” and sitting down to “an awesome breakfast spread.” A family activity would follow in the afternoon, then a night out for dinner at one of the family’s favorite restaurants.
Family. Food. Frolic. That’s how the Fentons roll. And it’s no coincidence that they anchor the experience at the siblings’ flagship restaurant and how they recently celebrated the first birthday of the newer, northwest location of Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink.
“When we opened Reilly downtown 10 years ago, our guests started asking, like almost immediately, for a second location,” Fenton said.
“We were approached by Phoenix Realtors about opening one there, but it was important to us that any expansion would be in northwest Tucson, in a neighborly place that felt familiar since we grew up there.”
The Fentons ultimately opened their second location, at 7262 N. Oracle Road, last summer. “We were warmly welcomed to the area, by those who had been coming downtown regularly to eat at Reilly,” she said, “and by others, who weren’t familiar with Reilly, excited to have a quality Italian restaurant in their neighborhood.”
In a case of déjà vu, Fenton said her northwest guests began asking for more within days. The restaurant was only providing dinner service, and requests for lunch and happy hour were coming in regularly.
Then it clicked. Give the people what they want and celebrate the new location’s first birthday by expanding their service accordingly.
“We wanted to curate a lunch menu that showed how an elevated dining experience can be fun and approachable, while also keeping in mind our guests who need to be in and out in 30 minutes,” she said. “This is also true for those who are able to have a more leisurely lunch, perhaps with cocktails or a bottle wine.”
Note to self. Meet Courtney Fenton for a leisurely lunch.
While many of the restaurant’s dishes are on both the lunch and dinner menus, three new sandwiches are available only for lunch: a meatball sandwich, with sauce, provolone, basil and grana; a roasted vegetable sandwich with salsa verde, fontina and basil; and a grinder with salumi, provolone, romaine, red onion, pepperoncini and oregano.
The lunch special features an eight-inch version of any one of Reilly’s 11 signature pizzas and a simple salad.
The new happy hour is another place where the family’s frolic comes into focus.
“We’ve put together an atmosphere and experience that’s truly centered on social,” she said. “Our bartenders love to engage guests and tell them the history and stories about the drinks.”
Happy hour, which isn’t limited to the bar area, is a nod to classic cocktails with bee’s knees, rye Manhattans, Moscow mules and others in a discount-priced rotation. Marinated olives; house-baked bread and house-cultured butter; and Brussels sprouts with house hot sauce, sherry vin and pecan brittle crumbs are the featured snacks.
Lunch at Reilly North is available Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The restaurant is closed from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. so staff can enjoy a team meal together and prepare for dinner service. Happy Hour runs Tuesdays to Sundays from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.
I look forward to singing “Happy Birthday” to the Fentons myself, which, of course, will require a readying round of bee’s knees.
Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
7262 N. Oracle Road, Tucson
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM. Disclosure: Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink is a client of Russell Public Communications.