Restaurateur vies for SouthBridge threesome

Joseph Gutierrez

Most Valley restaurateurs are simply trying to ride out the current recession. Joseph Gutierrez thinks it’s the right time to open a new restaurant. Or three.

The 54-year-old chef, who owns the Italian-American eatery Cin-Cin in Old Town Scottsdale, is in the midst of launching a trio of new restaurants at Old Town’s much-plagued SouthBridge development:

Tutto, an Italian restaurant, took over the former Digestif space in July;

Acua, a French-Asian fusion restaurant, opened Aug. 20 in the former Canal space;

• Tapas Papa Fritas, a Spanish restaurant, is scheduled to open Oct. 12 in the space originally planned for Mexican Standoff.

Tutto“I didn’t want to do three places at once, but the way the lease is set up it’s a package deal,” says Gutierrez, who was head chef at the Arizona Biltmore’s L’Orangerie in the 1970s, ran the Fairmont Scottsdale’s Marquesa in the ‘80s and debuted Tapas Papa Fritas in Phoenix in the ‘90s (it’s now Tarbell’s).

The veteran has his work cut out for him at SouthBridge. Seven restaurants originally were announced for the complex, which opened in 2007. Only one of those, Estate House, is open today.

“The economy is bad,” Gutierrez says. “You’ve got to have prices people can afford for dinner.”

So Tutto (pictured at left) offers freshly made pastas for $15 to $17 and pizzas for $11 to $14 (see Tutto menu). At Acua, small plates start at $7 and large entrees at $16 (see Acua menu). Everything on Tapas Papa Fritas’ menu will be less than $25.

Gutierrez’s passion for food won’t allow him to sacrifice sophistication for affordability. A typical entrée at Acua, for example: oxtail ravioli with crispy sweet potato, foie gras perigourdiné emulsion and shaved truffle.

At Tapas Papa Fritas, Gutierrez says, the house sangria will be made with 19 ingredients.

“There are very sophisticated diners in Arizona now, especially in Scottsdale,” he says.

Gutierrez also suspects a management-heavy staff was part of the problem at Canal, something he discovered when many of its employees applied for positions at Acua

“Everyone wanted to be a manager,” he says. “Apparently, no one was a cook, no one was a busboy. Everyone was a manager.”

It promises to be a hectic next few months at SouthBridge for Gutierrez, especially since he has a 14-month-old at home and his wife is expecting another child.

“We need to make this work,” he says. “Diapers are very expensive.”

Tutto, 7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, is open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Info: (480) 947-2129.

Acua, 7144 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, is open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Info: (480) 949-9000.

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