Michelina DiSibio: Chef and Owner of Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia

Michelina DiSibio, owner of Michelina's Ristorante Costa Campagnia, photographed at her restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michelina DiSibio, owner of Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia, photographed at her restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michelina DiSibio
facebook.com/MichelinasRestaurant

Michelina DiSibio runs one of the tastiest Italian restaurants in the Valley, her namesake Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia. The Italian-born chef, 63, has been cooking since she was a little girl, and now her gorgeous, intimate, fresh flower-filled restaurant is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary this upcoming November.

Learn more about her restaurant by watching KAET 8‘s Check, Please! Arizona this Thursday, February 26 at 7 p.m. Get to know the Phoenix resident, who is in the kitchen every night the restaurant is open, better here. You can watch a video of DiSibio naming her five favorite reasons for loving living here in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I arrived in the United States in1970 and lived in New Jersey for nine years. I was married and had two children. We came to Arizona in 1979 because we had visited and loved it and wanted to get away from the cold and snow. It’s been great.

I was born in Gesualdo, Italy and came to America when I was 18. My sister was married and living in New Jersey at the time. My dad convinced me to come here because he thought I’d have better opportunities here and didn’t want me to go to school in Italy. I worked in a factory in Newark and learned English within a year. Continue reading

Pavle Milic: Co-Owner of FnB, Founder of Los Milics Wine

Pavle Milic, co-owner of FnB, Bodega Market and Arizona Wine Merchants, photographed in front of his Los Milics wine label at Arizona Wine Merchants in Bodega Market, by Nicki Escudero

Pavle Milic, co-owner of FnB, Bodega Market and Arizona Wine Merchants, photographed in front of his Los Milics wine label at Arizona Wine Merchants in Bodega Market, by Nicki Escudero

Pavle Milic
twitter.com/FnBAZ

Pavle Milic has been a fervent force in the Valley’s dining scene, with more than 25 years of experience in Arizona’s restaurant industry. The Colombia-born, 42-year-old Chandler resident has worked at Phoenix’s Racho Pinot, Cowboy Ciao and Royal Palms, as well as restaurants in New York City and Napa Valley. He now co-owns FnB restaurant in Scottsdale, as well as next-door Bodega Market and Arizona Wine Merchants. He has his own wine label, Los Milics, and hosts brunches on Rabbit Island with Desert Splash Adventures.

You can hear Milic on the online radio station he founded, MyAzNowRadio.com, where he interviews notable professionals in the Valley. Read more to learn how Milic became a formidable player in Arizona dining, and keep reading to watch a video of Milic naming his top five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was 15 when I came to Arizona. My stepdad became partners with Franco Fazzouli, who owns Franco’s Italian Café in Scottsdale. We moved here in 1987 to open up Franco’s Trattoria in Scottsdale. I went to Saguaro High School and Scottsdale Community College, and got a degree from the Academy of Broadcasting in Phoenix in communications and broadcasting.

My dad defected communist Yugoslavia in 1962 and wound up in Colombia, where he met my mom, and I was born. We moved to Queens, New York when I was 11 because my mom wanted to live here. Continue reading

Taso Tirkas: Co-Owner of Salut, Co-Founder of Ufficient

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas
twitter.com/SalutKitchenBar

Walk into Salut Kitchen Bar in Tempe, and you’ll soon encounter Taso Tirkas. The 33-year-old Tempe resident from Cypress co-owns the restaurant, and is constantly seen milling about the space chatting up diners and drinkers and charming them with his enthusiasm and worldliness. The spot has quickly become a Tempe stand-out since its opening last year for good reason — the menu blends cuisines into tasty handcrafted offerings, the beer and wine selection is plentiful, with more than 100 wines offered, and the atmosphere is both relaxed and classy.

While Tirkas is thrilled with the success of Salut, he’s also working on a new venture, a mobile application called Ufficient, which puts users directly in touch with a variety of service providers and allows users to vet them before hiring by perusing reviews and making sure they’re appropriate for the job. The app is currently in beta testing, and Tirkas is confident it will also be a hit.

Read on for how he’s created his businesses, and check out a video of him talking about his favorite reasons for living in the Valley below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came here to go to ASU for business and marketing when I was 22. I’m from the island of Cyprus, a small island close to the Middle East on the Mediterranean Sea, close to Greece, Turkey and Egypt.

I came here because my brother, cousin and uncle were at ASU. I was choosing between London and ASU for college and had never been to the States. I was at an American college over in Cyprus, the University of Indianapolis, so I was able to transfer all my credits. I had been to London before and didn’t want to go there, because it’s very moody weather. Continue reading

Damon Brasch: Owner/Chef of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami

Damon Brasch, chef/owner of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami in Phoenix, photographed at Green in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Damon Brasch, chef/owner of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami in Phoenix, photographed at Green in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Damon Brasch
twitter.com/greendamon

Local vegans and vegetarians can still enjoy mouthwatering buffalo wings, addictive crab puffs and decadently sweet frozen desserts. Thanks to Green New American Vegetarian and Nami vegan pastry and soft serve, meat- and dairy-filled favorites have been reborn, no animal products required. Since 2006, chef/owner Damon Brasch has brought the Valley his vegan specialties, with Tempe and Phoenix locations of vegan restaurant Green, and vegan dessert/brunch spot Nami in Phoenix, which serves doughnuts and soy soft serve with a variety of mix-ins.

Brasch, a 40-year-old Phoenix resident originally from the Chicago area, is a self-trained chef who whips up tasty daily vegetarian specials at Green, such as fish tacos, and he has a cookbook in the works. He also has a restaurant consulting business, Brasch Concepts. Catch him at the Devoured Phoenix Culinary Festival Sunday, March 2, and read on for more about his journey as a Phoenix leader in vegan cuisine. Plus, scroll down to watch him name five of his favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came to Arizona from the Chicago area with my family because of my dad’s job in 1992. We needed a fresh start, and Arizona seemed like a really great place. We had visited a couple times, and we thought we could start new. We were able to, which is what’s so great about Arizona. Continue reading

Steve LeVine: CEO of Steve LeVine Entertainment

Steve Levine, CEO of Steve LeVine Entertainment, photographed at his office in Scottsdale by Nicki Escudero

Steve Levine, CEO of Steve LeVine Entertainment, photographed at his office in Scottsdale by Nicki Escudero

Steve LeVine
twitter.com/SteveLeVineEnt

If you’ve been to a Valley nightclub in the past six years, you’ve probably seen some of Steve LeVine’s work. The 39-year-old Scottsdale resident and Los Angeles native is the self-titled “Chief Entertainment Officer” of Steve LeVine Entertainment, which organizes some of the Valley’s biggest nightlife shindigs, as well as concerts and sports-related events. He’s been working in the entertainment industry since he was only 14 years old, when he started as a DJ for his friends’ parties before moving into Greek life parties and starting his own DJ company. Now, Steve LeVine Entertainment, launched in 2007, employees 35 full-time staff members and more than 70 independent contractors, organizing parties around the Southwest.

LeVine is also an investor in Maya Day & NightClub, which hosts Audien for tomorrow, December 31’s New Year’s Eve party. He’s also an investor in restaurant Majerle’s. Keep reading for how he started his business, which also signed singers Kelley James and Scott Keo and does public relations for clients such as fitness studio Amenzone. Plus, scroll down to hear five reasons why he loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I liked baseball and used to come to Arizona with my family all the time for spring training. I came to visit Arizona State (University) and fell in love with the place. I originally wanted to go to school to be an architect, and ASU’s school of architecture was top-rated and pretty amazing.

I ended up choosing a whole different path. I got into mass communications quickly and was in the very first class to get a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. Continue reading

Nick Neuman: Owner of EVO

Nick Neuman, owner of EVO in Scottsdale, photographed at his restaurant by Nicki Escudero

Nick Neuman, owner of EVO in Scottsdale, photographed at his restaurant by Nicki Escudero

Nick Neuman
twitter.com/EVOScottsdale

Nick Neuman has spent most of his adult life in the restaurant world, so it makes sense the 39-year-old Scottsdale resident set out to open his own hip spot. He owns EVO in the Old Town Scottsdale area, an eatery with late-night eats that opened this past April. The spot has been a haven among the bar and restaurant industry crowd because of its late hours, but its Italian menu set among a modern yet cozy setting is available for lunch every day, too. Read on to what drove Neuman to opening EVO, as well as to watch him talk about five of his favorite reasons for loving life in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

School. When I was in high school, I came to visit my aunt who lived in Tucson. I fell in love with Arizona and decided when I graduated high school to go to University of Arizona. I ended up transferring to Arizona State University and graduating with degrees in economics and political science. I was born in Virginia. Continue reading

German Osio: Owner of Sumo Maya, Central Bistro

German Osio, owner of Local Bistro, Central Bistro and Sumo Maya, photographed at his office in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

German Osio, owner of Local Bistro, Central Bistro and Sumo Maya, photographed at his office in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

German Osio
twitter.com/CentralBistroAZ

German Osio is already responsible for some popular names in the Valley dining scene, Local Bistro and Central Bistro. Early next year, the 32-year-old Scottsdale resident will bring a very innovative concept, an Asian/Mexican fusion spot, to the Valley: Scottsdale’s Sumo Maya. The trained chef collaborated on his restaurants’ menus with his partners and executive chefs, Andrea Volpi of Local Bistro and Central Bistro, and Herb Wilson of Sumo Maya.

When he’s not running his Valley restaurants, Osio owns a commercial real estate company in his native Mexico City. Read on for how this restaurant mogul got his start, and for what diners can expect from Sumo Maya.

What brought you to Arizona?

Weather, family and business opportunities. I was born in Mexico City and moved to Connecticut when I was 6 years old, then went to Les Roches university in Switzerland and majored in hotel business administration and got a culinary degree. I pursued that for about five and a half years before moving to Texas and lived in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio for about six years and opened four restaurants.

My business partner ended up selling the restaurants, so I decided to move to Phoenix. I was always attracted to Arizona because of the quality of life, the kindness of the people, the cleanliness of the city, and the weather. It was also a market I knew indirectly because my family always had a winter home here. I moved here in 2010.

Continue reading

Craig DeMarco: Founding Partner of Upward Projects, Postino

Craig DeMarco, founding partner of Upward Projects including Postino, Windsor and Federal Pizza, photographed at the new Joyride Taco House in Central Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Craig DeMarco, founding partner of Upward Projects including Postino, Windsor and Federal Pizza, photographed at the new Joyride Taco House in Central Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Craig DeMarco
twitter.com/UpwardProjects

Craig DeMarco is responsible for some of the Valley’s best restaurants, including Postino, Windsor and Federal Pizza. As founding partner of Upward Projects, he, along with founding members Kris DeMarco (Craig’s wife) and Wyatt and Lauren Bailey, have brought a dozen restaurant projects to the Valley. He’s also a founding partner of Chelsea’s Kitchen and Le Grande Orange, focusing on re-purposing classic Valley buildings and invigorating neighborhoods, such as North Central Phoenix, Arcadia and downtown Gilbert. This December, Upward Projects opens its Central Phoenix location of Joyride Taco House. Keep reading for the philosophy behind Upward Project’s eateries, as well as to watch a video of DeMarco talking about his favorite reasons for living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in Connecticut and lived there until I was 6 years old, then moved to the Bay area until I was 12. In 1982, my dad was in the software business and moved his whole company to Tempe because it was less expensive. I went to Marcos de Niza, then ASU and got my business degree. That’s where I met my wife Kris and Lauren. She and her husband Wyatt are both ASU alumni, so we all four care deeply about ASU. Continue reading