Sedona Restaurant: Avano Bistro

Executive Chef Joseph Wickham’s menu at Avano Bistro was clearly designed to please many different palates, from the adventurous (with the chorizo-stuffed dates) to the classic (with the margherita pizza). The bread, pasta, desserts, pizza crust and sauces are all made in-house, and the dining room has an understated elegance with linen-clad tabletops, low lights and leather chairs. When the weather warms up, the patio is a fun spot to dine with friends.

Now for those aforementioned dates. Not being huge fans of chorizo or dates, we were a little skeptical, but there was no need to worry – they proved to be delicious bites of goodness. The spicy chorizo – a Spanish pork sausage – was the ideal complement to the sweet, sugary dates. The appetizer also comes with a saffron aioli for dipping your dates. For dinner, we enjoyed the crab-and-shrimp ravioli and the grilled lamb polpette. The ravioli is a favorite of ours. Each al dente pocket of pasta is stuffed with crabmeat and shrimp, and then topped with a bright orange sauce nantua, a French delicacy made with crayfish. The best part of this dish? It’s served with fried snap peas. Absolute genius. As for the lamb polpette, our server warned us that it was enough to share, and he was right. Three ground lamb patties are grilled and served on a bed of jasmine rice surrounded by roasted artichokes and tomato confit . There’s a side of tzatziki sauce for good measure. Try a tall glass of Cottonwood’s THAT Brewery Arizona Trail Ale to wash it all down, and you’ll be tempted to polish it off in one sitting. (Wine lovers, Avano serves Arizona labels such as Javelina Leap Vineyards & Winery.)

As if that wasn’t enough food (it was), we each ordered dessert. The carrot cake defies tradition and was more like a two-layer sponge cake flecked with carrots and ginger. The layers were filled with mascarpone, so the cake wasn’t too sweet or dense. Avano’s signature dessert is the chocolate-peanut-butter lava cake, which tastes like a molten Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Who wouldn’t love that? Erika Ayn Finch. Photograph by Deb Weinkauff.

Avano Bistro, 2675 SR 89A in West Sedona. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 4-9 p.m., for dinner. MC, Visa (928-282-0519) (Moderate to Expensive)

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