Mill Ave in Tempe is a popular place, close to ASU’s Tempe campus and within stumbling distance of a score of dorms. As such there are a lot of restaurants and even more bars, some of each are good places to spend some time but there is not a place on Mill Ave that manages to do both as well as La Bocca. From the ambiance and food, to the drinks and service, La Bocca stands above the trendy choices that Tempe has to offer.
Venue: La Bocca Urban Pizzeria
Location: Tempe, AZ
There is no better location for a place like La Bocca in the city of Tempe than Mill Ave. Centrally located in the East Valley, plenty of foot traffic from 8 in the morning till 3 the next morning and college students looking to impress their dates. Not that this is a bad thing in this case, La Bocca does a good job of setting itself aside from the usual duchebag magnets of Mill Ave, you can expect a better class of patron here than most other places in all of Tempe actually. Maybe it is the top shelf staff that they employ, I have never had cause to be disappointed in the staff here, in fact they usually go above and beyond in making sure that their guests are well taken care of. From arm wrestling after a few bottles of wine to bending the smoking on the patio rule, as long as you are a good customer, you are treated like a regular and your needs are taken care of.
The restaurant itself is extremely well done. Nice subdued lighting, not too dark but dark enough to be intimate. There is a huge screen on the back wall that is generally playing a vintage movie or some sort of artistic video display, not distracting but usually entertaining enough to pay attention to every now and again. It is loud inside, that is really the only negative I have to say about dining inside. Conversations can be difficult to maintain if the lunch or dinner crowd is the typical near capacity crowd, it seems to be a little better at the bar because there is some distance between it and the tables but I recommend dining outside if you want to enjoy the company you have. Seating outside is generally available and varied in style (table and chairs or more lounge-ish options).
The food has never disappointed. Their selection of bruschetta is by far the best I have ever had, incredible selections if toppings that are portioned out perfectly so that you can enjoy the texture, taste and substance of what you are eating. The prosciutto and fig are my personal favorites, though I have had them all and have been pleased every time. Their variety plates are generous in the amount of food they offer and are perfect for groups of three or more. The salads are good but the real gem for lunch or dinner is the pizzas. Handmade from local ingredients, wonderfully cooked and made to be shared with whomever you are with. The Truffled Mushroom in particular is divine. I have not had pasts there but have heard from others that it is just as deserving as the pizzas.
Sangria…oh the sangria. The only thing I have bad to say about the sangria is that you can quickly find yourself calling a cab after the first glass; not because it is that strong but because a glass leads to a carafe which leads to three carafes which, inevitably, lead to calling a cab. Not a bad problem to have, if you ask me. The staff is always quick to refill your glasses and order another drink, if you would like them to. The cocktails are made very well, though I generally go straight to the sangria if I am there for dinner. They have a great wine selection as well.
Now, the costs of such an experience are the real shocking thing about La Bocca, far less than you would expect. They offer their pricing at their website, so you can check for yourself. Bruschetta, dinner and some sangria should keep you under $60 for the experience and it is money well spent. They have daily specials and a VIP list for events and other special occasions.