This past fall I had the chance to attend The Best of Italy in Scottsdale food and wine event hosted by the Italian Association of Arizona. I honestly didn’t know what to expect as the local chapter of the Italian Association (IA) is fairly new to the Phoenix cultural scene and it was their first event to boot.

According to the IA, their non-profit, non-political organization is “open to the Italian and American community of Arizona and to the Arizona University Students that have an interest in developing their understanding and knowledge of Italy. The IA objective is to provide its members with a broad range of services to support their business, to facilitate communications and exchanges between members, to help accelerate their expansion plans and to promote Italian culture.”

I’ll cut to the chase when I say that the group put together an amazing well attended event with delicious food and fun entertainment. The Best of Italy in Scottsdale featured amazing Italian dishes and wines—the later of which were for sale—and showcased live musicians playing accordion and violin. Local celebrity chefs Andrea Volpi of Local/Central Bistro, Chris Nocosia of Sassi, Gio Osso of Virtu’, Marcellino Verzino of Marcellino Ristorante and Massimo Della Francesca of Taggia at Fire Sky Resort absolutely pulled no punches and brought their A-game with the food.

One of the major highlights of the food is that it wasn’t the traditional Italian fare that you might instantly think of. For example, mushroom risotto replaced spaghetti and a delicious salmon dish was up for grabs as opposed to traditional lasagna. The wines offered were equally as amazing – each with its own story behind it – including reds, whites, dessert wines, dinner wines, and more. The event hosts were friendly and chefs and wine experts were happy to share more about their dishes and drinks. It was an unanticipated good time.

The fun and tasty event was hosted at The Courtyard Salt River Scottsdale, a Marriott hotel. This LEED certified establishment was full of pleasant surprises as well, including on site dining at The Bistro, which serves all three meals and cocktails, and a wonderfully Arizonan decor that pays homage to the local Native American culture.

Courtyard Scottsdale Salt River

The Bistro at Courtyard Scottsdale Salt River. Photo courtesy Marriott International

Personally, I didn’t expect a local hotel that you’d assume caters mostly to business travelers to have such spacious rooms and friendly staff. Another favorite part? The Courtyard Salt River Scottsdale is super close to all of Scottsdale’s hottest tourist attractions. My husband and I, who rarely venture to Scottsdale, had no problem finding Old Town and grabbing drinks after the event.

King room at Courtyard Scottsdale Salt River

King room at Courtyard Scottsdale Salt River. Photo courtesy Marriott International

So overall, the theme here—as with all lessons learned while exploring—is enjoy the ride and expect the unexpected. I honestly didn’t think I’d have such an amazing time at the Best of Italy event or staying in The Courtyard Salt River Scottsdale, an unassuming hotel. But, I’m so glad I went, and am encouraged to continue exploring locally – you’ll never know what you’ll find!

For more information on future events hosted by the Italian Association of Arizona, visit italianassociation.org. To learn more about The Courtyard Salt River Scottsdale, check out www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phxpi-courtyard-scottsdale-salt-river.

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