A Slice of Innovation

October 3, 2012 |

Downtown Tucson welcomes an elegant new addition to its already impressive culinary family with the opening of Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink located on the Northeast corner of Pennington and Scott. The historic building that was built in 1906 now boasts lavishly modern décor, a warm atmosphere and some of the best pizza and Italian food in the region. But don’t go into it expecting the same dated menu that you’d find at traditional pizza digs, as Reilly places innovation and execution as the impetus of their vision.

“We took the traditional concept of a pizzeria and then elevated it,” says chef/owner and operator Tyler Fenton. “But we kept it familiar enough to where people can still enjoy it even if they aren’t as adventurous in their dining. We use high quality ingredients and better techniques to enhance the food. We offer traditional, regional Italian food, but we didn’t fully follow the rulebook on the dishes.”

Offering eclectic menu items such as zucchini chips, squash blossoms, shrimp and grits, soft polenta and pizza that boasts ingredients such as Yukon potatoes and rosemary, speck and eggs and a take on pepperoni pizza that features roasted red peppers and Calabria salami on it (Fenton debated seven different types of salami before deciding), Reilly is quickly becoming a hot spot in town for foodies and pizza lovers alike.

“I went to a lot of different pizzerias to research techniques and awhile back I went with Daniel Scordado on a trip to Seattle when he was opening up his Pizzeria Vivace and that really inspired me,” says Fenton. “I’ve cooked my whole life. My mom’s side of the family is a big Italian family, so I grew up eating and learned to love cooking. I always liked that a meal brought people together. Community is so important to me, so it feels great to have a place where people can gather to enjoy themselves.”

Fenton, who has accomplished a tremendous amount for a 22-year chef, came up with the initial concept for Reilly while he was daydreaming through one of his classes at the University of Arizona. But while Tyler is responsible for the main vision, he credits the success and execution of the restaurant as a family affair.

“My dad bought the building in 2007 and gave us a tour of it and I thought it was really cool,” says Fenton. “My freshman year at U of A I was bored in one of my classes and I drew up a concept and a floor plan of the place. From there my brother helped me raise the finances and build the business plan. I’m the creative side and operations, my brother is on the financial side and my dad is the landlord.”

The timing couldn’t be better for Fenton to bring his confectionary prowess to downtown, as the recent revamping of the area is attracting more people than ever. And while Reilly sits next to some hard competition, Fenton doesn’t seem to view them as rivals at all.

We’re thrilled to be members of the downtown community and are happy that we can add something new to it. Even just on that corner of Pennington and Scott, we have a little community with Café Poca Cosa and 47 Scott. We don’t view them as competition, because we all have different niches and we’re fans of their food. We all share a parking garage across the street and it’s perfect. I love it over here.”

Fenton is preparing to unveil the final phase of Reilly, as he is expanding the back patio into an indoor/outdoor beer garden with ample seating and a drink menu that offers over 40 draft beers. While that addition will be completed in the coming months, make your reservations to dine in today, because if the line from the waiting room to the street is any indication, it is well worth the wait.

For reservations to Reilly Pizza & Drink call 520-882-5550. Visit them online at ReillyPizza.com