2012 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2014 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL14 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLETDining Archive
Featured Dining LocationThe House at Secret Garden is located at 2501 E. Baseline Road in Phoenix. For more information, call 602-243-8539 or visit www.houseatsecretgarden.com.

© Mark Duran


Click image to view larger in separate window.
Here's a Little Secret
Tucked into a grove of grapefruit and orange trees along the base of South Mountain, The House at Secret Garden is one of the best-kept secrets in Phoenix. The house itself is historic, but the menu is contemporary Italian.

By Nora Burba Trulsson

PHOENIX It's easy to drive past The House at Secret Garden. Tucked between a shopping center and a subdivision at the base of South Mountain in Phoenix, the restaurant is screened from the busy road by dense vegetation. But after a few U-turns, you figure out where it is.

Moments later, cactus-fig margarita in hand, munching grilled bread topped with smoked trout and lulled into relaxation by the scent of grapefruit blossoms, you're likely to wonder, Why haven't I been here before?

The restaurant's hypnotic effect is thanks in equal parts to the talented young chef-owner Dustin Christofolo, the historic house, and the lush 5-acre grounds that serve as a backdrop.

Christofolo, 31, grew up in the food business. His Italian grandfather had a deli and bakery in Tempe, and his mother, Pat, who co-owns the restaurant with him, founded Santa Barbara Catering Co.

Secret Garden's two-story Spanish Colonial Revival house was built in 1929 for Walter and Blanche Strong. The Strongs planted 100 surrounding acres with grapefruit and orange trees, creating one of the area's largest orchards.

The Strongs sold the house in 1957, and it remained a citrus operation until much of the acreage was subdivided. The property later became known as the Baseline Mansion, and, from 1989 to 1999, residents hosted Earth Mother Mind Jam, an annual music festival heavy on drum circles.

In 2003, Dave Mata was driving by when he saw a small "for sale" sign in front of the property. Despite the home's benign neglect, he and his wife, Nancy, purchased it, cleaned it up, restored the house and created an event and wedding venue with the construction of an adjacent banquet facility. The house was also listed on the city of Phoenix historic registry.

At the Matas' invitation, Christofolo opened the restaurant in 2010 after expanding the kitchen and planting a vegetable garden near a gnarled old carob tree.

The menu? "It has an Italian backbone, but it's progressive and always changing," Christofolo says. "I like to see what's in my garden or what local farmers have. We'll always have favorites like the pork-belly appetizer, grilled lamb chops, pappardelle and, for dessert, sweet potato cake."

If he has time, Christofolo will chat with you about his food and the home's history.
If he's busy, have another margarita, order dinner and enjoy the hypnotic, historic atmosphere.

>> Back to Dining Archive
>> Visit Dining Guide


Events CalendarEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

External LinksFor more information about great places to visit in Arizona, view our list of links to external resources, from Native American arts to parks and national forests... [more]

 

LodgingNo matter where you travel in Arizona, you'll find lodging that ranges from rustic to ritzy, along with everything in between... [more]

Weekend GetawaysOur annual Weekend Getaways issue is on newsstands now... [more]


site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

© Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.