Time after time we would pass by the tired looking Mediterranean style structure on Magee just west of Oracle Road. And it is the “studio” of a world-renowned artist! It’s the home of an Italian eatery that compares quite well to others of the same genre here in Tucson. It’s Botegga Michelangelo.

Today, after extensive re-styling, this ristorante has been updated with bright and modern casual décor. The new Michelangelo’s is a popular eatery with an interesting menu, good tasting faire, a well-attended bar area and more. Us Tucsonans appreciate places like this that are readily accessible, nicely appointed and welcoming. On many evenings (even in the off season) occupancy here is very good, so reservations are recommended.

Michelangelo’s portions are generous and diners can expect usual Italian staples such as lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, and a variety of pastas. There are also a number of unique dishes such as Nonna Antoinetta’s pasta al forno. Rigatoni and pomodoro sauce is tossed with pepperoni slices, tender meatballs and chunks of hard-boiled egg. It has just enough spiciness but not overwhelming. The al forno is like a meal and a half - Primo! We have also sampled the pan roasted chicken mattone, traditional lasagna, and the orechiette (Italian sausage, pesto and reggiano breadcrumbs). All were very tasty and satisfying.

Starters include a variety of salads, a sweet and spicy fried calamari and a memorable Caesar salad. The rich and tangy Caesar includes Sicilian white anchovies (when requested). That’s an important detail to me as the white ones make a difference in terms of taste and texture. You can’t find them everywhere.

The wait staff is efficient and knowledgeable on all three visits by us. Our guests and we have been pleased with the service. Each time we dine there the owner has greeted us sometime during dinner as he makes the rounds to each table checking on his happy customers - impressive! The Ali Family tradition continues here with roots in Calabria, Italia.

Other details can be found at www.bottegemichelangelo.comand on Facebook. Michelangelo’s is open at 11 a.m. six days a week and closed Tuesdays. It is located at 420 West Magee Road in Oro Valley.

The main dining area is complemented by a spacious bar, outdoor, covered courtyard and space for private dining.

Botegga Michelangelo is worth the trip south on Oracle. And if you haven’t been there lately you’ll be impressed by the new décor too.

This article first appeared in the Saddlebag Notes print edition October 2018)