Tucson Restaurant Brothers Find Global Inspiration

Local restaurateurs source ingredients, design and ideas from travels near and far.

Brothers Josh and Aric Mussman work and travel the world together searching for food trends and design ideas to create popular, globally inspired concepts with the authenticity to entice. 

Their restaurant endeavors began while visiting an uncle in Seattle, where Josh came across people lined up in the rain waiting to eat certified Neapolitan pizza at Tutta Bella. “While that sounded gimmicky,” he says. “It was the best pizza of my life.” 

He and Aric dove into the business shortly thereafter, opening Vero Amore, serving Tucson’s first and only certified Neapolitan pizza. 

To be officially certified requires strict standards: handmade mozzarella, imported ovens, San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, 00 wheat flour, hours of training, exact pizza thickness and limited pizza-topping options. “We don’t cut corners,” Aric states. “We buy quality regardless of price; our flour costs three times more than other pizza flours.” 

Vero Amore restaurant, Tuscon
The certified Neapolitan pizza is a must-try at Vero Amore. (©SCAD Media/Movement Marketing)

The space inside Vero Amore at Plaza Palomino, one of two Vero Amore locations in Tucson, is designed around the imported oven, but another unique feature within is The Still, a romantic speakeasy hidden behind a wall of basket-encased Chianti bottles. Imagine stepping into the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris,” complete with absinthe served Parisian-style, 1920s music and chandeliers kissed with a breath of golden light.

Patrons must text for reservations to keep secrecy intact, and classic cocktails using boutique spirits, freshly squeezed juices and house-made syrups are incorporated into the regularly changing, hand-written menu. 

“I’m an entrepreneur from a family of entrepreneurs. At an early age, my sons learned about possibilities,” says Suzanne Kaiser, the Mussmans’ mother and part owner of JAM Culinary Concepts, which stands for Josh, Aric and Mom. “Both brothers have their eyes on the big picture.” 

A second concept was born from travels among major U.S. cities. “Gastropubs were hot,” Aric recalls. “In 2011 we brought the first gastropub to Tucson.” Noble Hops features a daily revolving assortment of craft beers from around the world, including small batches and local brews. The food menu changes seasonally with the Bavarian pretzel as its mainstay, which is made with dough flown in from Germany. And the front room of the dimly lit pub displays bottles of vibrantly colored water adroitly synchronized against a stark white wall, a design element brought in with inspiration from Greece. 

JAM Culinary Concepts has more plans on the horizon to add to Tucson’s already colorful restaurant scene. “We’re tossing around six concepts,” says Josh. Among them, a Noble Hops Brewery is slated to open mid-2016 in the Barraza-Aviation Parkway warehouse district.