Pizzeria Bianco - Phoenix, AZ

Lunch - Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chris Bianco is practically a living legend. His eponymous pizzeria has likely received more accolades than any other pizza shop in the country. Its current location, the historic Baird Machine Shop in Phoenix's Heritage Square (where it has been since 1996), is a perfect fit for his rustic, simple, soulful fare.

Previously, waits for dinner seating at this shoebox restaurant would stretch upwards of 3 hours. With the introduction of lunch service sometime last year, I'd heard that the lines had been significantly reduced. Indeed, when we rolled in for lunch at 11.15am on a Saturday, we (luckily) managed to snag the last two seats in the place with no wait.

With Chris taking time off pizza-making duties due to problems with his asthma, we wondered whether the pizzas being served were truly reflective of the Bianco name. Fortunately, we were aware that the dough had been made by his brother Marco for quite some time, and the pizzas were still being cooked by his longstanding right-hand man. So much has been written about the pies here that any more from me would be superfluous - thus, I present a short story, told in pictures.

Pizza assembly
Interestingly, their sopressata is sourced from Creminelli Fine Meats in Salt Lake City, a place that has been receiving a lot of national attention recently (we can't wait to check it out when we go in June). Garlicky, peppery, delicious.

Bread service
Parmigiano Reggiano, mozzarella, ricotta, arugula
The amount of browning on the cheese was ridiculous - practically a gratin. Textbook-perfect crust with crisp edges, good chew, and lots of yeasty flavour. Our favourite of the two pizzas.

Red onions, Parmigiano Reggiano, rosemary, Arizona pistachios
Having purposely avoided reading about their pizzas before visiting, I was surprised that the Rosa was a white pie when it arrived at our table - based on the toppings, I expected a tomato-based sauce. Regardless, the toasty pistachios played very well with the cheese and earthy rosemary, while the onions contributed a nice zing.

Men at work
So, are these the best pizzas in the country? How do they stack up with the likes of Great Lake, Di Fara, Keste, Flour + Water, Pizzeria Mozza, and many other favourites? Too personal a choice - at this level, it comes down to individual preferences rather than the simple separators of pure technical execution. What can be said is that Bianco preceded almost all of the current top pizza spots in the nation (indeed, he may have paved the way for their coming) - for that, he has made his mark in history. Certainly, we're very glad we visited.

Pizzeria Bianco
623 E. Adams St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone: (602) 258-8300