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Saturday, May 02, 2009

[Second Helping] Pizzeria Bianco


I was recently in Phoenix for a conference. When I was told I was invited to present something, my first thought was that I would finally get a chance to try the famed Pizzeria Bianco. Marla Collins' Husband did an excellent job reviewing it for our website after his trip last year, so I don't think there is any need for me to repeat information on the background of the restaurant. This merely serves as a second opinion on the place. Also, I forgot my camera during this trip, but I ordered one of the same pizzas he did so you can salivate over his pictures.

My friend and I ordered 2 pizzas:

  • The Wiseguy, which is a white pizza with mozzarella, sausage, and roasted onions
  • The Margherita, which was tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil
Pizzeria Bianco cooks their pizzas with white oak and pecan wood. The oak surprised me a bit, because it is usually a strong flavor. However, given that our pizzas were cooked in less than 2 minutes, I suppose it doesn't have time to be overwhelmed by the strong oak flavor. I was unable to really get a hint of the pecan wood in my meal but the oak smell escaped the oven (we sat next to it) and I was able to smell/taste it a bit in my pizza. I think he probably uses these hardwoods more for their heat qualities than for any flavor they impart due to the short time the pizzas are exposed to it. That, however, is just a guess.

My wait was shorter than MCH's because I came after spring training. I showed up at 4:30 pm and was seated at 6:30 pm. If I had shown up 10 minutes earlier I would have been seated when they opened at 5:00 pm. I still don't know why I had to wait so long to sit down. I was out of the restaurant in less than 20 minutes after sitting down. The pizzas are small, they cook very quickly, and they get your bill right away. I guess people must enjoy finally getting a seat at this bustling restaurant and they want to make it last.

So, on to the pizza. Everything on the pizza was top-grade. The sausage was cut lengthwise in an oblique cut. I was surprised to find that the casing was still on the sausage, but I ended up really liking this. The snap it gave the pizza was a great textural addition. Flavor-wise, this was outstanding sausage. It was just well-balanced and had a very mild flavor, playing nicely with the other ingredients. It is different from most pizza sausage in that it doesn't have a strong flavor; it is subtle and uses the condiments to bring out the flavor in the free-range pork. Usually the cheese gets ignored in pizzas, but this was fresh mozzarella. It had that chewy texture of good cheese and had a fresh dairy flavor. The onions were also well cooked because they were sweet, but not yet a mushy pile. The crust had nice chew and was baked perfectly so the outside was crisp. I didn't notice a strong smoke flavor on my pies as I previously mentioned, but because I was next to the oven I did get a hint of it from the smell. I also was happy to see that the center was crisp and not soggy. My biggest complaint is that I really wanted tomato sauce on this pie. In fact, 3 out of the 6 pizzas that they recommend are white pies. I think a little acid on this pie would have brought out the flavors more.

The margherita was my favorite. There was nothing revolutionary here, just good ingredients. The sauce was very basic, but the flavor in the small tomato pieces was sweet with a hint of acid and I was very, very happy with it. One of the ways in which Bianco distinguishes himself is with small touches like adding sweet onions instead of regular onions and by adding his basil after the margherita has cooked. A lot of people do that, but their basil isn't as flavorful or fragrant as this one.

Best pizza ever? No, not at all. Not even close. I have no doubt it is the best pizza in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah, and maybe somewhere else in the Southwest. I think what he has essentially done is take his very good pizza and put in a pizza dessert where its already good qualities are amplified by terrible competition. It is an excellent example of this style with great attention to small details. I admire his craftsmanship. I could have gone every night I was in Phoenix, but the thought of waiting even 45 minutes for this pizza deterred me. If I am in Phoenix again, I won't go back and wait for it. I can't even begin to imagine waiting 5.5 hours for it like some people do. This is not my favorite style of pizza, but I do enjoy it in some of the restaurants here in town. But when given a choice between this and a good tavern-style thin, a deep dish or even a good stuffed pizza, I vote Chicago.

5 comments:

  1. You are absolutely right when you say: "This is not my favorite style of pizza", but the fact that no other pizza on earth has ingredients of comparable quality should be enough to say that IT IS the very best in the world.

    If it failed short in that very important factor of reminding you of the pizzas you ate as a child, it's only a reflection of the poor pizzas you used to eat.

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  2. Thanks for the comment.

    I don't think that it's so much the pizzas I ate during my childhood as much as the pizzas I eat now on a regular basis that make me think Bianco isn't the best pizzeria in the world.

    I think whenever you want to call something the best in the world, it requires more subtlety than a tired formula stating that it has the best because it has the best ingredients. Also, I'm not willing to concede that he has the best sausage or the best sauce or the best whatever. I never stated that; I merely said it was all top-notch.

    Clearly, Bianco has many fans and supporters and I count myself among them. I just think I've tried numerous pizzas, in Chicago and elsewhere in the world, that I would much prefer to eat.

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  3. Wow! Quick reply. Thank you.

    Let me insist a bit. Are those pizzas you prefer to eat now able to take you back to your childhood?

    No one is ever wrong when they say: "I like it" or "I don't like it", but too many say: "it was not great" (not your case this time, I agree) or even: "it was bad", when they should have said "it was perfect, but some other thing that's not-as-refined makes me happier" like all those people with the taste buds of a drunk donkey that voted Starbucks best-in-the-country in Zagat (not your case again, I agree)

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  4. To answer your question: no, the pizzas I am referring to do not take me back to my childhood.

    You seem insistent on proclaiming this the best pizza ever and even call it perfect. For your sake, I hope you live in close proximity to it so you can enjoy this "perfect" food regularly.

    I have no problem with the argument that McDonald's is the best hamburger in the world because most people say it is their preferred burger. I disagree, but I get it. You seem to really have an issue with something like that.

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  5. I'm also a huge fan of Grimaldi's Pizzeria at Park West in Peoria, Az......love that place and NO WAIT.

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