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
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.