The Ghost Guest Travels: Phoenix
One of the best meals we had was at Pizzeria Bianco helmed by chef Chris Bianco who won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest. Pizzeria Bianco has two locations in Phoenix and I promise you it's worth the wait. We tried two pizzas and both were outstanding. The first was a combo of their two pizzas of the day, which we split it in half to try both. One side was a red pizza with prosciutto, apple, and goat cheese curds, and the other side was a white pizza with arugula and ricotta. The other pizza was a red pizza topped with olives, fresh mozzarella, and salami. The crust was chewy and crispy, with a perfect lightly charred crust. We made those pizzas disappear like it was our job. Pizzeria Bianco is a must-visit restaurant while in Phoenix.
Eater calls Chris Bianco the most revered pizzaiolo in America. His pizzeria, Pizzeria Bianco, is considered one of the best in America. _ Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Brick oven pizza _ Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Margherita: Tomato Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil _ Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Wiseguy: Wood-Roasted Onion, House Smoked Mozzarella, Fennel Sausage _ Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Deserves It's Title
When it was called the best pizza in the US I was sure there was a mistake. I thought that someplace in New York or Chicago could take that title. But this pizza is good, just be prepared to wait for it. The ingredidents are fresh and lets the flavor of the pizza shine through.
When Chris Bianco started Pizzeria Bianco inside the back corner of a neighborhood grocery store in 1988, little did he know that he would be such a driving force in the slow food movement and specifically the artisanal pizza front. Chris, who won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2003, helped spawn a generation of independent and artisanal pizzerias, lending his advice, wisdom and food philosophies to dozens of fellow chefs and restaurateurs.
The pizza farm
Phoenix: Pizzeria Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco is one of the most famous restaurants in Phoenix. It happens to be just two miles from the airport. That made it easy to decide what to do first when I arrived in town. I arrived at mid-afternoon, normally a slow time for restaurants. Bianco is so popular that you have to wait even at the down times. The hostess told me to expect a half hour wait but she very graciously worked me in after about five minutes.
I started with a plate of green and black olives. Both tasted great and provided different textures (green is firmer). They come bathed in an amazingly flavorful olive oil. Even if you aren't a crust person, try dipping a little of your pizza crust in the leftover oil.
This is the sonny boy pizza. It's topped with salami, something that one doesn't often find on pizzas. This extremely fine salami gives a very meaty flavor without being heavy. Of course, the crust is superb. It's just the right thickness with a few wonderful burns.
It lives up to its reputation, but...
As a kid I used to go to WNBA games, for the inaugural season of the Phoenix Mercury. Near that arena was a small, but rustic looking pizzeria. Enough backstory --
Been loyal ever since; impressed but not surprised, years later, by reading about it in an airplane magazine as the Best Pizza in the US.
The ingredients are so fresh that they have an herb garden out back, and it shows in the flavor; its best offering is the Wise Guy pizza.
When you see the place from the outside you don't really think that this can be a pizza place, it even comes with valet parking. You can choose to take the pizza outside and enjoy it with the grass and trees or eat it inside where it looks like a little cut out kitchen from new york in phoenix. The staff are very friendly, and everything is prepared in front of you with fresh ingredients. The pizza is not too big maybe a little bigger than a large plate, but it makes up for it in taste and quality.
Pizzeria Bianco | Phoenix, AZ
If you like thin crust and fresh ingredients, then Pizzeria Bianco is the place for you. I am told that the owners of Pizzeria Bianco grow most of their own toppings, and their sauce and mozzarella cheese are homemade. This all adds up to delicious coal oven pizza where the sauce and toppings really shine through. The waiter recommended the margherita pizza with sausage to me, and it did not disappoint as the sausage was some of the best I have ever had on a pizza. I was with someone who tried the sonny boy pizza, and the salami on it was very good as well. Pizzeria Bianco is recognized nationally as one of the best pizza places, and, if you like artisan style pizza, then it may be the very best for you. The only thing that stopped me from giving it a ten is that my tastes lean more towards the American style of pizza with lots of cheese and a softer crust, whereas their pizza has a crispier crust and, while the cheese is good, it is light in quantity.
Pizzeria Bianco is only open in the evenings on Tuesday through Saturday as I believe the owner still personally prepares all of the pies. The restaurant opens at 5 pm, but Bar Bianco, pictured below, is right next door and opens at 4 pm. Bar Bianco is in a neat old house, and I recommend checking it out as well. Lines will start to form around 4 or a little earlier on weekdays, and I can’t even imagine the wait on weekends. The restaurant is pretty small, so you definitely want to get in line early. I would say that Pizzeria Bianco is well worth an hour wait but perhaps not much more. If you are in the Phoenix area, I certainly recommend adding Pizzeria Bianco to your itinerary.
What I Ate: Margherita with Sausage
Pizzeria Bianco, one of the Country's Best
Pizzeria Bianco: I have to admit, I thought that the “best pizza in the nation” claim was a bit dubious. There are so many well-regarded pizzerias all over the country, how could it be possible to narrow that down to a single restaurant in Phoenix, AZ of all places? When I drove up to the parking lot, I saw something that looked like a suburban Alamo-themed restaurant, so naturally my skepticism grew.
To feel things out, we started with an appetizer of wood roasted vegetables and cheese. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful–I really enjoyed the broccoli, sweet potatoes and the red peppers. The platter also came with some Italian salami, manchego cheese, frittata and beans. Pizzeria Bianco certainly passed the initial test of being able to cook basic food well.
wood roasted vegetables, cheese and sopressata (salami)
We ordered the traditional margherita with a side of fennel sausage. We figured the simplicity of the margherita would be a good barometer of Pizzeria Bianco’s abilities–there’s simply no room to hide with just the basics of tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. When the pizza came out, it looked like a contender for best pizza in America. The crust had that nice, bubbly char around the edges, the tomato sauce was a vibrant red, and the creamy melted mozzarella looked enticing.
margherita pizza with fennel sausage
And the verdict? I am no pizza expert, but I’ve tried a lot of the famous thin-crust pies–Di Fara, Grimaldi’s, Motorino, etc. The crust at Pizzeria Bianco by far is truly the best crust ever. They would definitely sweep the category for “best crust in the nation.” It was thin and crispy, but sturdy enough to support the wet toppings without getting soggy in the center. Despite being crispy, it still had a chewy, springy quality to it. And despite the simplicity of the ingredients, it was extremely flavorful, comparable to the experience of eating an amazing piece of flatbread. With a crust this good, the pizza was already 90% there to being an incredible pie. I personally think other places might have better toppings, whether due to taste or inventiveness, but Pizzeria Bianco is not far off. I can understand why it won this national award for best pizza. So yes, whether you’re in town for business or passing through en route to the Grand Canyon, you should definitely make a stop here.