This past weekend, I attended the wedding of the son of a longtime friend in Chandler Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. And as I'm sure you've guessed, I was quite excited to check out the restaurant scene in "The Valley".
We were only in the Phoenix area for few days, and half of one day would be spent at the wedding. Time was not on my side. I did mange to squeeze in several interesting restaurants though, and overall I had some great food there.
We arrived late Friday, and after a long plane ride, and a 45 minute drive to the hotel, we were tired. To make matters worse, Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time, which left us with a 3 hour jet lag. Nevertheless, troopers that we are, we checked in to the hotel, and after briefly decompressing, and meeting up with a friend, we headed to dinner.
By time we headed out for dinner it was 7pm local time (10pm eastern). We had not eaten since Noon eastern and we were starving. In my reasearch I had failed to find something close to the hotel that I really wanted to try. I was forced to exercise my backup plan for dinner.
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
Firebirds is a semi-upscale steakhouse chain, and I had been to one in New Jersey. It was close to the hotel, and I knew the food was good, so we ate there.
I ordered a chili rubbed sirloin that came with a side of "southwest" potatoes au gratin. My wife and friend both ordered a pecan crusted trout dish, and we shared a salad.
The food was all delicious, but pretty standard fare. If anything stood out it would have to have been the potatoes. They arrived so hot they were bubbling and sizzling, and I go crazy for very hot foods. The potatoes were so hot I burned the roof of my mouth, twice, (but I didn't mind one bit). They were really tasty. Mildly spicy, with tons of cheese and a great béchamel sauce. The potatoes were perfectly al dente. That dish is a winner.
The next day was the wedding, and fortunately it started at 5. That left me with enough time to hit someplace special for lunch, and still have enough time to get back to the hotel, get cleaned up, and dressed up for the wedding.
There was only one restaurant on my "must visit" list while in Phoenix.
Pizzeria Bianco, has been called one of the best pizzeria's in America, by the NY Times, and Food and Wine magazine, among others.
Reading the reviews on yelp, many reviewers complained that the wait was hours long, and Pizzeria Bianco doesn't take reservations. They opened at 11, and my plan was to arrive at 10:30, in hopes that I'd be early enough to be in the first seating. We arrived at 10:30, and had trouble finding parking. Pizzeria Bianco is near the Phoenix Conference Center, and there was a large event happening there Saturday. It was hot, about 100 degrees, and we ended up walking several blocks in the sweltering heat.
To my amazement, there was no line, so we found refuge under a tree for some shade and waited for the doors to open.
The Pizzeria is quite tiny, maybe 12 tables tops, which would explain the long waits people are complaining about. It has great ambiance though, and the restaurant is dominated by the wood fired oven. There's no doubt why you're there. You're there to indulge in great pizza.
Our waiter brought bread to the table that they make themselves, and it was quite good. It's a french baguette style, with crunchy, chewy crust, with a very open, moist interior. These guys know their dough.
We ordered a margarita pizza, and a pie with just red sauce, and sliced garlic, to which we added mushrooms.
Look at that crust. Full of flavor, crunchy, with just enough chew, and a good amount of char which held a little smokiness from the wood fire. What I loved most about the pizza is the lightness of the crust. Many pizzas are heavy. But this is just so incredibly light. You can eat slice after slice and not experience that bloated, stuffed feeling you get from eating too much bread. And with pizza this good, you'll not want to stop until every last crumb is in your belly.
Is Pizzaria Bianco the best pizza in America? I don't know. But I do know that it's damn good, and I have no idea how one would improve on it. It's near perfect in my mind.
If I lived in the area, I'd be here all the time. It was without a doubt the highlight of our visit. Phoenix is blessed to have such great pizza in their midst.
Stay tuned for Phoenix part two, which I hope to have up later in the week.
But in the mean time, here are a few more gratuitous photos of Pizzeria Bianco and that amazing pizza.
|The front of the tiny building. I was pleased there was no line.|
|The oven, and the small seating area.|
|Light airy end crust.|
|Even the bottom crust has bubbles, and is light but still chewy|