Friday, March 4, 2011

REVIEW: America's Best Pizza?

Blogs do not live by controversy alone. After all, even web posters need to eat.

Those following on Facebook know I'm in Goodyear, Arizona field producing WAKR's Ray Horner Morning Show during the first week of Cactus League play. We've been answering those 3:00 a.m. wake-up calls for our broadcast to begin at 4:00 local time, 6:00 back in Akron. Afterwards it's interviews, covering games, more interviews.

Then there's chowing down.

First, my take on what's now my favorite restaurant.

Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King made Pizzeria Bianco a national favorite when they declared it America's best pizza. They knew what they were talking about, but the good people of Phoenix aren't necessarily happy with the fame. It means an hour-long wait may now be three hours long; the locals grumble and understandably won't line up for that long.

Bianco does NOT take reservations, so the line starts forming at 4:30 for the 5:00 first dinner seating. Forget it when there's a big event downtown, such as the Diamondbacks (about a block and a half away) or the Suns (about four blocks away) or a big show at the Convention Center / Arizona Science Center next door.

Here's the deal: Bar Bianco is right next door. Stand in line, move up and they'll take your name. Then waltz over to for a cold handcrafted brew or glass of wine. There are tables and benches set up outside for your comfort. WAKR's Ray Horner (at left) did the honors and made sure we were improperly hydrated for the wait. They have drinks other than beer, so for those non-alcoholic alternatives there's no problem. That'll hold for kids, too.

As to the ambiance, it's casual sophisticated and relaxed.

In our case, we arrived at 4:45. The restaurant itself is small -- a dozen tables or so with the wood-fired oven in a corner by the chef's bar. Hence the long lines. It's unassuming, but very well maintained. While waiting outside, you'll notice some of the restaurant workers tending to the herbs planted strategically outside the building. Rosemary, oregano and basil are the main crops and you'll see once inside they harvest on-demand. Can't get much fresher than that!

We ordered olives as appetizers along with a Spiedini, a skewer of rosemary and Fontina cheese wrapped in thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma ham, then placed in the oven. It's served warm, and -- as Charlie Sheen would say -- a winner. Fresh-baked Italian country bread is also served, along with olive oil for dipping. The bread itself is a draw, and offered for takeout.

The wood-fired pizzas, though, are the main event. There were four of us, so we opted to select four different pizzas -- Margherita, simply cheese, tomato sauce and basil; Biancoverde, with fresh Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta cheeses and fresh Arugula; the Sonny Boy, with tomato sauce, fresh Mozzarella, Salami and Gaeta olives; and finally the Wiseguy, featuring wood-roasted onion rings, house smoked Mozzarella, and Fennel Sausage.

The wood-fired foundation was expertly prepared with just a touch of blackened outside but otherwise the thin crust was perfectly married to the toppings of sauce, cheese and meat, vegetable or herb. It's a traditional Italian pizza, so don't expect the big ball of dough most American tastes are used to.

There are two other types of pizza offered: the traditional Marinara no-cheese version with tomato sauce, oregano and garlic and the Rosa bearing red onion, Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh rosemary and local Arizona pistachios.

Is pizza worth waiting hours for? If your idea of a pie is tons of cheese, sauce and meats atop a hunk of bread then make another choice. If you enjoy authentic Italian cuisine and the experience that goes with it, then this ought to be on your list when visiting Phoenix.

Pizzeria Bianco is located at 623 Adams Street, just off North Seventh Street in downtown Phoenix. Parking is limited but there is metered on-street parking nearby and the Science Center / Convention Center next door to the area have secure garage parking. Remember to take your parking ticket to the restaurant for validation. Hours are 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. No reservations are accepted; takeout is not available but you can order extras to bring home with you.


  1. Thank you, Ed!
    I will go for sure next time I am in PHO (soon). My sister goes there a lot. The 2nd best place is here in Portland so we need to try that one, too.

  2. Great review, Ed! You sure know how to make a reader hungry. :-)