Monday, May 23, 2011

Pizzeria Bianco

Here lies the fort known as Pizzeria Bianco. Sure, this place looks like any other restaurant with its unassuming facade, welcoming outdoor seating, and smiling handful of patient patrons. But if you've heard anything about this place, you've probably heard about two things: the crazy good pizza and the crazy long wait time.

With both of these nuggets fresh in my mind, I waited anxiously in the backseat of my friend's car as we left the Grand Canyon behind schedule and entered Phoenix traffic. The plan was to get there at 4:30pm, wait for the doors to open at 5:00pm, and hopefully snag a spot in the first round of seating. Because we only had one night in Phoenix, we were ideally hoping to hit up a second dinner. Unfortunately, my phone already read 6:00pm.

At 6:10pm, we were close. The blue dot on my iPhone told me we were within a block. I frantically looked around for Pizzeria Bianco's iconic red brick structure. We kept driving down the road and I noticed the side of relatively small, red brick building. "This is it," I thought. We had already passed the entrances to any reasonable parking lots, and another loop around the block was probably going to take another fifteen minutes at the very least. As we slowed to a stop, I made a game day decision.

I jumped, or leapt, even, from the car through two lanes of traffic. After a brief glance back at my friends' jaws on the floor of the car, I beelined straight to the entrance of Pizzeria Bianco, passing several people walking and enjoying the Phoenix heat. I opened the door with a deep breath and the wonderful smell of brick oven pizza made me drunk with stupor. The hostess had to try to get my attention twice before taking down my name for a party of four.

Note: Pizzeria Bianco is now open from 11:00am to 10:00pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays, so hopefully nobody has to go all Jack Bauer on this pizza joint anymore.

"How long is the wait?" I asked.
Without a second's hesitation, the hostess casually remarked, "Five and a half hours."
"Will we make it before you guys close?"
"Probably. Just check in every half hour in person, and you can just hang out at Bar Bianco next door," she said.


As I took a step back outside, I noticed that the three parties that had amassed behind me were all people I had shamelessly sprinted by only minutes before. "In your face!" Okay, I didn't actually say that, but I would lying if I said that this game day decision wasn't one of my proudest moments as an eater.

I filled in my friends, we checked into our nearby hotel, and we moseyed on back for some beers at Bar Bianco, which was also equipped with plenty of outdoor lawn seating and casual strings of lights. We checked in every half hour, and in about two and a half hours, we were getting seated. Apparently, it's pretty normal for there to be an insanely overestimated wait time. Don't get me wrong, they're giving you the actual wait time based on how many people are on the list, but so many people don't show up or decide to eat elsewhere (poor decision-making on their part) that wait times get shortened more often than not.

We were finally in, and that same intoxicating smell of pizza dough, not to mention a few beers, made my stomach feel like a humungous, empty, cave. Thankfully, the food came out surprisingly fast.

Every meal starts off with a bright olive oil and some insane bread. The crust resounds with a beautiful crunch with every bite and every chew. I had to cut myself off at one piece because I knew I needed to save my carbs for the pizza.

In an attempt to feel somewhat health-conscious, the table ordered the Antipasto, a set of wood-roasted vegetables, soppressata, and a few slices of cheese. Everything on this plate was delicious, but the roasted squash was particularly memorable, as was the oily and rich soppressata. Delicious, but come on, let's get to the pizza.

First up was the classic that everyone raves about: the Margherita. With such simple ingredients (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil), this pizza was all about showcasing Pizzeria Bianco's heavenly crust. Crispy, resonant, and rustic on the outside, and soft, chewy, and welcoming on the inside. Most wood-fired pizza crusts only have these characteristics on the outside ring of the crust. The crusts at Pizzeria Bianco, however, had the same addictive crispiness with each bite, starting from the center of the pie to the outer, blistered crust. The tomato sauce was thick and satisfying, while the fresh mozzarella brightened up the pizza where there wasn't a minimal piece of basil. This Margherita reminded me of why margherita pizzas are such a standard.

Next up was the Wiseguy. This was my least favorite pizza, but that means nothing when it comes to Pizzeria Bianco's pizzas. The Wiseguy comes topped with wood-roasted onions, house smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage. My experience with sausage pizzas tends to be bad only because they tend to have soggy crusts towards the middle of the pizza. At Pizzeria Bianco, this was not the case. The crust was still crispy in the center, and each bite of this pizza was packed with the aroma of charred wood and campfires. This made for a particularly hearty pizza, which was a perfect way to follow up the Margherita. The sausage was addictive, but not as addictive as the rustic mozzarella and the gooey wood-roasted onions. The next pizza did a great job of toning down the smokey intensity of the Wiseguy to round out the meal.

This is the one. The Biancoverde. This is the pizza that makes me toss and turn at night with insatiable cravings for one, single bite of this amazing pizza. This is the pizza that makes me search with complete futility for a pizza closer to home that comes somewhere, anywhere, close.

The Biancoverde is a simple concoction of fresh mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, ricotta, and arugula. Basically, an elevated version of a four-cheese pizza, minus the fourth cheese and plus the awesomeness of arugula. This pizza combines the simplicity of a classic with a slight tweak of innovation. Just like the other two pizzas, the crust was perfect, and the gooey, perfect combination of the three cheeses enhanced the bitter appeal of the arugula. Each bite resembled the perfect relationship with a pizza: uncomplicated, rewarding, and moving. Things got emotional when I got to my last bite and had to say goodbye, leaving me with only burps to remind me of the Biancoverde's amazingness.

As we made our way out of the restaurant, I couldn't help but take one last look at the wood-fired furnace and the Pizzeria Bianco staff. A tear rolled down my cheek as I silently acknowledged one of pizza's greats.

The next day, my friend asked me a question that I will never be able to answer: "Pizzeria Bianco or Pizzeria Mozza?" Pitting the Bianocoverde against the Bianca with Fontina, Mozzarella, Sottocenere, and Sage is like asking me to choose between my left foot and my right foot, or yellowtail and uni. Both of these pizzas are by far my two favorite pizzas, ever, and both introduced me to an untouchable level of simplicity and deliciousness. Don't ever ask me to choose. If you do, I might have to backhand you for putting me in that situation.

Pizzeria Bianco
623 E Adams Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 258-8300

GET: Biancoverde; Any Pizza, Really.


  1. really enjoyed this one-- excellent read :) gameday decisions are the best haha!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...