You’ll search in vain for the word “pepperoni” on the menu of this hip Neapolitan pizza joint, with its sleek modern look and trendy Downtown address. But don’t despair – the signature American pizza topping is available, on the “Diavola” ($11) under the much cooler name salame piccante. By any other name, it’s delightfully piccante indeed. Manlier appetites may be sated by the rich and satisfying “Testosterone” ($12) topped with prosciutto, bell peppers and two eggs, but pizza is far from the only option: There’s a modestly portioned, fragrant eggplant parmigiana ($9), and among the salads the arugula with pears, pecorino and almonds ($8) stands out. Is Forno as good as Pomo down the street? It’s close. Electrifyingly close.
Must try: Hard to say how much room you’ll have for dessert – especially if you partake of the Testosterone – but try the luscious panna cotta ($6).
301 W. Roosevelt St., 480-787-5654,
The focus of this idyllic Old Town Scottsdale hideaway, repurposed from a former ‘30s-era residence, is a spectacular selection of Arizona craft beers. But the food specialty is a traditional pairing with beer: pizza, here of the wood-fired, thin-crust variety, designed by a graduate of Chris Bianco’s vaunted kitchen. The pepperoni and mushroom specimen I tried ($21) wasn’t a knockout, however. The sauce was delicious and the toppings top-notch, but the crust was burned to a degree that added an unwelcome bitterness both to the taste and the smell. More tempting was the kale pear salad ($8), loaded with cheese, sliced pears, craisins and pumpkin seeds in a tart pumpkin dressing. Wash it down with the house-special red mango iced tea – if you aren’t drinking craft beer, that is.
Must try: The Nutella Indulgence ($8) is a sort of Nutella/plantain calzone. When you hear “Nutella Indulgence,” do you really need to hear anything more?
6922 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-946-0542
The pies at this zero-amenities strip mall pizzeria are round in shape, but twisted in the figurative sense, by their mildly offbeat toppings. There’s a taco pizza, for instance, and a “Hawaiian Buffalo,” topped with chicken, pineapple and franks. There’s also a selection of classic pizzas, but when in East Mesa do as the East Mesans do, I always say, so I ordered the pie that seemed twistedest, or most twisted, or whatever: the Bacon Burger ($11.99 and up) – hamburger and bacon, lettuce, chopped tomatoes and pickles, with ketchup and mustard rather than standard pizza sauce – and was happily surprised at how many slices I found myself knocking back. The menu isn’t extensive beyond pizza, but Twisted Pies makes snarf-worthy chicken wings ($4.99 and up), boneless or bone-in; the regular-strength barbecue sauce complements them, well, saucily.
Must try: Whether or not the Spicy Italian ($10.99 and up), topped with terrific Calabrian peppers, jalapeños and other spicy stuff, truly qualifies as “twisted” is perhaps debatable. But it’s definitely yummy.
3929 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-699-8022
Of all the pizzerias I visited on this tour, this eatery in a Bashas’ strip mall felt the most authentic, both in its food and in its bustling, welcoming atmosphere. It also served maybe the best – or at least the most classically American – pizzas. The theme, as the name implies, is Wisconsin sports fandom, so the walls are plastered with Packers and other such memorabilia, and the menu items have names like The Lambeau Leap ($7.99) and Reggie White Pizza ($13.99 and up). I opted for The Lombardi ($14.50 and up), an unabashed concoction of Italian sausage and pepperoni with green peppers, mushrooms, onions and mozzarella in a sauce with a slight spicy bite. Pizza is a highly personal taste, but the Lombardi from CheezHeadz just might be the picture next to the word in the dictionary.
Must try: The Hodag, named for the monster of Wisconsin tall tales, piles hamburger patties and rib-eye steak under cheese, onions and mushrooms. As cheesesteaks go, it’s a pretty premium model.
20283 N. Lake Pleasant Rd., Peoria, 623-566-6770
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