Travel & Leisure named Phoenix the best pizza town in America. Other publications put us in the Top 10. Fake news? Not even. Peek inside to find out why.

Pizza City, USA

Written by Nikki Buchanan Category: Food Reviews Issue: July 2017
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Photography by Angelina Aragon, Blake Bonillas, Stephen Goldstein, Mirelle Inglefield, David B. mMoore, Michael Woodall

United State of Pizza

Here in Phoenix, we love pizza, and we turn out better pizzas than anyone, anywhere. Braggadocio, you say? Not according to Travel & Leisure magazine’s obviously savvy readers, who, in February of this year, voted us the nation’s No. 1 pizza town. Of course, those of us who routinely pig out on local pies of every description aren’t exactly thunderstruck by the news. As a city of transplants, we’ve reaped the carbo-rich rewards of our diversity for years now, but there’s more to our pizza prowess than mere variety. 
Much of the credit for our newfound stature should go to Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco, the guy who proved that pizza-making is both art and craft, earning a James Beard Award in 2003 for 
Best Chef Southwest – the only pizza chef ever to receive such an honor. Bianco raised the pizza bar in this town, and other pizza-makers have followed his example, sourcing, tinkering and tasting until they arrive at truly transcendent pizza. We have La Piazza. We have Pomo. We have myriad neighborhood gems. All are world-class.
To our credit, we Phoenicians hold a catholic view of what the pluperfect pie might be, sidestepping the rigidity and snobbishness so often found in cities that tout only one style. We embrace them all, approaching each and every pie with an open, take-another-little-pizza-my-heart attitude. 
That’s Phoenix pizza.

Fun Fact

High heat creates a more tender, springy and open interior (big holes/bubbles) dough. Higher temperatures also preserve the flavor of the pizza toppings because they don’t stay in the oven long enough to get cooked down. Lower heat makes a flatter, drier, crispier crust.

VPN Explained

In the ‘80s, a small group of pizzaioli in Italy established a non-profit organization to preserve the integrity of the Neapolitan pizza, seeking a government-authorized DOC (denomination of controlled origin, also used in wine-making) to back them up. To meet DOC compliance and receive VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana, or true Neapolitan pizza) certification, pizza-makers are subject to a lengthy list of criteria, including refined Italian flour, specific tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) and one of two kinds of certified mozzarella. The dough must be hand-stretched to no more than three millimeters thick, then cooked on the five-inch floor of a wood-burning oven at 800 degrees for no more than 90 seconds. 

 

 

 
Glossary of Pizza Styles 

Neapolitan
Pizzas from Naples (the birthplace of pizza) are wood-fired pies with a whiff of crispiness to the crust and a moist, puffy interior with stretchy chew. They are topped with simple ingredients – uncooked tomato sauce or even raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Because they’re cooked at high temperatures, they’re slightly soft and wet at the center with a uniformly black-spotted bottom. Traditionally served uncut, they’re best eaten with knife and fork. 
Local specimen: Pomo (pictured)
Chicago
There are actually two styles in Chi-town — deep-dish and thin-crust. Although deep-dish pizza is more famous beyond Chicago’s city limits, extra-thin-crust pizza, often sliced in squares, is the day-in, day-out pizza preference among locals. Rolled out with a rolling pin and cooked at lower temperatures, these pies become crisp and almost cracker-like, offering very little end-crust when cooked in square sheet pans. 
Local specimens: Spinato’s (pictured), Johnnie’s Chicago-style Pizza
Deep-Dish
Prepared in a deep, cake-like pan, the pizza dough (which might contain cornmeal, semolina or yellow food coloring) is pressed up the pan’s sides, and the ingredients are layered in reverse order to keep the cheese from burning during the long cook time. Sliced mozzarella is placed right on top of the dough, followed by meats and veggies, then chunky, uncooked tomato sauce on the top. 
Local specimens: Buddy Z’s (pictured), Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East
 
New York
In the old days, New York places like Patsy’s and Lombardi’s baked whole pies in coal-burning brick ovens that gave the crusts a dry, crispy quality. Topped with fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and little seasoning, they were remarkably similar to the Neapolitans of the old country. In the ‘60s, these joints converted to gas ovens and began using cooked tomato sauce and low-moisture mozzarella, turning out 18-inch thin-crust pies cut in wide slices. Made with hand-tossed, high-gluten dough, the modern New York pie sports a faintly crispy crust pliable enough to fold in half length-wise and eat with one hand – to wit, the venerated street slice, eaten on the go. 
Local specimens: Grimaldi’s (pictured), Joe’s New York Pizza
California
Invented in the San Francisco Bay area and often attributed to OG celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, then popularized by L.A.’s Wolfgang Puck, California’s famous pies are often single-serving-size, combining Italy’s thin, wood-fired crusts with light, local and even trendy ingredients. Goat cheese on a pizza? That’s Cali to a T. 
Local specimens: Humble Pie (pictured), LGO Pizzeria 
Phoenix
We may not have our own name, but we’ve definitely got our own style, which is basically a VPN-style (see next page) thin-crust, wood-fired pie served with plenty of free-wheeling swagger. We’ll put anything on a pizza – jalapeños, cilantro pesto, even pastrami, carne asada or braised short ribs – because that’s the way we roll here in the wild, wild West. 
Local specimen: Craft 64 (pictured)
 

 

 

Oven Worship
The oven is god in a pizza kitchen – and there are many faiths.  

Conveyor 
Pizza in, pizza out – so easy a monkey could do it, and the product is consistent. Oven temperatures range from 400-600 degrees with cook times of 4-5 minutes. 

Deck
Temperatures range from 450-650 degrees with average cook times of 6-8 minutes. Runs on gas or propane, produces great pizza (baked on a stone hearth), but requires more skill on the part of the pizza-maker.
 

 

Wood-fired
Produces the highest heat (650-1,000 degrees) with cook times of 60-90 seconds. and requires the most skill from the pizza-maker, who must tend the fire, watch the pizzas and turn them for even cooking. Hardwoods such as pecan and cherry are used because they throw high heat without producing smoke (pizza ≠ barbecue brisket).
 

 

Coal-fired
Produces high heat (550-650 degrees), particularly at the bottom of the oven, lending a crispier pizza bottom.

 

The Tempting 10

PHOENIX food critic Nikki Buchanan picks her 10 favorite pizzerias in the Valley.

Pizzeria Bianco 
Chris Bianco is the undisputed king of pizza in this town – or any other, for that 
matter – and there’s a reason for that: He’s been at it for more than 30 years, but he never stops thinking about or improving upon his paradigmatic pies. He uses organic red spring wheat, fermenting the dough for 24 to 36 hours to give his high-hydration crusts the familiar chew he remembers from his New York childhood. His Neapolitan-inspired pies are charred and pillowy, the local toppings lavishly applied. Each pie – be it the hearty Wiseguy (smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage and smoky-sweet wood-roasted onions, $16, pictured) or the refined Rosa (mild red onion, piney rosemary, Parmigiano Reggiano and Arizona pistachios, $13) – is otherworldly. Still. Two locations, pizzeriabianco.com
LAMP Pizzeria 
Lindsay and Matt Pilato opened LAMP – yes, it’s an acronym of their names – five and a half years ago, and they’ve been quietly making pizza history ever since, turning out wood-fired pies so fabulous they come close to Bianco’s world-class models. The Pilatos do blind tastings to choose the best ingredients for their charred, chewy pizzas, offering 28 pie permutations ranging from classic to wildly creative. One bite of the Kavorka (house-made, Sambuca-suffused Sicilian sausage, red onion and sweet piquante peppers, $16, pictured) or the sublimely simple Stacy’s Mom (topped with garlic and fluffy drifts of ricotta, $13), and you’ll see why LAMP lights me up. 
8900 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Scottsdale, 480-292-8773, lamppizza.com
 
Il Bosco 
Bill Forrest’s tiny pizzeria in North Scottsdale means “the forest” in Italian, but don’t worry – his excellent wood-fired pies rise above any pun. Like the Pilatos, he does exactly what suits him, adding 20 percent organic whole wheat flour to his dough to give it the structure, taste and color he likes. His pizza crusts are crazy-good – the perfect mashup of crispness, char and chew. Although many of the 10 selections on his regular menu are too straightforward for my wild predilections, I love the ultra-fresh Biaggia (San Daniele prosciutto, fig jam, goat cheese and arugula, $15, pictured) with all my heart. 
7120 E. Becker Ln., Scottsdale, 480-335-8680, ilboscopizza.com
La Piazza PHX & La Piazza Al Forno 
I could be happy with any of the airy, crisp-edged Neapolitan pies pizzaiolo-owner Justin Piazza turns out at his two VPN-certified restaurants using 18-year old starter yeast, but I’m crazy about two of them in particular: the hot-sweet Dolce Diavolo (San Marzano tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, soppressata, Calabrian chiles, fresh basil and Arizona honey, $13.50, pictured) and the outrageous Montanaro, an addictive Neapolitan specialty in which the pizza dough is flash-fried, topped like a classic Margherita and given a quick blast in the wood-fired oven to lend it an extra wisp of crispy-crunchy goodness ($14). 
PHX: 1 N. First St., Phoenix, 602-795-7116, lapiazzaphx.com; Al Forno: 5803 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623-847-3301, lapiazzaalforno.com
 
Pomo 
True Neapolitan pizzas, their delicate crusts soft at the center, are an acquired taste here in the U.S. of A, but if you can get past your provincial notions of what pizza should be, you will begin to appreciate the lightness and subtlety of Stefano Fabbri’s ambrosial Margherita (pictured), fired in an oven so hot that its bottom is leopard-spotted, its top a vibrant canvas of bright red tomato sauce, milky-white mozzarella and green basil. The real mind-blower, however, is the Carbonara, a riff on ultra-rich spaghetti alla carbonara, topped with salty, smoky pancetta and a mixture of eggs, Parmesan and cream ($18). Oh. My. God.
Three locations, pomopizzeria.com
Craft 64 
Owned and operated by four guys with roots in the beverage industry, this pizzeria/taproom is beloved for its Arizona-only craft beer program, but thanks to pizzaiolos who earned their chops at LAMP and Il Bosco (and a former one who worked at Bianco) it turns out damned good wood-fired pies as well – blistered and chewy in all the right places. Local ingredients such as Schreiner’s sausage and McClendon’s Select produce grace pizzas such as the classic Fico (mozzarella, burrata, Parmigiano-Reggiano, truffle oil, arugula and fig sauce, with a highly advisable prosciutto option, $19) and the creative Aji (mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fennel sausage, sautéed onions and ricotta, drizzled with spicy aji-jalapeño sauce, $19, pictured).
6922 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-946-0542, craft64.com
 
La Grande Orange Pizzeria
Talk about the California aesthetic! You get it in spades at Bob Lynn’s LGO, where small-ish pies, cooked in a stone-lined, gas-fueled deck oven, are strewn with light, fresh ingredients such as roasted leeks, Laura Chenel’s goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil (the Roasted Leek, $13) or fresh tomatoes, avocado, basil and lemon zest (the Avocado, $14). What really sets the pies apart, however, is the dough, a mix containing rye and wheat that ferments for 36 hours, lending a tangy sourdough quality to uniformly browned crusts. Postscript: The Vegan Dalai Lama, topped with house-made cashew butter, is nirvana ($14, pictured). 4410 N. 40th St., Phoenix, 602-840-7777, lagrandeorangepizzeria.com
Federal Pizza
Loud, crowded Federal cranks out hundreds of pizzas a day, but this stylishly designed hangout is a far cry from your average, high-volume pizza joint. Every thin-crust pie, baked in a gas-assisted wood-fired oven, begins with master baker MJ Coe’s dough, made with fermented rye to add earthiness, tang and density. Pizza purists might scoff at my favorite, the Brussels Sprout, but this is an imaginative, wonderfully balanced pie that plays salty pancetta, creamy, nutty Manchego, and bright lemon zest against the faintly bitter quality of the sprouts ($13.50, pictured). It’s a perfect summer pizza.
5210 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-795-2520, federalpizza.com
 
The Parlor Pizzeria
As the son of Nello’s Pizza founder Dan Mei, Parlor owner Aric Mei has pizza in his blood (or would that be tomato sauce?), so it’s only natural that this saucy scion would use the Nello’s recipe for his dough, turning out thin-crust wood-fired pies with a crisp, almost cracker-like texture. Schreiner’s makes sausage from Aric’s grandfather’s recipe to top the Salsiccia (grilled radicchio, sage and saba, $16.50, pictured), but that’s where tradition ends. Most of the pies are wildly creative, including a seasonal, Southwestern-inspired number called Summer Corn, topped with roasted corn, corn purée, chiles, spicy crema and cilantro.
1916 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-248-2480, theparlor.us
Doughbird 
Corporate chef Chris Curtiss is the bird who created the dough for Sam Fox’s new binary concept: wood-fired pizza and rotisserie chicken. His supple crusts, made with organic flour, are light, puffy, maybe even healthy, but the wow factor for this pizza hussy is the restaurant’s anything-goes approach to toppings. For example, the Barbeque Chicken ($15, pictured) incudes the expected cilantro, but also charred corn and jalapeño pesto. And the Crispy Pastrami, topped with aged Gruyère, pickled mustard seed, purple kale and rye salt, comes across as a delicious hybrid of a pastrami on rye and a pizza ($15). I can’t help but love this crazy thing. 
4385 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-345-9161, eatdoughbird.com
 

 

The Popes of PHX Pizza
 
When the American food scene came of age in the ‘80s, we made chefs into demigods and worshipped them at the altar of food. In the decades since, we’ve also lionized farmers, bartenders and sommeliers, in that order. Who’s next? In a just world, it would be pizzaiolos. As the prime movers of pizza, they’re passionate, experimental and geeky to an extreme – craftsmen who approach their job with a scientist’s mind and an artist’s sensibilities. Take a look at some of our city’s best.

 

Chris Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco, Pane Bianco, Tratto

He’s our local legend and point of pride, a driven perfectionist who began his pizza career at AJ’s in Uptown Plaza in 1986. Ever the philosopher, Bianco says, “If I had to give a broad brush of my passion, it was and still is the study of what makes good things good beyond their taste profile or [somebody’s] preconception.”
First pizza baked: “A cheese pizza at a New York pizzeria when I was 13.”
Favorite pizza: “The marinara for the last 30 years — very simple, very traditional.”
Matt Pilato (center)
LAMP

This former Toronto boat-tour guide started making dough by making dough less than a decade ago. Now he turns out some of the best pizza in town, honing his craft by standing at his oven night after night – just the way Bianco did. “I’m a pizza-man, not a chef. People work so hard to get that moniker,” he modestly declares.
First pizza baked: “In my home oven on the clean cycle (to get it super-hot), using a special pizza stone. This is when we knew we were on to something.”
Favorite non-traditional topping: Piquante peppers (peppadews). “They’re sweet with a bit of heat and a touch of vinegar, great with everything.”
Bill Forrest
Il Bosco

Forrest, an ex-pro golfer who changed careers late in life, began with a pizza oven in his backyard, flying in a baker to teach him how to make dough. He concedes that everyone in the restaurant industry works hard but jokes about his own hectic life, saying, “Lesser men would be hospitalized.”
First pizza baked: “Toasted Wonder Bread topped with tomato paste, a Kraft single, sliced pepperoni and oregano, made at the age of seven.”
Favorite non-traditional topping: “Anchovies, which are actually very traditional.”
 
Justin Piazza (left)
La Piazza al Forno, La Piazza PHX

Another self-taught pizza nerd, Piazza goes to pizza shows, where he gets chummy with revered pizzaiolos like Franco Pepe of Naples. Piazza says he’s learned a lot since he opened Downtown Glendale’s al Forno in 2007. Given all the great pizza near his Downtown Phoenix location – like Bianco, Pomo and Cibo – he claims he’s “gotta be good,” and he surely is.  
First pizza baked: “A traditional New York-style slice while working with my dad at the age of 13.”
Favorite topping: “Roasted peppers. I love the combo of sausage, peppers and onion. It reminds me of the New York-Italian food I grew up on.”
Giovanni Scorzo
Andreoli Italian Grocer

In the early days, Scorzo owned upscale Italian restaurants in San Francisco, Scottsdale and Santa Fe – where he hired a little-known up-and-comer named Chris Bianco to work in the kitchen. Now this jack-of-all-trades, who bakes his own bread and makes his own sausage and salami, turns out excellent pizza two or three times a week in the cooler months. He works crazy hours and does everything himself, admitting that “you have to be in love [with food] to do this.”
First pizza baked: “I was 11 years old, working with a famous pizzaiolo in Calabria at a place called Da Angelo.” 
Favorite pizza: “The marinara.”
Guido Saccone (right)
Cibo

Saccone certainly understands the concept of kismet, having met his American wife Michelle (from Mesa) when she came to the pizzeria where he worked in Tuscany. They fell in love and moved to Phoenix in 2004. Within weeks, well-connected restaurateur Lisa Giungo (you may remember her as Lisa G.) got Saccone together with Tony and Karen Martingilio, who had just bought the charming bungalow that was to become Cibo. “Pizza has changed my life personally and professionally,” Saccone says, adding, “I love my life.” 
First pizza baked: “When I was a kid working at my brother’s pizzeria in Tuscany, I sneaked off at the end of the shift and practiced making my own pizzas with the leftover dough.”
Favorite pizza: “I know it’s boring, but I love the Margherita.”
 

 

Know Thy Dough
Chef Chris Curtiss of Fox Restaurant Concepts schools our writer in the rules of pizza dough.

Expensive wood-fired ovens and inspired toppings are all well and good, but as any pizzaiolo will tell you, great pizza is all about the dough. No topping under the sun can save a crummy crust. Corporate chef Chris Curtiss is the dough dude in charge at Fox Restaurant Concepts, creating a thin, crisp and bready crust for the pizzas at North Italia, and a soft, pillowy crust for the pies at Doughbird (his mandate was to make a lighter, healthier version there). They’re both good; it’s strictly a matter of what you like. Here, he shows us how making pizza dough is done, offering a few professional tips along the way.

Quoth Curtiss: 
“Before beginning, decide which type of pizza crust is your favorite and try to mimic it. If you like soft and supple crusts, try using a double-zero flour and really let it ferment before you stretch it out and bake it. If you want a crispy, crunchy, chewy crust, experiment with different flour blends – bread flour or all-purpose flour mixed with extra-fine double-zero flour. You can even add full-flavored flour (whole wheat, buckwheat) to give the dough some depth of flavor. Add a little sugar or honey as well to help speed up the fermentation process.”
  •  1. For the most accuracy, weigh ingredients first with a kitchen scale. “How wet should your dough be?” Curtiss asks. “Do you want a soft and supple dough that will be a little sticky but easy to hand-stretch? Then go with a higher hydration percentage: 65-68 percent water to flour.”
  •   2. Add yeast to 70-degree water, whisking the mixture until the yeast dissolves. If you’re using active dry yeast, make sure it bubbles and foams before moving to the next step. If you want to add honey or sugar to the dough, do it now.
  •   3. Add flour and mix for one minute in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add salt and mix for an additional three minutes.
 
  •   4. Store dough in an oiled, lidded container in the fridge for at least 24 hours.*
  •   5. Remove dough, cut into 7-ounce portions and form the portions into smooth balls. Place dough balls on a sheet pan brushed with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), brushing the tops of the balls before loosely covering them with plastic wrap and placing them back in the fridge overnight.
  •   6. Remove dough from fridge one hour before baking. Add pizza stone** to oven and pre-heat at 500 degrees for one hour.
 
  •   7. Gently stretch dough balls with hands, using flour to prevent them from sticking to hands and counter. ***
  •   8. Dust a wooden pizza peel with flour and lay stretched dough on top. Add sauce to dough and top with ingredients, then gently slide the pizza onto the stone.**** Bake until done: 8-12 minutes, depending on oven temperature.  
  •   9. Transfer to a wooden cutting board or clean pizza peel and cut.
 

 

 

 


 

 

Extra Toppings

Are we done yet? Not even close. Find the Valley’s best in class – from New York-style to gluten-free – along with our picks for best neighborhood pies.

Gluten-Free Trio
Gluten-free pizzas are a dime a dozen these days, but too many taste like an unholy 
mixture of wet cardboard and cat litter. These three pizzerias do gluten-free right.

Cibo
When GF became the rage, Guido Saccone experimented until he arrived at a palatable combo of gluten-free flour (by Italy’s prestigious Caputo) with rice flour and potato starch. 
603 N. Fifth Ave., Phoenix, 602-441-2697, cibophoenix.com
La Grande Orange
LGO has come up with a delish gluten-free dough made with organic rice and potato flours, fresh garlic, fresh herbs, fennel and olive oil. 
4410 N. 40th St., Phoenix, 602-840-7777, lagrandeorangepizzeria.com
Doughbird 
Chris Curtiss has created a gluten-free dough using gluten-free flour and nonfat milk solids, which lends crispness to the crust. 
4385 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-345-9161, eatdoughbird.com
 

Daily Drivers
True lovers of pizza do not dine on Pomo and Bianco alone. In the interest of full coverage, the PM staff picked ita favorite neighborhood pizza joints.

Editor Craig Outhier 

Central Phoenix
“Pizza Heaven promises a lot with its name, and generally delivers, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free offerings. For the record, I always get the meatball-sausage-pepperoni Works pizza. With maximum gluten.” 
5150 N. 7th St., 602-277-8800, phbistro.com

Managing Editor Leah LeMoine 

North Scottsdale
“It’s a toss-up (pun intended) between Spinato’s Pizzeria and Saffron Jak, both five minutes from my house. Saffron Jak’s Persian New Year pizza – saffron chicken, baby bell peppers and Bulgarian feta piled on crispy Persian sangak flatbread – is quirky and addictive.” 
spinatospizzeria.com, saffronjak.com

Associate Editor Lauren Loftus 

Tempe
“Classic Italian Pizza. It won’t transport you to Naples, but it’s wood-fired and served in a cozy little café, and that suits me just fine when I'm jonesing on a Sunday. Try the white pizza with roasted Hatch chiles and sausage.” 
6434 S. McClintock Dr., Tempe, 480-897-9093, classicitalianpizza.com

 

Art Director Mirelle Inglefield 

North Phoenix
“Base Pizzeria!I love their crispy thin crusts and all the organic ingredients. My top picks are both vegetarian: The MagPie, which has arugula and Arizona-made Crow’s Dairy chèvre, and The Base, which is their version of the margherita.” 3115 E. Lincoln Dr., Phoenix, 602-535-8914, basepizzeria.com

Associate Art Director Angelina Aragon 

West Valley
“Gus’s New York Pizza. It’s a fun spot to go with friends on the weekends. They have music playing and a dance floor. There are multiple locations, but the one I go to is at 76th Avenue and Thomas Road. There’s also an outdoor patio for the days when the weather is nice.” 
7611 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, 623-849-4887

Food critic Nikki Buchanan 

Scottsdale
“CM2 Pizzeria & Bakeshop. It’s my go-to lunch place. Great, Venetian-style individual pizzas with just the right amount of crispy, charry crunch, and fresh toppings.” 
11675 N. 136th St., Scottsdale, 480-314-0365, cm2pizza.com

 

 

Best In Class

Best NY Pizza
Grimaldi’s

This quintessential New York pizzeria rocks it old school, turning out thin-crusts whose sturdy bottoms and blistered edges are the delicious result of a short stay in a blazing coal-burning brick oven. The way we see it, any pie at Grimaldi’s (say, the Brooklyn Bridge, topped with sausage, roasted red peppers and ricotta) is worlds better than a droopy street slice could ever be. 
Six Valley locations. 
grimaldispizzeria.com
Best Deep-Dish Pizza
Buddyz A Chicago Pizzeria

Deep-dish die-hards have lots of options now that Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East have come to town. But why give your money or your mouth to the corporates when Buddyz, a family-owned, every-bit-as-legit Chicago transplant with two East Valley locations, offers up its own seductive, dough-encrusted casseroles without the crowds, long waits or hype. Dive into the Sears Tower (sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, green peppers and black olive, $13-$18, depending on size), smothered in chunky, bright tomato sauce, and you’ll realize the schlep was totally worth it. 
18423 E. San Tan Blvd., Queen Creek, 
480-822-1225; 3611 E. Baseline Rd., Gilbert, 480-503-4444
buddyzpizza.com
Best Crazy Toppings
Grand Avenue Pizza Company

Chef-owner and resident madman Carson Wheeler deals in porn – pizza porn, that is – posting pics of his florid and utterly outrageous weekly pizza specials on Instagram for all to ogle and drool over. A few of his transgressive toppings:
Cheese Whiz: Wheeler’s Fresh Prince pizza features house-made Cheese Whiz on a garlic-butter crust with sliced sirloin, mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, onions and hot-sweet cherry peppers.
Scrambled eggs: Craving pizza for breakfast? Or for a 3:30 a.m. munchie run? Open until the wee hours of the morning, GAPC has been known to put eggs on pizza, including one current offering that includes house-made cream cheese and jalapeño sauce, fire-roasted poblanos, cheddar and mozzarella, finished with cotija breadcrumbs, citrus crema and pico de gallo.
Spaghetti and meatballs: At first, you’re like “Whaaa?” But featuring the beloved Italian comfort-food pairing on a pizza makes perfect sense, when you think about it. Pure, delicious overkill.
1031 Grand Ave., Phoenix, 602-253-6107
grandavenuepizzacompany.com
 

Best Luxury Pizza
Andreoli Italian Grocer

In years past, chef-owner Giovanni Scorzo (Italy’s version of the Soup Nazi) turned out outrageously good, light-as-a-feather Neapolitan pizzas topped with lobster or artichokes and black truffles, but his clientele balked at the price. Now he makes an equally luxurious – yet homey and accessible – white pizza topped with mozzarella, slivers of prosciutto cotto (Parma ham) and thick, heavy Italian cream. When you say that something melts in your mouth, this is what you mean ($20). 
8880 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale, 480-614-1980, andreoli-grocer.com

Best Dessert Pizza
Il Capo Pizzeria

“As American as apple pie” is one of our 
favorite classic homilies, but “as Italian-American as Apple Pizza Pie” is arguably cooler. This family-owned North Scottsdale restaurant ingeniously layers a traditional pizza crust with apple filling and serves the dessert hot with a scoop of vanilla. 7366 E. Shea Blvd., 480-951-0077, ilcapoaz.com

Best Beer Program That Isn’t Craft 64
Il Capo Pizzeria

With 33 Arizona-only beer taps, Craft 64 is the no-brainer champ-een in this category, but Il Capo is a respectable also-ran. In addition to a well-curated menu of out-of-state craft beers, owner James Rana also offers a full selection of locally made brews from Surprise brewery State 48, at loss-leader prices ($3 at happy hour). The connection? State 48 is owned by Rana’s father, Mario.
7366 E. Shea Blvd., 480-951-0077, ilcapoaz.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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