Foodstuff: Pizza, my heart
I recently experienced my obligatory Roaring Fork Valley rite of passage: partaking in an off-season trip to warmer climes — in this case, my inaugural visit to Sedona, Arizona, with my favorite college gal pals. As all of my vacations (or basically, any of my daily decisions) involve hunting for delicious dishes, I got to work researching our options for high-desert dining.
Then, in a flash of inspiration following a late-night encore viewing of “Chef’s Table: Pizza” on Netflix, I remembered Pizzeria Bianco – located in Phoenix and, quite conveniently, only an 8-minute drive from the local airport. It took one phone call and, very little convincing, to talk my friend into making a late-lunch pit stop for what many consider to be the best pizza in the country (even the world) after we snagged our rental car.
Upon arrival at the original location (There are now several across Arizona and California), it was obvious why people start lining up at 4:30 p.m. and wait two hours in line for dinner. The place was tiny, probably 12 tables max, plus a smattering of bar seating. Luckily, when you’re trying to have lunch at 2:30 p.m., there’s not a lot of competition. My dining companion and I were seated immediately. Having already obsessed over the menu online the day before I departed, I was ready to order – pizza pronto!
My motto when traveling is just order it all; this might be the only time in my life I get to come here. So, we got two pizzas between us (One pie could probably serve two sensible people), and I, who was not driving the two-hour trip to Sedona, also enjoyed delicious orange wine (Try it – you’ll love it). We got the classic margarita with red sauce, fresh mozzarella (made in-house) and basil, as well as the “Biancoverde,” a white pie without sauce, but with that same fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh ricotta topped with fresh, spicy arugula ($22 and $24, respectively). Wood-fired in their imported oven, which takes center stage behind the bar, the pizzas were ready in less than 10 minutes.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I tell you I am something of a pizza connoisseur, that is the understatement of the millennium. I would eat it on a plane, I would eat it on a train, I would eat it from a shoe, I would eat it sauced in glue. And, unquestionably, this was the best pizza I’ve ever had in this style. Stretchy cheese, perfect produce, and a bright, clean tomato sauce atop a charred, chewy crust (It was soft enough that it wasn’t crunchy, but it still held up under the toppings).
I promise I have a point other than making your mouth water. The trick here is a lot of these legendary pizza places doing it in a Neapolitan style don’t pre-cook their sauce. And you can make sauce at home – I’ve tried it, and it works! The key is the best tomatoes you can find (likely imported) and as hot an oven as you can get.
FRESH PIZZA SAUCE
Enough for two medium pizzas
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced*
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano**
Drain the crushed tomatoes in a colander until almost all of the liquid has leeched out.***
Add tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano into a medium bowl. Stir thoroughly to combine.****
Spread thinly on your favorite pizza dough or crust.
*You could use one clove of garlic here, but I love it, so I use two.
**The oregano is completely optional, but I find it gives a nice pizza-parlor pop to the bright sauce.
***If you want to be obsessive about this, put the colander into a small bowl, so the liquid drains into the bowl, and leave it in the fridge for about two or three hours, stirring occasionally.
****For a smoother sauce, run this through a blender until desired consistently. I like mine chunky.
This pizza was rated by all of us as the best meal of the trip, and, if you’re ever traveling southbound, it’s worth stepping out for. The New York Times, Serious Eats, Martha Stewart, and I can’t all be wrong. A tip of the hat to the pizza OGs at Pizzeria Bianco.
Katherine Roberts is a mid-Valley based writer and marketing professional who has now decided she has to visit all the restaurants on “Chef’s Table: Pizza.” It promises to be quite a quest. She can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative, at email@example.com.