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Sweet Willie

Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix)

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I'm not sure that Pizzaria Bianco is worth driving to from New York at this time of year; but if I had some airline points to play with I would jump a plane without too much thought.

The pizza is really good but I've had pizzas across the country that are pretty close. It's more the whole experience of a truly dedicated individual who is a really nice guy to boot. Yes, he does make his own mozzarella and bread along with the gorgeous ingredients that he sources out as if he was in California.

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To be honest I enjoy Pane Bianco as much as the more famous Pizza Bianco. His Paninis are made with buns he makes fresh every day and he also makes a killer focaccia with a different topping every day. Whenever I'm in Phoenix I try to do lunch at Pane and dinner at Pizza.

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I've eaten at Pizzeria Bianco a couple times. Once way back in the day when it was located at Town & Country Mall. Then more recently the downtown location. The pizza is sublime. I had the pizza with the pistachios, red onions, and parmesan, both times. But the last time I was there, we were there right as the doors opened and were a 2 top. We were seated at a 2 top table, pretty soon all the 2 tops were full, but there was one or two 4 tops open. A couple came in, and were told they needed to wait for a 2 top table to clear to be seated. Even with open 4 tops. I know its a small place, but I thought that was a little weird. Kind of put me off the place hospitality-wise. That was 3-4 years ago. I think PB might be getting loved-to-death and over-trendified.

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I've eaten at Pizzeria Bianco a couple times.  Once way back in the day when it was located at Town & Country Mall.  Then more recently the downtown location.  The pizza is sublime.  I had the pizza with the pistachios, red onions, and parmesan, both times.  But the last time I was there, we were there right as the doors opened and were a 2 top.  We were seated at a 2 top table, pretty soon all the 2 tops were full, but there was one or two 4 tops open.  A couple came in, and were told they needed to wait for a 2 top table to clear to be seated.  Even with open 4 tops.  I know its a small place, but I thought that was a little weird.  Kind of put me off the place hospitality-wise.  That was 3-4 years ago.  I think PB might be getting loved-to-death and over-trendified.

As long as Chris Bianco is in front of that oven tossing pizzas into it then the love for the restaurant will not wane. The line that forms everyday prior to opening, rain or in Arizona's case-SHINE, is amazing.


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Since we live across the Delaware River from Trenton NJ, we have DeLorenzo's on Hudson Street, there are two in town, as a pizza standard. Pizza is the only offering at DeLorenzo's and the pizza is as good as it gets.

Since we will be in Phoenix shortly this place we must try. It's on our list for a must visit.


"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf

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Just a heads up for anyone (like myself!) who will be in Phoenix next week: May 8 - 12. Both Pizzaria Bianco and Pane Bianco are closed so that Chris can attend the James Beard Awards (go Chris go!) in New York as well as a fundraiser in Philly.

Combine those dates with his usual Sunday/Monday closures and I have been completely shut out of my annual Bianco fix! If only it wasn't a business trip I would have rescheduled, sigh!

Oh well, this is my chance to try Grazie for pizza and Andreoli for paninis.

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The first time I ever heard of Pizzeria Bianco, it was March 2004. I was on an plane leaving Phoenix, reading Peter Reinhart's American Pie. As I read Reinhart's effusive praise for what he considers to be his favorite pizza, all I could think was 'turn this plane around, NOW!' I knew it would be a least another year before I'd get to try Bianco. If I'd only started reading that book at the beginning my vacation, I could have saved a year.

When I returned to Phoenix the following spring, eating at Pizzeria Bianco was my top priority. In fact, I wanted to eat there so badly that I dragged my family to its door at 4 pm -- a full hour before it opened -- and sat, outside, in 100+ degree heat, waiting to be in the first seating. Bianco is small and has only 69 seats. Reservations are not possible for groups smaller than 6 and even with a larger group, reservations are not always available. In either case, we were only 3 and considering what Reinhart had written, plus the scores of other enthusiastic reports I'd subsequently read about Pizzeria Bianco, I was sure it would be worth it.

Even though that visit suffered a bit because of the insanely-challenging, unseasonably-warm weather and a bit of "I might never make it back here" syndrome, it was still truly memorable. Chris Bianco had made his impression on me and I would never think about pizza in the same way again. Thoughts of his transcendant, thin-crusted, char-bottomed, neopolitan-style pies would enter my mind repeatedly over the next 2 years -- not only when I was eating other pizza but in many idle moments, as well.

This time around, with friends in the area, we were a group of 7 and managed, with only minor difficulty, to obtain an 8 pm reservation at Pizzeria Bianco. Unlike last time, there would be no wait. And this time, the evening temperature was in the high 50's making it a perfectly comfortable night for us and an even better night for making pizza.

So much has been written about Chris Bianco that I don't want to spend a whole lot of time repeating it. But the man is intense and clearly loves what he does. At first glance, seeing him shuttle pizzas into and out of the oven, he seems almost grouchy. But his countenance of intensity converts quickly to a welcoming smile as soon as one addresses him. Without missing a beat, he'll look up, flash a smile and say hello, even when buried in his work.

On this night, before pizza, our group of 7 enjoyed some unparalleled antipasto, which included not only some representative sopressata and cheese but also a selection of locally-grown organic vegetables that had been wood-roasted to perfection in the pizza oven. Of course, there were a few more steps than roasting but just like at Pane Bianco, the 'simplicity' of the offerings at Pizzeria Bianco is not quite as simple as it seems.

Pizzeria Bianco offers 6 pizzas and that's it. These 6 well-conceived and phenomenally executed pizzas are the foundation of the well-earned Bianco legend. On this night, our group decided to order all 6 and in order to maximize their glorious potential, requested that they be brought out 3 at a time.

Our first 'pizza course' consisted of the classic Margherita (tomato sauce, fresh house-made mozzarella, basil), the cheeseless Marinara (tomato sauce, oregano, garlic) and my personal favorite, the Rosa (red onion, parmigiano reggiano, rosemary, AZ Pistachios). These 3 pies were piping hot and incredibly delicious. There is a balance to Bianco's pies that I've never experienced anywhere else. The toppings are boldly-flavored but applied in a 'less is more' manner, allowing the crust to be the star. And the crust, made from dough prepared daily by Chris Bianco's brother, Marco, is the best I've ever tasted. Like great bread, it has a fantastic aroma, a perfectly tuggable texture and a deeply complex flavor that develops in the chew, not merely the initial bite. In my experience, most Marinara pizzas are a complete waste of time and effort compared to the Marinara at Bianco which is, by far, the best I have ever eaten. It really does make even some very well-regarded, local-Chicago renditions seem like a joke. Every ounce of Bianco's Marinara has purpose. It's a showcase for the skills and experience of Chris Bianco. And the Rosa is even better!

Our second 'pizza course' consisted of Bianco's 3 'meaty' pies, the Sonny Boy (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, sopressata, gaeta olives), the Biancoverde (fresh mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, ricotta, arugula) and the Wiseguy (wood-roasted onion, house smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage). These 3 pies were also phenomenal. The superior-quality toppings were delicious in their own right and also complemented each other perfectly, working with the crust, not overpowering it or being obscured by it. To our Biancoverde, we added Prosciutto di Parma, which sent it over the top. Its salty sweetness was a perfect counterpoint for the fresh and peppery arugula. And I loved the aromatic fennel sausage on the Wiseguy, which is made to spec, locally for Bianco. The components on all these pies were fantastic and they were handled so masterfully that they were even better when combined. There's a synergy to the pizzas at Bianco that is virtually impossible to find elsewhere.

I can't say enough about how great Pizzeria Bianco is. It's a joy to have this level care and artisanship applied to such inexpensive, accessible fare. Again, there are no shortcuts here, just dedication to a concept and lots of hard work committed to executing it. There is a pride of purpose at Bianco that is probably the biggest distinguishing factor between it and other places of its kind. The Biancos have made a commitment to doing the a huge portion of the hard work themselves and that single factor provides an unparalleled level of consistency and experience. Think about your favorite pizza place and consider how many different people have made their dough and cooked their pies over the years you've been eating there. Now think about how much better it would be if all that experience were in the hands of 1 or 2 people who'd dedicated their professional lives to making great pizza. That's why Pizzeria Bianco is so great and also why so few pizza places -- if any -- can ever hope to measure up to it.

=R=

Pizzeria Bianco

623 E Adams St

Phoenix, AZ 85004

(602) 258-8300


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Outstanding! Full report to come. Better then my meal at ad hoc last week.

Also met Chris who passed out tee shirts to the family. Great guy.


Robert R

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Before anyone passes judgement that I am a raving lunatic please remember this site is for those passionate about all things food. And we often do things which some may find a bit out of the ordinary in our quest for it.

Which may explain my cross country drive to Pizzeria Bianco from upstate NY.

I can't say much other then what has been said before. It was absolutely worth it to my family and I. We sampled everything on the menu but one salad. ( After 2,500 miles why not?) Chris Bianco was a pleasure to talk to after our meal and could not have been nicer. Truly passionate about his work.

Some photos for those interested.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84954050@N00/...57600966565712/


Robert R

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Before anyone passes judgement that I am a raving lunatic please remember this site is for those passionate about all things food. And we often do things which some may find a bit out of the ordinary in our quest for it.

Which may explain my cross country drive to Pizzeria Bianco from upstate NY.

I can't say much other then what has been said before. It was absolutely worth it to my family and I. We sampled everything on the menu but one salad. ( After 2,500 miles why not?) Chris Bianco was a pleasure to talk to after our meal and could not have been nicer. Truly passionate about his work.

Some photos for those interested.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84954050@N00/...57600966565712/

Robert,

I know that you have wanted to pull a Griswald's and road trip to Bianco for over a year. The fact that you and your family actually did it for Pizzeria Bianco and that you loved it is so great. The trip looked fantastic by the photos that you took.

Best,

Eliot


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Before anyone passes judgement that I am a raving lunatic please remember this site is for those passionate about all things food. And we often do things which some may find a bit out of the ordinary in our quest for it.

Which may explain my cross country drive to Pizzeria Bianco from upstate NY.

I can't say much other then what has been said before. It was absolutely worth it to my family and I. We sampled everything on the menu but one salad. ( After 2,500 miles why not?) Chris Bianco was a pleasure to talk to after our meal and could not have been nicer. Truly passionate about his work.

Some photos for those interested.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84954050@N00/...57600966565712/

Robert,

I know that you have wanted to pull a Griswald's and road trip to Bianco for over a year. The fact that you and your family actually did it for Pizzeria Bianco and that you loved it is so great. The trip looked fantastic by the photos that you took.

Best,

Eliot

It just may take another year to recover. :laugh:


Robert R

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Rarely do I watch the Food Network any longer. But I had to see Bon Appétit Best American Restaurants special hosted by Alton Brown this past Saturday. Check your listing's for reruns if you missed it.

Congratulations to Pizzeria Bianco for picking up another accolade of being the best pizza in the country.


Robert R

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hi all,

getting ready to make the pilgrimage to bianco in the next couple weeks, and wanted to check: is 4:30 still a reasonable time to get there?

thx

mark

if there is no basketball game, concert and not on a weekend...hopefully that will assure you of a worst case scenario of the second seating at 6:30


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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I first heard about Pizzaria Bianco three years ago and will finally get the opportunity to go next week. Is any particular night better than others? There will just be two of us going.

Thanks!

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I find myself near Phoenix and had lunch today at Pane Bianco (excellent) and was hoping to mount an incursion into Pizzeria Bianco tomorrow night. The 4:30 arrival strategy won't work for us, so I'm wondering what happens if you show up late, like 9pm or even 9:30pm. Any experiences with that approach?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm not sure if you'll get seated if you show up that late. Maybe someone knowing will chime in. Keep in mind though even if you were there at 4.30 you will likely miss the first seating. When I went I was first in line but also got there at 3.00pm. By 4.30 the line was already to the wine bar.

Hopefully you will get the opportunity to try it as it surely is a rare special place.


Robert R

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I've found bits and pieces of possibly unreliable, possibly reliable comments via Google suggesting that showing up late is a valid strategy. I'd love to hear an authoritative ruling on that. Also, assuming I attempt a late-night incursion, what might be a viable backup plan, like a good Mexican place nearby or whatever?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Can't help you with late arrival advice on Pizzeria Bianco, but I can recommend a Mexican joint that has been a Phoenix institution for decades that has a location just south of Chase Field (within a mile of Pizzeria Bianco). It's called TeePee Taproom. This location is pretty big and serves Arizona-style Sonoran food, I can personally vouch for the "MaryLou Spanish-style" which is a green-chile stew folded in a tortilla slathered with oogey-gooey cheese. The house margaritas are above average and the table salsa is very good.

Tee Pee Tap Room

602 East Lincoln Street, Phoenix, AZ

(602) 340-8787‎

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Never tried anytime after 9p, but have found that whatever time you come it's a 2 hour wait. I might suggest Los Dos Molinos, New Mexico style food. I don't think they do anything mild. If you enjoy spicy this is it. Fresh tortillas daily and the Margharita's are good too.

8646 South Central Ave

602-243-9113


"I drink to make other people interesting".

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We made it to the gates of Heaven but couldn't wait. Apparently this time between Christmas and New Year's is particularly busy for Pizzeria Bianco. At 9:30pm we were told the estimated wait would be 3 hours. So we went in search of Mexican, except every downtown Mexican place was closed or just about to close. Finally we stumbled across a place called La Salsita (2345 East Van Buren Street, 602-275-2729) and had an array of superb tacos on freshly made tortillas topped with lots of chopped cilantro. Three tacos for $2.99, popular with the ambulance crews. Unfortunately, on account of Pizzeria Bianco's holiday schedule, tonight was my only shot, so I won't make it there on this visit. Next time...


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I had decided last week that I was not going to try to get to Bianco while I was in PHX this week, but a slow afternoon at a conference,gorgeous weather, and the fact that I am at a hotel only two blocks away made it impossible to resist, after all the rave reviews. My fellow conference-skipper and I showed up a few minutes before four on this Wednesday evening and wound up almost the last to be seated in the first wave at 5pm when they opened. Everyone else in line was friendly and the fabulous and unseasonably cool weather made the wait no issue at all. As we left a few minutes ago the wait was being quoted at 2 1/2 hours, and plenty of people were deciding to hang around.

After getting seated at the bar at five it took ten minutes or so to get a round of drinks, which did not seem unreasonable considering the sudden influx of people and the limited waitstaff. In another twenty minutes we had our appetizers: the Caprese salad and the antipasto plate, both of which were very good (though I thought the mozzarella in the salad was a little firm for that salad style: it was clearly destined for topping pizzas first and foremost, and the salad was an afterthought). The antipasto was quite excellent, among the better I've ever had. Between the two of us we ordered three pizzas: of course a Margherita, and then two other house specialties, one with an excellent sopresatta and Gaeta olives and another with an Italian sausage and onions. Now bear in mind that I am no pizza afficionado, though I've eaten at a few of the highly-recommended places in NY. However, these three pizzas were EXCELLENT. It would have been hard to imagine a crust more perfectly representative of the style, with just the right amount of char to complement the rest of the flavors, and a beautifully crisp cornicione. But what really elevates these pizzas is the quality of the toppings: the mozzarella used is very low in water content so the texture of the crust stays relatively firm (no soupy center section, for example), and the charcuterie was simply top-notch. As I say, I am not an expert on these things, so I really can't tell you if this is the best pizza in the universe (or whatever the current claim is), but it is damned good pizza. Neither Bianco was in the kitchen this evening (though Marco was in earlier making the dough), but if the quality suffered for it I couldn't say.

For me the upshot is this: there are places in NYC (Keste is a close comparison) where you can get in without waiting two hours, and I can't really think of a reason to go to PHX just for this pizza. But if you are in town, and ESPECIALLY if you are already downtown (say, for a conference) you should eat here. Have a beer or two, enjoy the weather and the company, and deal with the wait.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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We arrived at 3.40 pm last Tuesday and there was already a susbstantial line up. As the clock ticked and the line up in front of us was bolstered with friends joining their placeholders, we started worrying that we wouldn't make it in the first seating.

As it turned out we did - but only because two parties in front of us chose a 90 minute wait over a seat at the bar. We are not so picky - and had two kids (5 and 11) whose patience was already at breaking point. ("We're queing? For pizza?")

As it turned out, everyone thought the wait was worth it. The antipasti plate was simple and delicious. And the pizza was the best I've eaten outside of Italy. (I'm a Brit living in Canada and crave the thin crust, lightly-topped style.)

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