Pizzeria Bianco.

Links first – my blog entries on Team Japan are here and here, the latter featuring a writeup of Yu Darvish.

Last night, I finally made it to Pizzeria Bianco, perhaps the best pizzeria in the United States. Chef/owner Chris Bianco won a James Beard Award for “Best Chef in the Southwest” in 2003. His restaurant earned a 29 rating (out of 30) from Zagat’s. Food writer Ed Levine called Bianco’s creations the best pizza in the United States. Jeffrey Steingarten called it the best in the world. Peter Reinhart echoed these sentiments in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Who am I to argue? It was otherworldly.

The first bite I took of his margherita pizza – tomatoes, homemade mozzarella, and basil – was a Proustian moment, where memories of my last trip to Italy, made ten years prior, all came rushing back so fast that they were crowding each other out to take center stage in the theater of my mind. One bite and I was there, in Genova eating outside in an osteria, in Firenze in a trattoria one level below ground, in Rome, in Assisi, there and everywhere. I have never in my life had a food experience bring back such a torrent of memories.

The pizza nearly defies description; it must be tasted to be understood. The crust is amazing, puffy and blistered at the edges yet soft and airy inside, reminiscent of great naan in texture but thinner with that ideal near-cracker texture in the center of the pizza. The fresh mozzarella was firm, smooth, and – thank God – sufficiently salted, also the best we’d ever had. The tomatoes were bright red and sweet, and the olive oil that came both with the bread and with the insalata caprese was bright and fruity and drinkable straight from the bowl, although I admit I didn’t do this for fear of making a scene. We also tried the Biancoverde pizza, featuring mozzarella, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, and ricotta cheese and topped with peppery arugula; it was more of a knife-and-fork pizza because the dough couldn’t support all of the toppings, but the combination of creamy mozzarella, salty Parmiggiano-Reggiano, tangy ricotta, and spicy arugula was sublime.

The restaurant itself is tiny, with around a dozen tables and a bar with a handful of seats, and a good chunk of the real estate in the building is taken up by Chris’ kitchen and brick oven, which means that you can shower him with gratitude after you’ve experienced his pizza. From chatting with him and reading about him (here and here and here), I understand now that that is what he wants – to have you not just eat the food or enjoy it, but to experience it, to leave having had a magical experience that reminds you – as it did me – of how wonderful food can be.

Comments

  1. You are not a writer prone to hyperbole, so this must’ve been one hell of a dining experience. Not surprising, though, at this place.

  2. I went back last weekend with a party of 6 and we each got a different pizza, and we each had one slice of each pizza. The marg pizza was my wife and I’s favorite. How long did you wait? We waited 2.5 hours and we got there at 4. Reservations weren’t possible because they weren’t taking them until mid April. Tia Rosa has to be next for you.

  3. Oh wow, that trattoria one level below ground in Firenze just brought back a wave of memories from two summers ago… although that pizza wasn’t as good as the “pizza a metro” I had in the Sorrento/Ercolano area (and which apparently one could also find in the Phoenix area).

  4. Keith, I really enjoyed reading your take on Yu Darvish. Have you ever had a chance to take a look at Korean players who is not playing for MLB? If you ever have a chance to do that and write a article or just short comments, I would love to introduce it by translating it on my Korean blog. In Korea, baseball is very popular so WBC is the event they like to watch, and a lot of them is interested in how some Korean baseball players can fare when they ever get to chance to play in MLB.

  5. Keith,
    Dude… ESPN insider is killing me. You’re the only person I read on ESPN. Are you worth the full year’s subscription? I really want to read your write up on Darvish (how is his last name Darvish because it isn’t Japanese). Am I a cheap sob for complaining about paying ESPN extra $$$?

  6. Ah, vicarious wishes fulfilled. Thanks for the writeup, Keith.

  7. FQ, Yu Darvish is half Iranian, you don’t need ESPN insider to find that out.

  8. Keith, any chance there’s a review of R+G Are Dead in the works? I’m curious to hear your take on it.

  9. Preston – I doubt it. It didn’t make any strong impressions on me. It’s brief and thin, with some funny slapstick moments and a couple of quotable lines. And I’m sure it loses a lot when it’s not seen live.

  10. THANK YOU for the heads-up on the pizza, I’ll be there in two short weeks.

    This line seems straight out of the original Iron Chef when the judges comments are translated into English:
    “memories of my last trip to Italy, … all came rushing back so fast that they were crowding each other out to take center stage in the theater of my mind.” Can’t wait to try it

    If you had to order only one pizza there would it be the margherita? That always seems to be a good measuring stick for pizzerias

  11. Brian - Laveen, AZ

    I need to give it a try…2 hr wait though :(

  12. Out of curiosity, why “Firenze” and “Genova” but not “Roma”?

  13. Was in Phoenix this past weekend to take in some spring training and wanted to try this pizzeria… 4 HOUR WAIT!!! Granted, this was at 5pm Saturday night (had no idea about it’s popularity)… but yikes. Needless to say, the wife and I were forced to dine elsewhere.

    Next time.