Tucson may be a long way from the pizza capitals of Napoli, Chicago, and New York, but that doesn't mean you can't find great pizza in the Old Pueblo. After all, Tucson has a large and diverse population of East Coast transplants, which means there is a demand for high quality and authentic pizza pies.
For deep and hearty pizza, try Rocco's Little Chicago, where you might need a hand cart just to carry out your deep-dish pies out to the car.
Looking for gourmet pizza that hits all the right notes? Try Magpie's Gourmet Pizza, a long-time local favorite. And for great pizza that manages to be both delicious and eco-friendly, nothing beats Brooklyn Pizza, where a solar oven helps pump out hand-made thin crust pizza pies.
One of the newest pizzerias in town is also one of the most popular: Pizzeria Bianco, featuring made-from-scratch pies topped with the freshest house-made mozzarella, home-grown herbs and other locally grown toppings. There is sometimes a line at this hip pizzeria, but Bianco's famous pizza is worth the wait.
Our number one pick for mouth-watering pizza is Scordato's, featuring artisanal pies designed by venerable local chef Daniel Scordato. The pizzas are topped with imported Italian meats and cheeses, as well as locally sourced ingredients for maximum freshness.
Anyway you slice it, Tucson is a great pizza town.
Adhering to the standards set forth by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association (arbiters of fine Neapolitan pizza), Vero Amore (which means "true love" in Italian) bakes its pizzas in a brick, wood-burning oven, using fresh mozzarella made in-house and roma tomatoes imported directly from Italy. This is pizza for grownups, the object of almost irrational cravings. In keeping with the high quality of the pies, salads and dressings are all super fresh and homemade, and the couple of pastas on the menu are divine. Come here to indulge in a pizza-making tradition that dates back hundreds of years. (520-325-4122)
Pionic Pizza is a relative newcomer to the Tucson restaurant scene, but this modern pizzeria is already becoming a local favorite. The fast casual pizza spot delivers artisan-style pizza baked to crispy perfection in as fast as 90 seconds. You won't find any microwaves or freezers in the kitchen - all ingredients are fresh and ready to top your pizza, salad or pasta plate. Unlimited toppings are only $7.45. Choose your own toppings, or select a specialty pie like "The Triad," made with pepperoni, sausage and bacon. Apart from pizza, guests can also build their own pasta or salad bowl. ((520) 327-4992)
Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
Reilly Pizza and Craft serves modern Italian food in a stylish downtown Tucson setting. The menu features artisan-style pizza made from scratch in the kitchen using authentic Italian import meats and cheeses. There are also fresh baked sandwiches and hand-made pastas on the dinner menu. Highlights include the roasted crimini mushroom pizza featuring mozzarella and truffle cheese. For meat-lovers, the fennel sausage and peppers pizza features a savory sausage and pepper blend drenched in mozzarella, provolone and fennel pollen. An extensive craft brew menu makes this a good pit stop for enjoying a pint of beer with friends and enjoying the festive outdoor beer garden. ((520) 882-5550)
Empire Pizza & Pub
Who knew that authentic New York pizza could be found in Tucson? Empire Pizza & Pub brings New York-style pizza to the desert, along with fresh-made hero sandwiches, salads, garlic knots, hot wings, and a menu of mouth-watering desserts. The kitchen prepares pizzas from scratch using hand-tossed dough and freshly prepared sauce. Empire only uses 100 percent Grande mozzarella cheese on its pies, many of which are named after some of the city's most popular neighborhoods and boroughs. Empire Pizza & Pub - as its name implies - also serves beer and wine, making it a great place to watch a game. ((520) 882-7499)
Rocco's Little Chicago
Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria specializes in Chicago-style delights and classic Italian pasta dishes. Try their award-wining chicken wings and specialty pizzas. The Fungus Humongous features a grilled mixture of portabella & white mushrooms, green peppers, mushrooms with onions & garlic, and all the real mozzarella cheese you would ever want. This homey pizzeria is neighborhood favorite, and the pizza pies, especially deep dish specialties, are to die for. The pizzeria also serves great pasta, including Spaghetti with Marinara, Florentine ravioli, Fettucini Alfredo, and Rotelli with pesto. Great appetizers and salads round out a full menu of hot, tasty pizza and Italian specialties. ((520) 321-1860)
Magpies Gourmet Pizza
For more than ten years, Magpies has been serving some mighty fine gourmet pizzas. The Pueblo starts with a kicky Southwestern sauce and is topped with mozzarella, cheddar, ground beef, scallions, roasted green chiles, tomatoes and black olives. Juan Carlos Pesto features tomatoes, piñon nuts and mozzarella atop a basil-jalapeno pesto sauce. Or create your own specialty from among three crust types, five sauces, seven cheeses including soy, ten meats, and 25 vegetables and herbs. You can even go cheese-less, or get all your toppings wrapped up in a calzone. If you have room for dessert, don't miss the popular pizza cookie. (520-628-1661)
Pizzeria Bianco has been a Phoenix institution since the mid-1990s, when Chris BIanco's legendary wood-fired pies began to catch the attention of pizza-lovers across Phoenix, and eventually, the country.The made-from-scratch pies feature homemade mozzarella, fresh basil, and a full-bodied extra virgin olive oil. Now, the pizza that has been named "Best Pizza in America by many national magazines and has earned raves from luminaries like former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, has arrived in downtown Tucson. The small dining room is decorated with warm, vintage wood chairs and original artwork from Bianco's father. Small plates and well-curated selection of wines and beer are also available. (520 838 0818)
This Fourth Avenue institution creates its own energy using solar panels. But let's talk about the pizza: delectable thin-crust slices loaded with fresh toppings. Owner Tony Vaccaro has operated his bustling operation for more than a decade now, with no signs of slowing down. Pizzas come in one size, 16 inches, and whether you design your own or choose a specialty pie, the quality of ingredients always makes this one of the best slices in town. Pizza is sold by the pie or by the slice. Stop by during the busy lunch hour for great deals on pizza and drink specials. (520-622-6868)
Falora calls itself "an analog neighborhood joint," which is to say, this is a hip pizzeria located in mid-town Tucson loaded with vintage charm. The Neopolitan-style pizza is made daily using traditional Caputo flour. Pizzas are 13-inch, making a hearty meal for one, or can be shared between two people. Gourmet pies include the Arrosto, featuring feta, eggplant, purple yukon potatoes, dates and white truffle oil. The restaurant also serves gourmet salads, appetizers, beer and wine. Happy hour is every day from 4 pm to 5 pm and features half-off all beer and wine. For a truly memorable dining experience, bring your favorite vinyl record to be played on the restaurant's vintage stereo. Guests who bring vinyl get a free drink. ((520) 325-9988)
Scordato's (formerly known as Pizzeria Vivace) is Tucson's destination for gourmet pizza served in a fine dining setting. With a spacious, inviting dining room, an open kitchen and a separate wine bar, there is plenty of room to accommodate groups. A smaller dining room is suited to intimate dinners or special occasions. Chef Daniel Scordato, highly regarded in Tucson for his fantastic Italian cuisine, has created a stellar menu full of gourmet pies. Pizzas are baked at extremely high temperatures, resulting in smokey, luscious pies with charred crusts. Highlights from the 12-inch pies include the Roasted Three Mushroom Pizza with fonduta (creamy fontina), green onion, and parmigiano Reggiano shavings. Of course, the classic margherita with basil and fresh mozzarella is a winner, too. Light Italian entrees are also served. (520-529-2700)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.
She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.