Visitors to Tucson have a new place to enjoy authentic Neapolitan pizza: Pizzeria Bianco. Serious pizza connoisseurs will no doubt recognize the name. Chris Bianco, the restaurant's owner and head pizzaiolo, has been making his hallmark wood-fired pizzas in downtown Phoenix since the early 1990s.
Back then, the Bronx native was making homemade mozzarella and pizzas in the corner of a tiny European deli cafe. Today, Bianco is at the helm of a Southwest pizza empire that includes three restaurants in Phoenix, and now, a new location in downtown Tucson.
Bianco's artisan pizzas have earned a legion of fans from across the country, including luminaries like Oprah Winfrey, Rachel Ray, former President Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart. Food writer Peter Reinhart, author of American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, named Pizzeria Bianco as the best pizza in the country.
Pizzeria Bianco, Tucson's latest foodie hotspot, may have lines waiting for tasty pizza — Photo courtesy of Pizzeria Bianco
What makes the pizza at Pizzeria Bianco so special? Its winning formula is simple: fresh ingredients and a skillful devotion to artful, rustic pies. The mozzarella is made in-house, and the restaurant uses fresh-from-the-garden herbs, extra virgin olive oil and locally sourced ingredients. Every bite is indelibly well-balanced and dripping with flavor.
With only six pizzas on the menu – along with a tiny selection of small plates, sides and salads – one would think that the flavor spectrum at Pizzeria Bianco would only extend so far. But each pizza on the menu packs its own particular set of delights.
Take the Wiseguy, a sauce-free pie with a perfectly thin crust topped with wood-roasted onions, chunks of savory fennel sausage and the creamy, house smoked mozzarella. It's soft and luscious in the middle, and chewy at the edges.
Another one-of-a-kind pie is the Rosa. It features Bianco's trademark crusty-yet-chewy crust, topped with red onion, Parmesan cheese, rosemary and a sprinkling of Arizona-grown pistachios.
Before you head to Pizzeria Bianco, be aware that the restaurant has always been synonymous with long lines. It's not unusual for diners to wait more than an hour to be seated during the dinner service.
Is the wait worth it? Bianco fans would no doubt answer that with a resounding "Yes." Although it can be hard to snag a seat right away inside the cozy 50-seat cafe, once you're seated, the food comes out fast. Plus, diners can enjoy noshing on a complimentary bowl of green and black olives marinated in an herb-infused olive oil marinade.
Before you know it, you'll be savoring one of Bianco's famous pies . . . and counting the days until your next visit.