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By Heather Hoch and Lauren Saria
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Despite its high-rent district digs and gourmet ingredients, Grazie brings out bargain-priced pizza pies. Designed for one, easily shareable by two, the creations rest on bubbly, crisp-crusted dough, with plenty of carefully chosen toppings to shine through. The original, the Margherita, shows why Italians so quickly embraced the uncomplicated creation of zesty tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, grated Parmigiano and drizzles of extra virgin olive oil. The same tomato-mozzarella base goes robust in a Toscana, with a topping of spicy Italian sausage and fresh mushrooms, or as Grazie America, with lots of pepperoni.
Still, the best pies are those with a little more substance, including a cleverly named Dame Edna, topped with mozzarella, arugula, Parmigiano and, hence the name I guess, prosciutto crudo (salty ham). Quattro stagioni is another stellar mix, uniting marinara, mozzarella, salami, mushrooms, ham and kalamata olives. By comparison, a straightforward vegetarian version is tame, mounded with mozzarella, fontina, Parmigiano, roasted red bell peppers and caramelized onions.
Chef Cello has a way with calzone, really nothing more interesting than pizza dough folded over pizza toppings and baked. But with the right dough and sublime stuffings, as served here, the ponderous plates fit quite elegantly alongside a bottle of Amarone Classico, 1997, Zenato ($62 by the bottle).
6952 E. Main St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Region: Central Scottsdale
Dame Edna pizza: $11
Toscana pizza: $11
Grazie calzone: $12
Crostini prosciutto: $6
Dolce della casa: $5
480-663-9797. Hours: Daily, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Consider the graceful Grazie, gorged with mozzarella, Gorgonzola, ricotta and fontina, the calzone under a nest of peppery arugula, sliced tomatoes and green onions. The Vesuvio takes the best of both pizza and calzone for a successful marriage of ricotta, ham and salami inside, with mushrooms, black olives and tomato sauce outside.
I'm returning for a midnight nosh of crostini, too, the crunchy ciabatta draped with melted mozzarella, butter and prosciutto, or salty, fishy anchovies. Or perhaps dessert -- the dessert della casa requires a twosome to tackle, lumbering out a generous sugared-dough calzone stuffed with a gooey, sweet-bitter blend of bananas, chocolate and hazelnuts. Tortine de frutta is another worthwhile calorie closer, the petite pizza pies blanketed with bananas, apples or peaches.
It wasn't so long along that the only answer to where to go for topnotch gourmet pizza in town was limited to two words: Pizzeria Bianco. Today, the list of suggestions requires a spin through my Rolodex. With this chic, affordable new pizzeria and wine bar, I've got another card to add. And for that, I say, Grazie.