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La Grande Orange also has some superb pizza, once again prepared with an ordinary gas oven, though it puts so much fresh basil on some of the pies that they end up smelling and, well, tasting like they were made in a florist's shop. This is in keeping with the character of the little yuppified grocery/deli/bakery, which sells potted plants alongside jars of pickled capers and boxes of Key lime cookies. If Frank Sinatra truly loved Grimaldi's as legend has it, he wouldn't be caught dead in a joint like this. But atmosphere aside, I'll give its proprietors credit for their "don" pizza, with basil, red sauce and big patches of ricotta, as well as for their standard tomato and basil Margherita pie (each $11), this last named for the Italian queen who inspired the first Neapolitan-style pizza. The crust is neither too thick nor too thin and is slightly chewy, so they rate a solid #4 in my book.
Limping in at #5 is Pizzeria Bianco, and its claim to fame -- aside from owner Chris Bianco having a James Beard award -- is the wood-fired brick oven, which all can see in the tiny eatery. Basically, Bianco produces prissy pizza for prissy people, who all rave about what they are eating while discussing the prospects for a Sex and the City movie. Sorry, but the place rubs me the wrong way -- that precious exterior with its little benches and weathered metal chairs, and the interior with that shabby-chic wooden bar at which well-dressed 40-something women anxiously await their dates. Ugh! Here's another place Ol' Blue Eyes and the rest of the Rat Pack would only enter if AK-47s were aimed at their backs.
I could hack the ambiance if the pizza set my shorts on fire, but it didn't. My first time there I had the Sonny Boy with kalamata olives, salami, mozzarella and tomato sauce ($12), and it tasted like someone poured a carton of salt on it. The crust seemed salty as well to me, and it was also quite smoky from the wood of the fire. This overkill of smoke and salt nauseated me, and I barely finished the pie. Figuring I must've missed something, I went back again for the Wiseguy, with roasted onions, mozzarella and fennel sausage ($13). That, too, was one smoky pizza, but less salty than the Sonny Boy. Still, the bread seemed limp and bland, a characteristic the smokiness hid badly. As for that fennel sausage -- I could have devoured a whole plate of those sliced links. Also, Bianco does a truly outstanding antipasto with wood-roasted veggies and cheese, but that pizza hardly lives up to the glory heaped upon it by so many.
4000 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Region: Central Scottsdale
7111 East Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale,
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
11 East Sixth Street, Tempe,
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Nevertheless, for that sausage alone and for the excellent service the wait staff gives, Bianco sneaks into my top five, right in front of also-rans like Streets of New York and Oregano's, which, though chains, are consistent in taste, lighter on the sodium, and not nearly as annoying.
E-mail email@example.com Patsy Grimaldi´s Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria,4000 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-994-1100. Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to midnight. Slices,7111 East Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale, 480-421-9540. Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Slices,11 East Sixth Street, Tempe, 480-966-4681. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.