Best Gourmet Pizza 2011 | The Parlor | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Heather Hoch
Somewhere along the way, Phoenix became known as a great pizza town (specifically if you're talking about the gourmet stuff), so it's no easy task to pinpoint the best. This year, though, we have to acknowledge what's become one of our faves, The Parlor. The former beauty salon is simply one of the most comfortable and cool places to eat in a region of Phoenix that's full of them. And the cleverly conceived pizzas are uniformly delicious, with their thin, bubbly crusts, locally raised and processed meats, and fresh produce (many of the herbs and spices are grown on the property). But what tips the scales toward The Parlor in this category this year is what keeps us coming back time and again: the eight-inch pizza for $10. A table of four can order four or five of these dandies, giving everybody a chance to sample, sample, sample without breaking the bank. See you at The Parlor.
When you're a pizzeria that can win the hearts of native New Yorkers, you know that you're serving the perfect slice of Sicily. And Mamma Mia has definitely won its share of Big Apple acolytes. The crust is thin and crispy but still flavorful, and it has the perfect amount of floppiness so it can be folded in half and consumed with gusto. The sauce is tangy and sweet, and the cheese and toppings are always added fresh so you can customize your slice. Two slices and a drink ring in at just under four bucks, so you can afford to add as many toppings as your non-native New Yorker heart desires. We recommend the classic pepperoni, mushroom, and black olive. Mamma Mia, that's a good slice.
Lucky for us, Pino Martnino, owner and prince of pies at Pino's Pizza Al Centro, left his home in Basilicata, Italy, and came to the Valley to find (and marry) his true love, Lucia. If it weren't for her, we'd be missing out on this friendly neighborhood pizza joint (which the two of them own and run) and on Pino's tight but tasty menu of Italian- and New York-style pies featuring his thin, flaky, and deliciously sweet crust. Choose from specialties like the garlicky white pizza, pasta pizza with signature marinara sauce, the Carnivori (meat lovers) pizza with homemade sausage, or make your own from a list of fresh ingredients. Can't commit to a whole pie? Grab a slice instead — at around three bucks, it's easy to fall in love with a new favorite.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
For so long, people have loved to loathe downtown Phoenix. Working downtown is bad enough, they scoff, but actually living in the center of the city? Perish the thought! Why, there's no decent grocery store, nowhere to park, you have to step around crackheads to get into Circle K to pay for gas. (Gee, sounds like a real city to us.) But there's one thing downtown Phoenix has that your neighborhood doesn't: Cibo. Not only does this sweet old house have a gorgeous bar and a twinkle-lit brick patio, Cibo's chef serves up some of the best wood-fired pizza this side of Naples. We'd put Cibo's thin, tasty crust up against anyone's. Top it with fresh mozzarella and off-the-vine tomato sauce — and take that, suburbia. Because Cibo serves pizza only at night (meaning if you commuters come at lunch), you'll be greeted with a salad/sandwich menu.
The best Italian food is made with love, something the owners of Amano's know all about. In their 30-year love affair with South Mountain, Eric and Kathy Bower have watched agriculture-heavy Baseline go the way of tract housing, but they embraced the blossoming neighborhood by opening Amano in 2004. This South Phoenix neighborhood haunt offers fresh Italian fare in a relaxing environment. Start with the rajas gratin, a creamy poblano chile-packed dish loaded with onions, garlic, mushrooms and bacon, served with toast points. Then move on to the semolina crust Margherita pizza, eggplant rollatini, or sage-butter gnocchi. Just make sure to save room for their amazing desserts like balsamic-glazed strawberries, hazelnut pot de crème, or the Italian classic, tiramisu.

Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, North Phoenix

Santisi Brothers

When you step into Santisi Brothers, you are greeted not by a hostess, but by the electric glow of hundreds of televisions. Don't let the electric wonderland deter you. Delicious pizza awaits those who enter. Thin and floppy NY-style pies are hand-tossed and then topped with cheese and are sauced perfectly. The crust is crisp and slightly buttery, and you can order it an extra-thin or thick Sicilian-style pie. Snag an order of the garlic knots, a tankard of brew, and the hand-tossed White Pizza. While you're waiting, simultaneously enjoy televised golf, football, police procedurals, and the Shake Weight infomercial. Bonus!
Lauren Cusimano
At La Piazza al Forno, pizza means two things — Neapolitan and wood-fired. Thanks to homemade mozzarella and dough, San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, and recipes from the old country, chef Justin Piazza and his family have been servin' up a tight selection of phenomenal Neapolitans courtesy of a wood-fueled brick oven since they opened their neighborhood eatery in downtown Glendale over three years ago. With plenty of pies to choose from, each on a crispy and thin, but hearty crust with a hint of wood-fired smokiness, the classic margherita or the meaty Italian Stallion are solid standouts, but the star of this pizza show is The Bianca — a wonderfully flavorful white pizza and a garlic lover's dream come true. Like the Piazza family says, "While the square, round, extra thick, or stuffed dough may be what you're used to, it's just not pizza."

Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, Southeast Valley


With so many pizzerias in the Valley, it takes a certain something special to set your pies apart from the crowd. Floridino's does this in two ways: bargain-basement lunch deals and a little something they like to call pizza muffins. The pizza muffins are a crowd favorite, even if they are a bit more like pizza rolls. Wheels of pizza-dough goodness are packed with ooey, gooey cheese and ham and are more than filling enough to make a meal. Or swing by for their daily lunch specials, which start at just $3.50 and go up to $6. Choose from personalized pastas, pizzas, salads, and antipasta platters that smother your hunger in cheese and leave you enough dough left over to buy dinner.
Venezia's has been around since only the mid-'90s, but this is a college town where restaurant turnover is so high that it's hard to stay on the map through the semester, let alone for well over a decade. Is it Venezia's party pizza, a 24-inch behemoth of a pie? The hot wings, which live up to their name because they're dipped in Frank's Red Hot sauce? Or the killer lunch specials, which ensure starving students can still afford a slice of the good life? Whatever it is, Venezia's has figured out the perfect equation and earns top marks in our grade book.

Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, Scottsdale


Most pizzerias claim their secret to the perfect pie lies in the wood-fired oven, but not at Grimaldi's, where they prefer hotter, cleaner-burning coal. Heck, they even claim to tweak the chemistry of the water used to make the flavor more like that found in old NYC. Whatever the secret is, it makes all the difference in creating a mighty fine pie. Grimaldi's is perfect for an intimate dinner for two, a large family-style affair, or a full-on banquet. Regardless of the size of the event, every slice of pizza is loaded with flavor, and the thin crust is some of the best in the Valley. And do yourself a favor — save room for a slice of cheesecake or cannoli at the end of the meal.

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