Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, Downtown Phoenix 2011 | Cibo Urban Wine Cafe & Pizzeria | Food & Drink
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.
Local celebrity chef Aaron May thinks there's a lot to like about downtown Phoenix, and he's putting his money where his boca is by placing his latest restaurant concept, Vitamin T, smack dab in the middle of it. Located in the new CityScape complex along with neighbors Stand Up Live and Oakville Grocery Co., Vitamin T (T is for tacos, tortas, tamales, and tequila) serves up affordable and tasty Mexican street food (including breakfast, a recent addition) to hungry folks grabbing food to go or in need of a place to hang before or after an event. Try anything with the pibil (tender, slow-cooked pork shoulder) in it, and make sure to stop by for happy hour — Vitamin T's tequilas know how to celebrate a comeback. Or an arrival, depending on your position on downtown Phoenix.
News flash: Most restaurants in the Valley are trapped in aesthetically challenged strip malls. Many of these restaurants are very, very good. Still, they are in strip malls, which, by definition, are soul-sucking paeans to crass consumerism and ugly land development. Not House of Tricks, an excellent bistro in the heart of Tempe. Situated in two vintage bungalows just blocks away from busy Mill Avenue, House of Tricks is a welcome respite from so much of what defines the Valley architecturally. That alone would make it a romantic destination, but then there's the cozy, candlelit ambiance, the excellent service, and, of course, the food. The contemporary American menu changes with the season, but like any true classic, the quality never changes. Whether you're looking to impress a date, getting a long-overdue night alone with the spouse, celebrating an anniversary, or, hell, even getting ready to pop the proverbial question, House of Tricks knows how to set the mood for romance.
It's not until you're sitting on the cozy balcony of Cave & Ives Portico Grill watching the cars whiz by on Indian School Road that you realize how few second-story eateries there are in the Valley. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But a meal at the new restaurant from the owners of Sacks the Art of Sandwicherie reminds us of all the elevated streetside dining we enjoyed when we lived back east. An indoor-outdoor bar (stocked with numerous local beers) and balcony fireplace (complete with comfy couch and chairs from which to take in the fire) mean this place will be one of our favorite go-to places when the weather's pleasant. The Mediterranean and Italian influence shows up in the décor and tasty food, which includes charcuterie, an artisan cheese plate, several salads, flatbreads, pizzas, pasta dishes, and a wonderful bowl of steamed clams, garlic, and tomato in a white wine sauce. The way we see it, this place is destined to be an Arcadia favorite for years to come.

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