Best Neighborhood Pizza, North Phoenix

Isa's Pizza

Joe and Myrah Aiello opened their counter-service pizza joint next to their Italian deli in April, and the cheery little spot landed on the go-to list of North Phoenix residents in a hurry. Serving up New York-style (thin with a crispy crust) or Sicilian-style (thick with a bread-y crust) creations for eat-in or to-go and using top-notch ingredients like tangy, housemade red sauce, high-grade mozzarella cheese, and imported pepperoni, pizza fans can order up their favorites by the slice or the whole pie. Starting with a stellar crust that's crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, don't miss favorites like the Nana (with tantalizing sweet plum tomatoes, chunks of roasted garlic, and basil) and a luscious and creamy spinach alfredo. For those who want to watch the pizza magic happen, stand at the counter area and watch one of Isa's gregarious pizza chefs do some serious dough tossing.

Amano Bistro

In an area of Phoenix not necessarily known for handcrafted Italian food, this charming little neighborhood spot fits the very definition of a diamond in the rough. Since 2004, Eric and Kathy Bower have turned their little corner of the South Mountain area into a true go-to for residents of the area seeking top-notch pizzas. These hand-tossed pies cover the basics quite well — a crisp, chewy crust being a fine starting point. From there, opt for the Amano standout, a delicious white pizza topped with Romano and Parmesan cheeses, or the classic Margherita, with its mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and sweet red sauce. And with 25 wines by the glass to choose from, there shouldn't be a problem regarding what to pair your pie with.

La Piazza Al Forno

In downtown Glendale sits one of the Valley's best pizza joints, where Justin Piazza and crew use a wood-fueled brick oven and top-notch ingredients (including San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy) to whip up thin, crispy Neapolitan-style pies as specified by Italian trade organization Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana. Start with the classic, the Regina Margherita, with its bubbly crust, wonderful mozzarella di bufala and fresh basil. Then, graduate to the Bianca, a white pie topped with olive oil, the restaurant's housemade mozzarella, fresh garlic, and liberal dollops of deliciously creamy ricotta. Seriously, this may be the best white pizza in these parts. Another half-dozen or so pies round out the menu, each paired with a suggested wine.

Nello's Pizza & Italian Restaurant
Sara Dalton

In the Valley for more than 25 years, this neighborhood favorite is not only owned and operated by one of the original founders of the Nello's brand (with four locations in the Valley), its pizza dough is still made by the folks from the original joint. The motto "In crust we trust" makes sense with selections like the original pan-style (don't call it deep dish) along with thin, white, and wheat options. A build-your-own option and a list of 15 specialty pies, like the Numero Uno (with housemade sausage and sweet tomato sauce) and the anything-but Skinny (topped with just about every meat imaginable), mean this beloved neighborhood spot has something for almost everyone.

Classic Italian Pizza
Kyle Lamb

As one of the only signs of life in a near-barren Tempe strip mall, this gourmet pizza go-to is like an oasis in the desert. From chef and proprietor Azhar Began, a short but solid assortment of top-notch wood-fired pizzas, crispy and delicately chewy and with lightly charred crusts, awaits your selection. Check out favorites like the Italian Sausage, with housemade pork sausage, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers, or the Greek white pizza with mozzarella, feta cheese, spinach, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Watch your pie come out nice and hot from the restaurant's wood-burning brick oven or wait for it on the flora-covered patio while you munch on soft chunks of homemade bread. Like the restaurant's slogan says: "Life is too short to eat bad pizza." We couldn't agree more.

Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana
Courtesy of Pomo

Of course, most decent restaurants attempt to meet a standard by which they prepare and serve food. And at this stylish establishment, that's a model by which it can truly be called Neapolitan-style pizza. See, the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana is an Italian trade group that makes the rules for authentic pie, and Pomo follows them to a T: imported San Marzano tomatoes, 00-grade flour, creamy mozzarella di bufula, hand-kneaded dough, and a wood-fired oven (shipped in from Naples) hot enough to bake the pie within about 90 seconds. The result? Some of the best pizza in the city — ultra-thin, tender crust, and outstanding flavors. You can taste the freshness. We recommend starting with the basic Regina margherita, with its sweet, ripe-tasting tomato sauce, creamy buffalo mozzarella, and whole basil leaves. It's perfectly simple and simply perfect. So good, in fact, you might not ever feel the need to explore the rest of Pomo's handcrafted pizzas. But, really, you should. They're all winners.

Niccoli's Italian Grocery-Deli

Headed up by Joe and Peppy Niccoli since 1970 (the deli's been in the family since the 1950s), this small but stellar neighborhood delicatessen in Phoenix offers homemade pizzas, sausages (the Niccolis make about 25 pounds a day), breads, and sweet treats like cannoli, sfogiatelle, and pizelles daily to generations of customers looking to get their Italian on, old-school style. The sub sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, especially the Italian with the family's signature dressing and the spicy sausage with a marinara sauce that would have Tony Soprano swooning, have a cult following — as do Peppy and Joe. No wonder Frank Sinatra himself put his arm around Peppy at the Niccoli's first location and said, "This is just like back home in New Jersey."

Goldman's Deli

The true delicatessen is an endangered species. We're talking about the old-school deli, where bagel-making is a science, smoked meat is an art, and there's not a whiff of "chain mentality" on the menu or in the establishment. Phoenix is lucky to have a couple of places where you still can get a decent pastrami on rye, but if you want to really get your deli on, shlep to Scottsdale's Goldman's Deli, a family-owned restaurant that bills itself as a "Chicago Style Traditional Jewish Cuisine Delicatessen and Restaurant." You want chopped liver? They have it, velvety rich with a sweet note of sautéed onions. You want matzoh ball soup? They have that, too, and it tastes like it was homemade by somebody whose grandmother taught them how to do it right. From smoked-fish platters to hamentaschen (the A to Z of Jewish cooking), Goldman's will satisfy even a wandering New Yorker's deli urge.

The Rose & Crown Pub

God save the queen — and God save our livers after a night of tying one on English-style at this downtown Phoenix hangout. The historic house turned English pub serves up a nice selection of draft brews including Strongbow Cider, Fullers London Pride, and Boddingtons with generous portions of traditional fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd's pie. Grab a seat inside the renovated house, challenge one of the neighborhood gents to a game of pool, or take in the hustle and bustle of Seventh Street from the rustic patio or spacious front lawn. There isn't a bad seat in the house, especially when you have a cool pint of Boddingtons in your hand.

Rosie McCaffrey's Irish Pub
Lauren Cusimano

A wall of whiskey, Harp-soaked wings, beer-battered fish, a river of Guinness, and Irish music spilling out of the speakers — yep, you're at Rosie's. Since the day owner Seamus opened this fine establishment on Camelback Road more than decade ago, Phoenix folks have been packing the dark booths and well-worn bar to get their fill of properly poured Guinness, smooth shots of whiskey, and expertly made boxty, filled with stout-soaked beef and boiled potatoes. The lively bar almost always has an Irish band or two for your entertainment, and the servers are whiskey experts who can help you choose the perfect nightcap if you feel like straying from your tried-and-true Jameson.

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