Best Neighborhood Pizza, West Valley 2012 | La Piazza al Forno | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Lauren Cusimano

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

Evie Carpenter

What's the connection between Tom's fish and chips and eating them in the building that was originally the city morgue? We're not entirely sure (sleeping with the fishes?), but this 80-plus-year-old downtown landmark popular with business types and government movers and shakers (purchased in early 2011 by the Bidwill family, owners of the Arizona Cardinals) serves up a seriously good batch of them. With meaty chunks of cod fried in a light batter until golden brown, these chunky swimmers have a lovely, light crunchy taste, as do their accompanying crisp shoestring fries. Served in a portion size that won't leave you treading water, bring a friend along, grab the malt vinegar, and wash' em down with a frosty brew.

Courtesy of Orange Sky

We wouldn't have thought the path to great seafood was lined with slot machines, but this 19-seat seafood bar serving New Orleans-style cuisine inside Talking Stick, the resort and casino in Scottsdale, has us feeling lucky. Kicking up the seafood scene with offerings such as seafood Creole, Louisiana gumbo, and Cajun-style boils, this sleek ocean oasis offers an as-you-like-it spiciness level between one and 10, as well as a front-row seat to its open cooking station. Belly up to the bar and order a giant iced seafood platter filled with delectable shrimp, crab, oysters, mussels, and clams or a steaming, hot bowl of crawfish in a rich lobster-citrus broth topped with a scoop of dirty rice. Get there for a Fat Tuesday event, and you can wash your ocean fare down with a $4 Hurricane, the signature drink of New Orleans.

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