Imperial Market & Deli
Allison Trebacz

This nearly 10-year-old family-owned spot of cured meats and comfort foods makes sure you don't sit shiva when it comes to finding outstanding Jewish delicatessen favorites. Stop by for stacked sandwiches like pastrami, salami, and corned beef tongue served up with cole slaw or chunky potato salad (pickle included, of course); a steaming bowl of matzo ball soup; or the Imperial Burger bulked out with grilled pastrami. Since you're also in a full-service kosher market with products from New York City, California, and Israel, chances are you'll browse the aisles of kosher wines, meats, and baked goods for a few take-home treats.

A penchant for premium ingredients is what makes Dolce Vita Italian Grocer so distinctive.
Jackie Mercandetti
A penchant for premium ingredients is what makes Dolce Vita Italian Grocer so distinctive.

What makes Walter and Marti Bergamaschi's tiny, unassuming grocery and Northern Italian-based eatery in east Mesa so exceptional is the same penchant for premium ingredients that makes the gelato sold in their space next door so first-rate. The bruschetta is as simple and fresh as classic bruschetta can get, the sandwiches are made with items like parmacotto ham and smoked prosciutto exemplary, and the housemade ravioli is lusciously filled with delights such as fresh vegetables, herbs, and savory beef. Take the tastes home by picking up a boutique olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or one of several rare cheeses and cured meats.

Crudo
Crudo

Crudo is an Italian restaurant speakeasy of sorts: a welcoming escape hidden in the back of a shopping plaza in Arcadia where notable chef Cullen Campbell, who cooked at the James Beard House this year, transforms first-rate ingredients into expertly crafted modern Italian dishes. The ever-changing menu may include raw ahi tuna with smoked olives, lemon, and egg; caramelized onion and bacon relish served with fresh mozzarella; and Campbell's luscious squid-ink risotto. Pair the meal with a cocktail or glass of wine from Crudo bar owner Micah Olson and you'll see why this hidden haven of Italian fare feels like the secret that's hard to keep.

Andreoli Italian Grocer
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

At some point, perhaps over an afternoon sandwich of top-notch porchetta seasoned with garlic, fennel, and black pepper, or an evening meal of luscious seafood risotto followed by a homemade cannoli, you're going to ask yourself if there is anything chef Giovanni Scorzo doesn't do exceptionally well at his well-heeled Italian market and restaurant in North Scottsdale. There are the pizzas, soft and pillowy and topped with things like lobster, artichoke, and truffle oil; the delicious offal and Florentine-style tripe served occasionally; and fried potatoes and leeks with a creamy and tangy dipping sauce that seem to vanish from the plate. Thankfully, you'll have to keep eating for the answer.

Pizzeria Bianco

Let's face it — the wait at the original Pizzeria Bianco location downtown is as legendary as its gourmet pies (okay, the added lunch hours helped a little). So this year, the pizzeria's celebrated pie master Chris Bianco decided to do something about it. By reconfiguring the space for his Italian restaurant, Trattoria Bianco, at Town & Country Shopping Center, Bianco launched a second location of his venerated pizzeria. The menu offers the same six primo pizzas as the downtown location plus antipasti, a market salad, and a special or two. And since Bianco debuted the original Pizzeria Bianco in the same plaza in 1994, ordering up a Wiseguy or a Sonny Boy seems like a delectable slice of history.

No neighborhood's complete without a decent spot to score a slice — and North Phoenix residents have Joe and Myrah Aiello to thank for theirs. Pizza fans can choose from signature creations like the garlicky Nana and the creamy spinach Alfredo or customize their own with toppings like Joe's famous meatballs, eggplant, and hot Fresno peppers, served up Neopolitan-style (thin with a crispy crust) or Sicilian-style (thick with a bread-y crust). And because Isa's connects to Aiello's Salumeria next door, pairing your slice with an antipasto or Caprese salad is as easy as pizza pie.

Best Neighborhood Pizza, Central Phoenix

Federal Pizza

Federal's food is not so much reinvented as it is crafted with expert care.
Jackie Mercandetti
Federal's food is not so much reinvented as it is crafted with expert care.

Who to bring on board when you're planning a lively new pizza joint? If you're restaurateurs Craig DeMarco and Lauren Bailey (Postino, Windsor, Joyride Taco House), it's Valley master baker MJ Coe. Featuring a light and crispy outer crust with a thick, puffy edge, a slightly chewy interior, and a harmonious flavor balance of toppings, the best of Coe's 12 pizza creations might be the Casanova, a robust mix of flavors and textures courtesy of prosciutto, dates, ricotta, arugula, and Pecorino cheese. Like surprises? Order up the Chef's Whim and let Federal craft its latest flavor craze just for you.

Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana
Lauren Saria

Earlier this year, this longtime favorite in Scottsdale opened a second location in the former home of Sens Asian Tapas and Sake Bar, further strengthening downtown as a true destination for authentic gourmet pizza. Pomo's secret to success is its adherence to pizza-making guidelines set forth by the Italian trade organization Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana. That means a super-thin crust from dough made with a slow-leavening process, tomatoes and olive oil imported from Italy, and a specific kind of oven set to an extreme temperature at which the pizza is cooked for only about 90 seconds. Without a doubt, try the Regina margherita and its creamy bufala mozzarella for the quintessential Pomo experience. Of course, with all the amazing pies baked at Pomo, you won't want to stop there, nor should you.

Amano Bistro

Everyone in South Phoenix knows Amano Bistro. It's that fun little spot with the bright yellow and red walls that used to be a realty office. South Mountain-area residents Eric and Kathy Bower have owned it for almost a decade, turning out excellent pies with crispy and chewy crusts you don't mind sharing, on the condition that you order more than one. There is a pizza topped with five kinds of cheese, another with springy pesto, and still another with Italian sausage, fennel, roasted red peppers, and Fontina. The wine list is rich with nearly three dozen Old and New World selections that go very well with the food.

La Piazza Al Forno

If soft-centered, real-deal Neopolitan pizzas are your thing, then this bustling little spot in downtown Glendale (complete with a stamp of approval from the Italian trade group Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana) is your place. And by the looks of the line out the door on Friday and Saturday nights, just about everyone else's in town, too. You'll want the Bianca, pulled from the brick oven when its clumps of ricotta have melted and the crust is charred and crisp at the rim — or perhaps the Dolce Diavolo made with fiery Calabrian chiles and honey. And if the restaurant has offered one of its specials — perhaps the fried pizza known as Montanara — well, then, it seems you have some tough decisions ahead.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of