Best Bread 2018 | Proof Bread | Food & Drink | Phoenix

About a year ago, founder Jared Allen sold Proof Bread to loyal customers Jon Przybyl and Amanda Abou-Eid. The husband-and-wife team have done their sensei proud, emerging as baking masters in their own right. The journey from starter to finished loaf of Proof sourdough lasts some 30 hours. That journey takes place in a Mesa garage filled with work stations, dusty light, and cooling racks. This sourdough has a crisp but chewy structure and the style's trademark mild tang. Long fermentation and great care give each loaf the spirit of grain fields — deeply complex, deeply comforting. You can find Proof products at several local farmers markets.

When you think of focaccia, you probably think of puffy, airy bread mountainous with crags and bubbles from baking. Well, think again. Stefano Fabbri has been crafting a thinner focaccia which he says is in the style of Recco, a small coastal town in Liguria, Italy. Fabbri is a master of dough. His pizza joint, Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana, the one adjoining Luna, is one of the best in the Valley. The dough that becomes Fabbri's Focaccia di Recco has no yeast. What results is a crackly wafer, one in which each fissure leaks molten Stracchino cheese. There is snap, shatter, and some of the lightness of a Neapolitan pizza. And if you really want to tickle your senses, order this focaccia with truffle honey.

Lauren Saria

When it comes to breakfast at Ollie Vaughn's, we love the avocado toast, the ricotta pancakes, and the pork chile verde. Sometimes we even order them. But usually we cave and order the lox bagel, because, well, if we don't, we spend the rest of the day wishing we had. Ollie's chewy, fresh-baked everything bagel is heaped with herb cream cheese and dotted with tangy capers. Crunchy red onions are a perfect accompaniment to a giant pile of thinly shaved lox so fresh we wonder if there isn't a salmon farm somewhere in the building. What we're saying here is that are lox bagels, and then there is the lox bagel at Ollie Vaughn's.

Mora Italian

A relative newcomer makes the best pasta in Phoenix. The pasta at Scott Conant's Mora is actually made in the Gainey Ranch location of Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana, where curls of noodles emerge from extruders during the day. (Pomo's Stefano Fabbri has been involved with Mora.) The pasta at Mora has the right balance of chew, softness, mild grainy flavor, absorbency, and style. It isn't too thick or wheaty to the point that bites would be too intrusive or too gummy. Black campanelle look sexy as hell and are perfect for clams and Fresno chiles. A sausage and porcini ragu flirts closely with being too heavy, but is saved by expert torchio, pasta twists with chew and swagger to match the sauce.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

It would be cool and rogue to pick a top pizza other than those crafted by Chris Bianco's crew. It would also be about as true as saying the earth is flat. Bianco's pizza is one of the few mouthfuls of food in town that can reduce the pizza lover or Italophile to stunned silence, to something close to tears. Bianco is constantly testing new flour blends, the grain milled at Pane Bianco for each trial. He has upped his tomato game with his own line. He tirelessly works to cultivate relationships with farmers. As a result, all he has to do when blazing pies is apply time-honed methods to pristine ingredients and let our West Coast bounty shine.

Chris Malloy

Grandma pizza, that is. Adrian Langu bakes trays of grandma-style (square) pizzas all by himself in Old Town Scottsdale. Langu shapes the dough himself. He oils the pan. He ladles the sauce and spreads the toppings. He opens the hinged mouth to the gas oven, slides in red and white sheets, and delivers them steaming hot to customers. Langu's pizza has a radical lightness. Sluiced with sauce blended from some tomatoes he mills and some he crushes with his hands, then topped with torn basil and kissed with grassy olive oil, a slice of standard grandma pie at Crisp is so airy and beautiful that you may see pizza in a new way.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Not long ago, Myke Olsen worked as an accountant. Today, he bakes pizza on the sidewalk of Main Street in Mesa three nights a week, somehow managing to keep his long-fermented dough at the right temperature even in the arid heat. Olsen uses a pair of portable gas-fired grills that range from 700 to 800 degrees. His Thursday, Friday, and Saturday pop-ups sell a mere 20 to 60 pizzas a night. Crust puffs to airy edges on the rim, brown, black, and cratered. His crust has nuance and swagger, the complexity of great bread. Don't miss Olsen's marinara pie, or his potato pie with bacon and garlic cream.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Sandwiches seem like a simple food: bread and fillings, right? But sandwiches are layered, intricately structured pieces of edible architecture, and one wrong part can sink the whole show. Worth gets as close as anyone to perfecting the sandwich. Ingredients come from local farms and hit a blazing fast gear: Steadfast Farm greens, local heirloom cauliflower in giardiniera. Staples, like an otherworldly crispy chicken and a roast beef that will make you reconsider what a roast beef sandwich is, are reliably ethereal. But keep an eye on the rotating specials, where, with creations like chile tuna melts and Little Miss BBQ brisket with habanero-peach marmalade on a potato bun, the evolving talents of this shop are on full display.

Lauren Saria

A while back, an Australian millionaire famously declared that if millennials don't stop spending so much money on avocado toast, they'll never be able to afford to buy houses. To which we say: We think the enormous student loan crisis is probably a bigger stumbling block to home ownership, and more important, avocado toast is delicious and we're never giving it up, down payment be damned. Noble Eatery, a casual lunchtime spot in midtown Phoenix, is where we like to go to fritter away our financial futures.There are no bells and whistles on the avocado toast here, just rich, chunky avocado with tomatoes and chimayo chile powder piled high on thick slabs of hearty, chewy Noble Bread. It's filling without being heavy, which is also how you can describe the rest of the menu; it includes salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and other things on toast, all of it utterly satisfying. Who needs home equity, anyway?

Lauren Cusimano

A burger is an easy thing to find in metro Phoenix, but a great burger? That's a little harder. Aioli Gourmet Burgers, which has both a food truck and a brick-and-mortar location in north Phoenix, is our pick when we've got a burger craving. Aioli's offerings start with a Kobe beef patty, and it just gets better from there. Our favorite is the California burger, which tops the meat with avocado, pickled red onions, pepper jack cheese, an over-medium egg, and chipotle aioli. But we've also had great luck ordering the special burgers that are only available for a limited time; past creations include a French onion burger with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese, and a Dad Burger with Sriracha honey peanut butter and apricot preserves. If, for some crazy reason, beef isn't your thing, fear not: You can sub in a chicken breast or a vegan patty. Fresh salads, crave-worthy sides, and a selection of malts and shakes round out a menu that has something for everyone.

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