Cafe Reviews

Pino's Pizza Satisfies Fry Girl's Need for a Quick Slice of 'Za

Waiting an hour and a half at Pizzeria Bianco for a pie (albeit phenomenal) doesn't make the cut for the Fry Girl All-Star Pizza-On-the-Go team. And with Phoenix's car culture making walk-up slice sellers non-existent, the question of where to find a piece of scrumptious 'za between forever and immediately can be a head-scratcher.

Enter Pino's Pizza Al Centro. Serving up supreme triangles of taste in 10 minutes' time.

The custom crust hits you first. Thin, flaky, and sweet. No sagging tip here, the generous slice stands proud, holding a light swathing of Pino's marinara sauce, fresh vegetables, and homemade spicy sausage. It's an understated testament to simple food done right. Hard to achieve? Maybe for some. But for owner and prince of pies Pino Martino, it's all he knows.

"Italians like to eat," Martino says in a thick Italian accent, "and we're picky about our food."

Originally from Basilicata, a mountainous region in southern Italy, Martino grew up on the family farm, learning how to drive a tractor when he was six and working long days tending to its wheat fields and vineyards. His mother cooked three meals a day for the family (10 including the in-laws) and Martino watched, learned, and consumed what would one day become his delicious destiny.

At 24, Martino moved to Phoenix, and he and wife Lucia saved enough money to open their own pizza joint in part of a building on Central Avenue in 1994. They moved to the adjoining space in 2000 for more square footage and an air conditioner in the kitchen.

The restaurant's odd-ish hours (11 to 2 and 5 to 8) give Martino time to focus on his top pizza priority, the dough. He shops daily for fresh ingredients and makes homemade sausage and marina sauce. With the only advertising being the wagging tongues of his customers, Martino says they should expect nothing but homemade goodness in his pizzas. With slices starting at a modest $2.50, hungry pizza lovers can choose from specials like the Margherita, Carnivore, and Pizza Blanca, or create their own slice from a long list of toppings.

"I'm not the smartest guy from Italy, but I can make great food. Forget the business side, the best part is the cooking, seeing it in people's faces."

Are you watching this Fry Girl's face, Pino? It's grinning from ear to ear.