Chow Bella

11 Best Pizza Spots in Metro Phoenix

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Noca just jumped into the pizza-making business late last year, and already, this upscale neighborhood joint is cranking out some of the most phenomenal pies in town -- without a wood-burning oven. Chef Claudio Urciuoli uses a mix of local grains and premium flours plus lots of water, giving his dough a long fermentation time to coax out more flavor. His pizzas are slightly darker in color and their texture is light and crisp, more akin to a Tuscan schiacciata than a floppy Neapolitan. But never mind the nomenclature. Just eat the pies -- ethereal pre-dinner nibbles that will rock your world. Lemon schiacciata, adorned with sliced lemon, ricotta, rosemary and specialty EVOO, is a citrus-perfumed evocation of Itay, while the pizza fritta -- lightly fried in olive oil, topped with ingredients and popped in the oven -- is crunchy, soulful Italian street food, historically made by the pizzaiolo's wife from leftover dough. Urciuoli tops it with spicy sausage, mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, oregano, and fancy EVOO. One bite and you will say, "Where've you been all my life?" Schiacciatas are $9 at lunch, $12 at dinner. Pizza fritta (dinner only) is also $12.

Federal Pizza

Any restaurant busting out 450 pizzas a day (assembled by young, green guys who are Chris Bianco in their dreams) is more mainstream than artisanal in approach. Artisanal, by definition, means "small batch." But here's the thing. Craig DeMarco and Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects have set out to make great pizza for the neighborhood, pizza that's way more interesting than your standard pepperoni and cheese from the chain on the corner. And they're doing it. Certified master baker MJ Coe created the dough recipe (the foundation for any good pizza) and his crust, which comes from a combination gas-wood oven, is first-rate: light and slightly chewy, puffy at the edges with a bit of crisp on the bottom. The Casanova -- a salty-sweet-bitter combo of prosciutto, dates, ricotta, pecorino and arugula -- is yummy proof that being even halfway artisanal is way better than not being artisanal at all.

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Nikki Buchanan