Phoenix is a lot of things, and one of them is a pizza city. Why? It might be the desert air, hot and arid like the flow of a hairdryer, like a 900-degree pizza oven. It might be the great local flour culture we have here. It might be that decades ago, a certain pizza whisperer happened to plant roots in Phoenix. Whatever the reason, the Valley's pizza scene is highly developed. Here are five delicious, progressive, or otherwise fascinating metro Phoenix pizzas to try or try again this summer.
Rosa from Pizzeria Bianco
623 East Adams Street (plus another location)
Bianco with flour is DaVinci with paint, Hemingway with words, Hendrix with guitar. The man blazes the kind of lasting creations that endure over time and shape how others create going forward. If you haven't had his Rosa lately, why not go sometime this summer for a refresher? This sauce-less pie is made with local pistachios, red onion slivers sliced so thin they're translucent, rosemary, and the king of cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano. The pizza hits you like something not pizza. If you have been to Italy, this might drop you into a remembered piazza or bakery or or café or farmhouse, though the pizza isn't Italian. It's Arizonan. And being Arizonan, it reflects the land: unique and rugged and elemental, with tiny beautiful flourishes that can be entrancing.
Potato & Bacon from Myke's Pizza
21 West Main Street, Mesa
This pizza pop-up in Mesa is only open a few days a week. And that's a shame, because Myke Olsen is baking some serious pies. One of the more progressive and visually arresting pizzas now on the menu features bacon, rosemary, potatoes, and garlic cream. The bacon chunks melt and leak their glorious flavor over the pizza. The rosemary comes in faintly, not too piney, just enough to bridge the pork and potatoes. I don't know why we don't really see potatoes on pizza in the States. They are magic in thin slices, with a soft texture in the same realm as cheese. Though several toppings coat this pizza, Olsen distributes them with restraint, letting the flavors of his long-fermented dough shine. The crust gains some sex appeal from diaphanous black bubbles that form in his portable gas ovens. This is a white pie to convert the red-sauce fanatic.
Rapini with Sicilian Sausage from Lamp
8900 East Pinnacle Peak Road, Scottsdale
Matt Pilato, head pizzaiolo at Lamp, uses long fermentations that last from 25 to 56 hours. The result is a strong dough and, after a trip to the 1,000-degree wood-fired oven, crust with intricate flavor and structure. Pilato uses four kinds of cheeses on this pizza: mozzarella, ricotta, Pecorino Romano, and Parmesan. Your typical pizza casts toppings in a supporting role, and Pilato's studied use of four cheeses says, in calculated white gobs and shreds, that this isn't the case here. Other toppings on the Rapini co-star with the crust and cheese. Their flavors and textures meld with the four cheeses and signature crust the way a great pasta's ingredients and sauce do with the hot noodles. Be sure to pull the trigger on the menu's sausage option. Links are made with Sambuca and Chianti, and elevate the pizza to a happy place.
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Napoli from Pomo Pizzeria
8977 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale (plus another location)
Pomo's Neapolitan-style pizzas go headlong for lightness, the signature of pizza from pizza's birthplace, in ways that the previous pies don't. This is a feather-light pizza, one with a soft architecture that delivers minimal crunch and calls to mind, maybe, sponge or clouds. Anchovies are used aggressively on the Napoli. They whisk you with high speed to the sea. A blizzard of oregano coats the pizza in speckled green drifts. The herb is potent, heady, and deepens the sunny nature of this pizza. The Napoli is light, marine, herbaceous, and the slices don't fill you up all that much – a great pie for the summer.
Smokehouse from Craft 64
6922 East Main Street, Scottsdale
This interesting pie from Craft 64 will likely find friends and enemies. What fascinates me about this one is that, in my eyes, the pizza has a bready quality, a spirit almost as much calzone or stromboli as pizza. The sausage coins and onion have been smoked. Smoke seems to release the onion's most spellbinding latent flavors, giving the translucent petals light smoke, toning down the sharp aromatics, and converting them to a sweetness that is almost haunting in its transiency. Toppings are sparse. The pie is pretty minimal. That's where the bready nature rises from, these qualities, the puffiness, and the molten swaths of cheese. This pizza is on the reserved end of the spectrum. It's a pizza interesting in its minimalism and worthy for a dusky change of pace.