He's already changed the way America thinks about pizza, and now, nearly three decades after he opened his first restaurant, chef Chris Bianco will focus on something new.
"My dream was always to do a little trattoria, to put as much emphasis on pasta as we did on pizza in the past," Bianco says.
That's why in early 2016 the James Beard Award-winning chef will open a small, pasta-focused restaurant next door to Pizzeria Bianco at the Town & Country Shopping Center in Central Phoenix. The restaurant, which takes over a space most recently occupied by a Greek restaurant, will offer just 35 seats. The atmosphere, the chef says, will be "grownup."
Bianco has yet to settle on a name, but he says diners can expect a menu of three to five handmade pastas made with locally grown durum wheat. The restaurant will also offer meat and vegetable entrées inspired by what's available seasonally and locally. Expect "homestyle" fare and maybe even a few family-style plates.
Bianco characterizes the restaurant as "my interpretation of a modern trattoria," adding that he wants to restaurant to "reflect where we are as a restaurant group." It will give him a place to showcase his talented team of chefs, his brother Marco's specialty breads, and the top-quality ingredients he already goes so hard to source — items like local beef, lamb, and chicken and foraged vegetables — but that might otherwise have been put on special one of his other restaurants. In some cases Bianco, says these ingredients ended up being overlooked and under-ordered because, after all, when you go to the restaurant with the country's best pizza, it feels weird to not have a slice.
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That certainly won't be a problem at the new restaurant, which won't serve pizza at all. The Town & Country location of Pizzeria Bianco will continue to serve Bianco's famous pies, of course, and the chef says that restaurant will also continue to serve a few classic pastas and entrées.
At the new spot, Bianco also plans to offer a "great craft cocktail program." He's aiming to open the restaurant by mid-January or early February.
"I want it to be not just a great restaurant for Phoenix, [but] a world-class restaurant," he says.
Bianco, arguably Phoenix's best-known chef, opened Pizzeria Bianco in 1998 and has since opened a second Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix and third in Tucson. He also owns Bar Bianco, next door to the original pizzeria, and Pane Bianco, a sandwich shop in midtown Phoenix. In 2003, Bianco won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest (he was the first pizza maker to ever snag the coveted award) and his restaurant has been nominated twice for the Outstanding Restaurant award, which is reserved for restaurants that have been open for at least a decade.