Somewhere along the way, Phoenix became a pizza town. New York has its thin crust and Chicago's got deep dish, but authentic, locally sourced Neapolitan-style pizza has become a readily available staple in the Phoenix dining world. There's Pizzeria Bianco, of course, but others, like Nook, Cibo, Pomo, and The Parlor have contributed to making the Valley a pizza lover's paradise. That's exactly why when Giant Rustic Pizza opened in Arcadia, it had some pretty intimidating footsteps to follow.
Unlike the other pizzerias listed, Giant Rustic Pizza's small dining area and counter service mean a much more casual experience. One wall is devoted to a large chalkboard with the menu scrawled across it. After ordering, we watched customer after customer stream in to pick up orders they had called in and then leave. The ambiance isn't conducive to family dining, but, unlike the other pizzerias, Giant Rustic Pizza offers slices for a quick lunch and actually caters to to-go customers.
The menu features pizzas in 20 or 14 inches, sandwiches for under $8, chicken wings, $9 salads, spinach artichoke dip, and a $7 "garlic and cheese bread blossom." For gluten-free folk, there also are crustless pizzas, which is pretty much a casserole-like plate of cheese, sauce, and toppings, as if going GF wasn't bad enough.
Ordering the Thursday special, which includes one 14-inch three-topping or specialty pizza and a salad for $19.95, we immediately were handed a pre-packaged salad, which again is ideal for grab-and-go but not too great when you're looking for a fresh, dine-in experience. The California Dreamin' salad, which is the only salad of six to be vegetarian, certainly isn't a grownup salad. Despite having artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers, the whole thing tasted like a mediocre Italian salad with chopped rectangles of pre-sliced mozzarella cheese on top (please refer to the video clip below -- we know it's Family Guy, but it nails it). The dressing seemed to be little more than slightly dressed up ranch, even though it was billed as "Cilantro Lime Dressing."
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There wasn't much time to dwell on the salad's shortcomings, luckily, because the pizza was brought out in a flash. The golden brown crust with flecks of sea salt was a promising first impression. The "Red-White-Green" pizza, which is a white pizza, had generous amounts of seasoned ricotta and mozzarella -- a welcomed sight for cheese lovers. The tomatoes, also plentiful, added a nice acidity for classic pizza flavor. Unfortunately, the spinach on the pizza obviously had been frozen before it topped the pizza. Plus, while the outer crust was crispy and near perfectly cooked, the dough under the pizza got soggy since it was a bit thicker and doughier -- not Papa John's, but no Bianco either.
Overall, Giant Rustic Pizza doesn't join the ranks of other top-notch pizzerias in town, but it isn't bad. The offering of slices is also a nice option, since most places don't serve a single-serving pizza. This is the kind of place that could either gain a loyal, strong customer base or fall by the wayside with just mediocre impressions overall.