Cafe Reviews

Grand Avenue Pizza Company in Phoenix Serves Heavenly Pizzas Whole and By the Slice

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Wheeler, who's also the pizza chef, designed his menu after an old school East Coast neighborhood slice shop, like the ones he knew from every corner of every borough in New York.

Wheeler blasts his pies in a pair of standard gas pizza ovens. His crusts are made using an old family recipe, and while no one will mistake Wheeler for any of the Chicago coal-oven greats, his pizzas are pretty darn terrific. He uses some locally grown ingredients but is less interested in supporting local farmers than he is in procuring the best stuff to make pizzas with. What he does with flour from Florida and tomatoes and olive oil from California is worth checking out.

Return visits proved that Grand Avenue pies are wonderful straight from the oven and still tasty 20 minutes later. Slices dragged home even passed the next-day, cold-slice-for-breakfast, eaten-over-the-sink-while-standing test: The refrigerated cheese and zippy red sauce hadn't soaked the crust, which retained the pliancy and flavor of bread, not cardboard.

Those sauces are bright and well-balanced, sweet but not sugared. Most appear to start with the same simple recipe made from good-quality crushed tomatoes. They, and various white cheeses, are layered onto crusts neither bready like traditional Neapolitan pies nor flat-and-crisp like Tuscan pizza. These are airy and light and both slightly greasy and neatly crisp, the kind of full-flavored, crispy-chewy, foldable crust you want in New York-style pizza. It's a rare combination of textures that stand up well to toppings either scant or piled on.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela