Eat This Now

What and Why to Eat at the New Pane Bianco Van Buren

Pane Bianco Van Buren is an A+ lunch destination.
Pane Bianco Van Buren is an A+ lunch destination. Chris Malloy
In just one winter week, Chris Bianco flipped Roland’s Market Restaurant + Bar into Pane Bianco Van Buren. This Pane location is Bianco's second. It’s different from the first, which was opened in the early aughts and plates the likes of salads, sandwiches, and al taglio pizza while doubling as the nexus of Bianco’s tiny dough empire. The new Pane is more protean, and fueled by old ideas but new food.

The core ideas flow from the first Pane, and from the underpinnings of Bianco’s signature philosophy. Focus on classics. Upgrade their parts. Make them new where it makes sense with the flavors of local seasons. Exalt those who come before you on the supply chain. Speak some Italian.

click to enlarge One of the few great meatball sandwiches in Phoenix, the recipe honed over many years. - CHRIS MALLOY
One of the few great meatball sandwiches in Phoenix, the recipe honed over many years.
Chris Malloy
The new Pane Bianco has breakfast, unlike the old. During summer, breakfast on Van Buren will be limited to weekends.

Soft scrambled eggs top rounds of house bread edged against a crimson pool stewed from Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, a trendy “toast” without the trend. Pancakes made from Hayden Flour Mills faro and oats rise in supple stacks, topped with seasonal fruit.

The new spot has drinks, unlike the old. Some of the cocktails are built from local Blue Clover Distillery spirits, including a close relative of the Bloody Mary that appeared this past weekend for breakfast and brunch. With mozzarella, this liquid riff channels a Caprese salad.

Lunch, though, is what Pane Bianco Van Buren serves seven days a week. Lunch options, too, are what this neighborhood spreading beneath the once-again-remade Roland’s sign needs. And like clockwork, Pane Bianco Van Buren delivers heady victuals.

Market sandwiches are on point, like at the first spot.

Thoughtful salads can star or sidekick, ditto.

click to enlarge Ever seen an angry sandwich? - CHRIS MALLOY
Ever seen an angry sandwich?
Chris Malloy
One of the key differences is that the sandwich spotlighting Francesca’s meatballs is on the menu daily. For the uninitiated, this meatball sandwich is nothing but sauce, cheese, meatballs, and crusty bread. Meatballs in restaurants tend to be pretty sad. But these are another story, robust and hearty and seemingly without grease or filler, packing all the warming, slapshot goodness of a homemade meatball.

An entirely new item worth trying is an arrabiata chicken sandwich, a Friday market sandwich special. Arrabiata is a classic Italian spicy tomato sauce, one that Bianco jazzes up with his own tomatoes, and, lately, chiltepin peppers for heat.

(“Arrabiata” is an Italian word for “angry,” and Bianco says, “I go extra angry.”) The chicken, hunks and strips of Two Wash Ranch birds, radiate deep avian flavor. Rafts of skin cling to tender but chewy pieces. The bun is soft and fragrant of grain, the cheese tangy and melted.

click to enlarge The daily al taglio pizza slice recently featured asparagus spears. - CHRIS MALLOY
The daily al taglio pizza slice recently featured asparagus spears.
Chris Malloy
Bianco is testing this arrabiata. Pane Bianco Van Buren will double as something of a laboratory. Where the first Pane’s menu has calcified over almost two decades, Pane Bianco Van Buren’s will remain elastic.

And so you will see new offerings like the arrabiata rotate on. And one day the excellent, cloud-like squares of pizza al taglio may gleam with asparagus and fontina, but red onion and potato coins the next.

This gives the new Pane fresh intrigue, dynamism to go with familiar greatness.

Pane Bianco Van Buren.

1505 East Van Buren Street, 602-441-4749.
Daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.*
*Breakfast served all day on weekends during summer. 
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy