In a blog post from way back in 2014, I mentioned a couple with whom we are casual friends who had visited Italy. They stunned us when they told us how awful they found the food during their travels. Stunned us, because Bill and I loved the food in Italy. I would be hard-pressed to think of a meal that I didn’t like. Of course, I never did get brave enough to try the horsemeat that was on the menu during the spring months in northern Italy, so there’s that….
Anyway, what we concluded is that this couple was expecting Italian-American food, which is quite different from the food served in Italy. At least the food served in restaurants that didn’t cater to Americans. In a recent visit to an Italian restaurant in Mesa, we overheard the server introduce himself to the table next to us, and start out his whole spiel with the caveat that they featured genuine Italian food and not the Italian-American food with which most are familiar. He had apparently been pummeled with dissatisfied customers looking for spaghetti and meatballs.
One of the best foods we ate throughout Italy was pizza. Italian pizza is amazing, and we did plenty of research, I assure you. However, in general, it is quite different from pizza you would (and likely do) get in the U.S. For one thing, it is often baked in a wood-burning oven. Not a gas oven with flames, but an oven heated using some kind of hardwood and stoked by red-faced chefs to keep the 700-some temps in place. The crusts are generally thin, though not cracker-crust, and usually bubbly and toasted and imperfectly round. They are served unsliced, and the Italians eat them with a knife and fork. That was hard for us to get used to, but we managed to power through. They aren’t covered with red sauce and smothered in mozzarella cheese as they are here. Often there is no sauce at all, but only tomatoes, garlic, basil, fresh mozzarella, and hot peppers. Yum.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being a snob. I love pizza here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. But we sure did enjoy Italian pizza. While in Rome (where we probably ate the best pizza of all) we often dined with Bill’s nephew, a Catholic priest who at that time lived in Rome, and had for some time. The first time we had pizza with him, we were surprised when he turned up his nose at the first place we suggested.
Nope, he told us. That is pizza made for American tourists. He would look at the menu posted outside, and if the pizza cost more than five euros, he looked elsewhere. He didn’t steer us wrong, that’s for sure.
There is a pizza place in Phoenix that has pizza as much like Italian pizza as any we have found here in the United States. Pizzeria Bianco is located near downtown Phoenix, right across from Chase Field – home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is small in size, and if you try and go for dinner, fuggetaboudit. So we go at lunch, and always get right in. The smell when you enter is familiar – a combination of baked bread, burning wood, and red sauce.
The simple ingredients and the bubbly crust were also familiar, and oh so tasty….
Just as with many of the restaurants in which we dined throughout Italy, there is an herb garden from which the pizza chefs pull the fresh herbs that help give the amazing flavor to the pizzas….
My brother begs me – BEGS ME – to do a pizza review every Friday rather than a book review. I’m sticking with my book reviews because I like sharing books with my readers. But perhaps more than that, I’m reluctant to do any kind of food review because I hate tempting someone with a delicious pizza that’s in Phoenix and they live in Omaha. Or Seattle. You get the picture. Nevertheless, if you’re ever in Arizona, Pizzeria Bianco is a must-visit restaurant.
This post linked to Grammy’s Grid Link Party.