Note from Brad: Ever since reading Peter's "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza" I have been trying to get myself to Phoenix, Arizona to experience what Chris Bianco is capable of doing with our favorite food -- pizza! I have to admit, this may have become more and more of an obsession as we developed Pizza Quest. I will also admit that my obsession may have, just a little bit, turned toward a somewhat consistent nudging of my sister to go there on one of her many trips to Phoenix to visit her in-laws over the last few years. Maybe. Who wouldn't slightly nudge in this case?
The good news is that even though I haven't made it there myself yet, my sister finally listened to me! You know how little sisters can be. I had almost forgotten my requests when one day I got a text photo of Pizzeria Bianco. She was there! When she got home, she sent me an email and some more photos from her trip and I knew we had to share her story with you. BTW, the photos are hers, but the captions are mine!
Enjoy and please send us more stories of your own adventures.
Pizzeria Bianco and Big Brother
For at least 5 years now I have visited the in-laws in Scottsdale Arizona, each time being pressed by my beloved, pizza fanatic brother Brad, co-founder of Pizza Quest, to go to this one pizzeria. It was an amusing process, sometimes receiving several calls from him on my vacations to see if we were thinking of going, and then to push an itinerary if I said yes. Don’t get me wrong, I am a pizza lover and always go for a good recommend, but Bianco’s was only open for dinner and the wait was two plus hours long. So, when it came to the end of a long desert day, we always seemed to settle on local food that we could spend less time acquiring.
After all of these visits to Arizona I must admit that I started to antagonize my big brother by
telling him we were going to go days before I know if we really would. All in good fun; after all, I am the little sister! Well, it’s now year six and we almost blew it off again. We left the decision until the last minute and decided to hit it up on the way back to Los Angeles, as the place is now, at last, open for lunch and is just a mile off of the Highway 10 freeway in Phoenix. We received a few calls and emails from the bro to press the agenda again: “Take a lot of pictures... See if this and that... Try the vegetarian pistachio this... Chris... Peter... Pizza ... The Pizza .... Pizzzzzaaaaaaa!” But yes, I do appreciate that Brad truly respects the culinary arts and was furthering my education about the history of the restaurant and it’s owner Chris Bianco, his philosophy with his food, his oven and approach to his work, his “soul’s journey” in a pizzeria.
Pizzeria Bianco now opens at 11:30 AM for lunch, and we walked in the door at 11:45 and got the last table before a crowd quickly gathered and waited for their own pizza experience on the rustic, covered patio in 110 degree heat. Our waiter told me that, prior to opening for lunch, he had met people that had come for 5 years and never got in, so the lunch really helped this dire situation. Now many more of us, brave enough to do an outdoor excursion in the Phoenix heat, can enjoy this culinary experience. My husband and I were trying to be moderate and ordered a salad and one pizza to split, but quickly realized we had better get a pizza to go as well; after all, it is a gourmetlessly long drive home through the desert and, now that we had finally “arrived,” who knew when we’d get back again. If the fresh salad, delicious bread and olive oil were any indication of the pizza, we realized, we would wish we had ordered more. Oh, and the yummy green olives in the salad! Now I must also give mention to the added inspiration from the family of three sitting next to us. When we arrived they were sitting eating one pizza. As we sat down they ordered a second one... and soon thereafter a third. Three people, three pizza’s, all gone, no take-out. This neighborly behavior, along with the flavors already hitting our mouths, assured us it was compulsory to order more now.
We ordered the Biancoverde for the table: ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan with added arugula, and olive oil and salt after cooking. This is listed as a white pizza on the menu, but we added red sauce. This pizza made my mouth sing. Yummy! We slowly savored one slice, eating civilized, with a fork and knife while in the restaurant, and got the rest to go for our road trip home (where I then proceeded to finish my last two Verde slices the normal barbaric way, within ten minutes on the freeway). The Margherita was our official “to go” companion. This pizza was even delicious cold, as we pulled it out around Palm Springs for a late afternoon snack.
So here is the point of the story where what I thought I knew got turned upside down. I understood immediately that Bianco’s was great; no, I knew it was excellent, but I didn’t know the depth of that excellence until three weeks later when Brad and his family came to Long Beach to try my favorite local wood fired pizza joint that I had talked up for quite a while. Do not misunderstand, I will still be eating and enjoying my local pizza, but an epiphany happened the minute this pizza hit my mouth. I remember silently thinking, “Is something different?“ What was it? Something was missing. It was a little flat. The “extraordinary” that made my mouth sing a few weeks earlier just wasn’t there. This was something very unexpected.
Over the next few days I thought about what it was, because I had never really had that experience of being a little sad when a pizza goes in my mouth? What exactly had Bianco’s done to me? I thought about it. “Maybe it was the Parmesan bursts on that Verde? Or was it that incredible dough they make that has some sweet salty balance that makes your mouth feel confused about whether it likes sweet or savory better and convinces you to keep eating until you figure it out? Perhaps it was the meticulous care, the love put in by the owner toward his business; the specific oven imported from Naples, or the hand picked or home grown fresh ingredients? Wait, was it the red sauce we added to the Verde?” I realized that it must be all of these elements, combined, that transforms food into art. It has to be, I now understood, a combination of the right effort and pure love that takes something from ordinary to extraordinary.
Brad doesn’t have to talk me into going there anymore, this I know. But I’m sure he’ll have some suggestions for me when I do. And, in the end, perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned from six years of playing my role is, that sometimes Big Brother does know best.
by Kristin English
Ta-da! Thank you very much!