This week's installment of Pizza Quest took me back to two joints I've visited before: the superlative Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix and La Bocca on Mill Avenue in Tempe.
Pizzeria Bianco: Tuesday afternoon Jeremy texted me, "Any thoughts on getting pies tonight?" I always have thoughts on getting pie, so we made plans to meet up at Pizzeria Bianco at 8:30. In the comments of last week’s Pizza Quest post, Jeremy listed 15 pizza places we haven't tried yet. But rather than go for something new, we chose to revisit Pizzeria Bianco. We figured a reminder of what the best pizza place in the country is supposed to taste like would provide a good benchmark for the rest of our quest. More importantly, they have really awesome pizza.
I went with the Rosa (red onion, Parmesan, rosemary, and Arizona pistachios) and Jeremy got the Sonny Boy (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, salami, Gaeta olives). I loved the complementary nutty flavors of the Parmesan and pistachios. The red onion sweetened it up and the rosemary rounded the whole thing out. What I loved about this particular pizza was that the toppings and the crust seemed to meld together to produce one complete flavor. Sometimes pizza toppings, cheese, and crust compete with one another instead of complementing each other. This is not a bad thing; in fact, experiencing the different flavors and textures can be one of the most exciting things about pizza. On the other hand, something has to be said for Bianco's ability to blend toppings and crust into one unique taste. I imagine this is partly why this pizza is ranked among the best.
Upon leaving the restaurant, Jeremy and I agreed that while Pizzeria Bianco may serve the best pizza in a technical sense, it's not necessarily always our favorite pizza, similar to how The Empire Strikes Back is technically the best Star Wars movie but sometimes I prefer Return of the Jedi. (If Pizzeria Bianco is The Empire Strikes Back of pizza, does that make Il Bosco Return of the Jedi?)
La Bocca: On Wednesday, I met up with my friend Brooke to try out La Bocca in Tempe. My first and only trip to La Bocca was a good three years ago, which was long before I started acquainting myself with great pizza, plus, my palate doesn't have the best memory, so a revisit was definitely warranted. I tried the porco (pulled pork, serrano chilies, mozzarella, caramelized onions, and herbs) (say "porco" aloud and it will have you thinking about a certain He-Man character) and Brooke got the truffled mushroom (mushrooms, tomatoes, goat cheese, mozzarella, and spinach with balsamic vinaigrette and white truffle oil).
There's something about pulled pork and serrano chilies that just does me right. It's a combination that works well on tacos and sandwiches and, why not, pizza. Looking back I don’t know how necessary the caramelized onions were, as pulled pork is usually sweet enough by itself—perhaps if their flavor was more oniony and less sweet. The crust reminded me a lot of Humble Pie: Neapolitan-inspired and somewhat bready. While that style is not my favorite, if that’s what they were going for, they pulled it off well. If I go back, I really want to try the Bocca trio: San Marzano tomatoes, pepperoni, salami, sausage, mozzarella, Fontina, Queen Creek olives, and fresh herbs.
This has been a great week for pizza, and it’s not over yet: tomorrow is pizza party night with friends.
(Maybe one day when I have a better camera on my phone or if I have my 50mm lens repaired, I'll start photographing the pies for your visual enjoyment here. In the mean time, get out there and eat some pizza yourself.)