It was no surprise when chef Chris Bianco won the James Beard Award in 2003 for his wood-fired pizzas. Since then, Pizzeria Bianco (623 E. Adams St., 602/258-8300, 5–10 p.m. Tues.–Sat., $10–14) has become a culinary legend in Phoenix . Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah, and Martha Stewart are fans, and Esquire magazine named his thin-crust pies the best pizza in the country. A Slow Food Movement champion, Bianco uses only the freshest ingredients, including herbs cultivated next to the 1929 machine shop the restaurant now inhabits. As for the menu, the sausage-topped Wiseguy and classic Margherita with homemade mozzarella are impeccable. Aficionados covet the Rosa, a so-good-I-want-it-on-my-deathbed combination of red onion, parmigiano reggiano, rosemary, and Arizona pistachios. And though the pizza may be the most popular choice on the menu, the roasted antipasto and fresh salads are well worth the infamous wait—and that can be a two-, three-, or even four-hour experience. Best advice: Line up before the doors open at 5 p.m. and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer next door at Bar Bianco (609 E. Adams St., 602/528 3699, 4–11 p.m. Tues.–Sat.). If you have to ask if it’s really worth the wait, don’t bother coming. I don’t want you getting a table before me.
Don’t let the nondescript building fool you. Pasta Bar (705 N. 1st St., 602/687-8704, 11 a.m.–midnight Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Fri.–Sat., $9–15) has some of the freshest, most elegantly prepared pasta in the Valley. Wade Moises, who cooked at Mario Batali’s Lupa and Babbo restaurants, has traded in his old duties at North Scottsdale ’s Sassi to pursue this downtown creation. The buffalo mozzarella with basil pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and anchovies is an excellent starter. Moises’ handmade pasta dishes are served Italian style, in four-ounce portions lightly tossed with authentic sauces like carbonara, puttanesca, and al cedro, a deceptively simple mix of lemon, Italian butter, and parmigiano cheese.
It takes an Italian to craft artisanal pizzas this delicious—and unlike at Bianco, there usually isn’t much of wait at the family-owned Cibo (603 N. 5th Ave., 602/441-2697, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 5–10 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., 5–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $9–13). The salads, antipasto, and wood-fired pizzas feature locally grown produce and premium prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano cheese imported from Italy. It’s all simply prepared and often topped with a light drizzle of olive oil. There are more than a dozen pizzas from which to choose—the Diavola with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and spicy salami offers a bit of a kick. Dine outside on the large patio or inside the charming 1913 bungalow. Either way, be sure to save room for a Nutella crepe.