Chris Bianco’s reputation in the world of pizza has become legendary in recent years. A hard-talking New Yorker from Brooklyn, Bianco is a throwback who obsessively works in his namesake pizzeria in downtown Phoenix. The fruit of his toils? Perfection. Here, lines to get in stretch far, so you are going to need to arrive early and plan on a long wait if you want to taste Bianco’s divine fare. Take a book or magazine to pass the time. You’ll be glad you did.
What to order: You won’t even miss the cheese on the Marinara Pizza, which has nothing but tomato sauce, oregano and garlic. If that’s too unconventional for you, go with the Sonny Boy — tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, salami and Gaeta olives.
KESTÉ PIZZA & VINO, New York
There’s nothing hotter than Neapolitan pizza right now, and that’s reflected in this list. The number of spots cooking with wood and preparing pies in the tradition of Naples is growing. There are strict rules on how to prepare a pizza that is authentically Neapolitan, and Kesté co-owner Roberto Caporuscio knows them well — he’s president of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (APN) in America. (The APN promotes the art of Neapolitan pizza-making.) While the number of worthy pizzerias in New York City is daunting, don’t neglect this one on your next visit.
What to order: The Regina Margherita (crushed tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes, basil and extra-virgin olive oil) or the Pizza del Papa (butternut squash cream, smoked mozzarella, artichokes, red and yellow peppers).
MARCO’S COAL-FIRED PIZZERIA, Denver
Owner Mark Dym took a chance when he opened Marco’s. Just a few years ago, Denver’s pizza scene wasn’t robust, and there was little reason to believe the city’s diners would understand or appreciate the Neapolitan style.
“Looking back, yes, I took a leap,” says Dym, who hired the aforementioned Caporuscio to train his staff on pizza production. “But, to be truthful, it never really occurred to me that this wouldn’t be successful.”
Dym’s intuition was correct: He has hit a home run. Denver has embraced Marco’s, and with good reason: Despite being governed by simplicity, the flavor combinations here are truly spectacular.
What to order: Get the Abruzzo Pizza, which features buffalo mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Gran Cru, caciocavallo, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil. The Gran Cru, a pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk, adds an intense flavor to this pie. This may well be the best white pizza in the nation.
CLASSIC ITALIAN PIZZA, Tempe, Ariz.
This tiny shop may be the best pizzeria you’ve never heard of. Located in a strip mall, Classic Italian can be difficult to find and therefore doesn’t get its proper due. But those in the know in the greater Phoenix area insist they’d put this place alongside the famed Pizzeria Bianco (also listed here) when it comes to quality. Visit them both and decide for yourself which one you like better.
What to order: The Prosciutto Pizza, which is a simple pie featuring tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto and basil. If you like ricotta, the Four Cheese Pizza — which has plenty of it — is another winner.