This, my friends, is a story about a moral dilemma, a once in oh, let’s say a quarter lifetime dining experience and, finally, some damn good pizza.
Two days after I returned from my trip to New York, I set off again with Baseball Boy for a long weekend in Arizona. We’d scored a free place to stay where Scottsdale ends and Cave Creek begins, just north of Phoenix, and we were looking forward to a break.
When a friend found out that we were going to be in the Phoenix area, he sent me no fewer than 15 reviews for a pizza joint called Pizzeria Bianco, which, conveniently enough, was six minutes from the airport. It was decided; we’d go straight there upon arrival. I only had to read two or three reviews to know that a) this pizza would require a several hour wait and b) it would be worth the wait. Luckily enough, they just happen to operate a bar next door – a nice comfy place to spend money and relax during said wait.
And so we did. We both got some drinks and I ordered crostini with local goat cheese and olives to nibble on as we passed our time. I must admit that ordering only one appetizer felt strange after my weekend with Maya, but I held back on the others, so that I’d have room for the pizza. Instead, I drank a few glasses of wine and got to know the people around me.
A several hour wait for a table was part of the norm, some new bar companions informed us. They told us of one of their tactics: put in your name, hop around Phoenix bars and then come back for some post-booze pie. The locals knew the value of this wood-fired pizza with both handmade dough and mozzarella.
The turnover of bar stools was gradual, and soon we were the ones to vacate our seats for the pizza next door. We received fresh bread and dipping oil immediately upon our arrival to our table. I devoured it, partly because after the two and a half hours, I was slightly hungry and partly because I needed something to soak up the alcohol.
I ordered the farmer’s market salad – an ever changing array of locally grown healthy stuff – upon the recommendation of a couple of our bar friends. The bitter greens combined with sweet citrus and tangy pomegranate seeds were both a delightful combination and a reminder that we weren’t in the Midwest anymore.
Eventually, we got our pizza. Baseball Boy ordered the margherita pizza, another suggestion from the locals. A simple array of mozzarella, basil and a light brushing of tomato sauce satisfied his requirement for pizza to be pizza, and not a platform for exotic ingredients (such as chicken wings, ranch dressing, portobellos or goat cheese).
I, on the other hand, don’t mind a little more creativity in my pizza. Our bar friends told us that they frequently ask the chef to make one of their pies to his choosing, so I did just that, and received a mortadella, mozzarella, prosciutto and porcini-topped pizza. The combination, kissed with tomato sauce, was lovely. The crust, however, was on the thin side of my pizza preferences; one more topping, and the pizza would have required a fork.
I think that, better than the pizza, was the pride that the Phoenicians had for the place. Employees and patrons alike spoke with joy about their little pizza shop. Perhaps it was the wine, or perhaps they’d slipped something in that homemade mozzarella, but it really made me happy to see a town embrace the place as an institution, despite the fall-backs of minimal seating and long waits.
I promised a dilemma at the beginning of this post, and here it is: When our server returned with our leftovers, she didn’t bring our bill. A minute or two later, the hostess came up and informed us that because we’d waited so long (and they’d somehow messed us up in the books upon our arrival) they weren’t charging us for our dinner. I was a little shocked, and my mind started running. Was it the camera? Was it because I’d mentioned the blog in the bar? Or did we really wait longer than the average bear?
And then there was the big one: If my meal was free, could I still, in good conscience, write about the experience?
There wasn’t much we could do about it at that point, so we thanked the hostess, left a generous tip for our server and took our leftovers to the rental car. It was already dark outside and we still needed to get to our destination. I could worry in the car.
623 E Adams St.