Monday, February 14, 2005

This is the best Valentines day ever!

I always knew we would take over the world- one best thing at a time... It's only natural when everyone is moving here!
Barbara Yost
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Chew on this, New York. Phoenix has better pizza, and there is a new book to prove it. First we beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. Now we're kicking New York's butt in pizza.

Gotham food writer Ed Levine says that if he could have just one pizza before dying, it would be a tasty little number from Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix.

In the just-published Pizza: A Slice of Heaven (Universe Publishing, 2005, $24.95 paperback), Levine declares Chris Bianco's pizza the best in the country.

"In many ways, it's the definition of a perfect pizza," Levine said Friday from his Manhattan home. He waxed poetic over Bianco's pizza crust (great "hole structure"), the homemade mozzarella, the fennel and pork sausage. When Levine ate at the Heritage Square pizzeria while researching his book, "I was blown away."

Piqued in NY
New York pizzaiolos (pizzamakers) are a little piqued that Big Apple pies lost out to the Big Saguaro.

"I know it's not true," said L. Goldberg, one of the partners in Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano. Her place is the descendant of Lombardi's, the first licensed pizzeria in America, founded 1905.

"It's the water. New York's got the best water. And yeast," Goldberg said. "Does he cook over coal? We use coal." (Bianco's is wood-fired pizza.)

But, noting that New Yorkers have survived that embarrassing loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, not to mention 9/11, Goldberg said, "we'll come back" in the pizza category, too.

'Must be true'
Nick Angelis gave us a verbal shrug when told that Nick's Pizza in uptown Manhattan had been bested by a pizzeria in the desert.

"I guess it must be true," he said. "Maybe it's a transplanted New Yorker."

Told Bianco was indeed born in the Bronx, Angelis let out a cheer. "I feel vindicated already!" he said. "He grew up here, he learned to make pizza here, that makes him one of us."

New York-based Newsweek reported the snubbing of traditional pizza enclaves with what can only be read as a typographical raised eyebrow in this week's issue.

In an e-mail, senior writer Bret Begun explained, "It's fair to say that most people reading our magazine would assume that New York or Chicago - not Phoenix - had the best pizza. But I'm confident that if Levine says the best pizza is in Phoenix, then it is. And now our readers know it, too."

Longer lines
Phoenix residents have known how great Bianco's pizza is since the restaurant opened in 1994. Over the weekend, Biancophiles greeted the news of the restaurant's latest honor with enthusiasm and fears that the lines to get in will stretch even longer.

"That's excellent. It's good news for Phoenix," said Julie Gerke of Phoenix, who was celebrating her 34th birthday. She and three friends were on the porch of Bianco's beer and wine bar waiting for a table at his restaurant next door.

"Are we going to have to put our name in a day before, or show Arizona ID? Tell the New Yorkers that," Gerke said.

Her brother-in-law, Scott Lieske, was less concerned about crowds: "It means more time to spend here at the bar."

Bianco, the only pizza chef to win the coveted James Beard Foundation award for best chef of the Southwest (2003), takes his coronation in stride.

"It's a nice honor," he said, "and then you go back to work. Every day it's like a Broadway play. You can't rest on your laurels."

Pizza on TV Next month, Levine is scheduled to appear on ABC's Good Morning America. Bianco plans to fly in one of his pizzas. He's not sure which one. Should it be the Wiseguy? The Biancoverde? The Rosa?

As for his geographic allegiances, he says, "I'm proud of being from New York, but Phoenix is my home. . . . I've always been a citizen of the world."

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