I've been eating pizza for 50 years. I've had lots and lots of good pizza, some bad pizza and a fair amount that falls "in between." And that only includes the pizzas made by others, for I've been making my own pies for 35 years or so. In that realm there have been a few good ones, and many that have been unremarkable.
For the past several years I've been curious about "the best" pizzas. Are they really good? Exceptional? Memorable?
There's no standard for "the best," of course. (My daughter used to be sweet on Chuck-e-Cheese pizza. I thought she wanted to play games and collect little red tickets, so she could exchange them for plastic junk I'd throw away when I cleaned out drawers, but then she wanted to know if Chuck-e-Cheese delivered. Wrong I was, I guess, about her taste in pizza!) There are, however, purveyors who receive recognition, far and wide, for exceptional pizzas. By 2010, I decided it was long past time for me to start answering my questions.
In Phoenix Pizzeria Bianco resides just east of downtown, a mere 116.51 miles from my garage door. Alas, PB does not take reservations, it's only open Tuesday through Saturday from 5-10 and the wait is generally 2-3 hours. It's always on my mind but, like cleaning the garage and losing the extra 10 pounds, it never seems to happen!
Last month we had more than one good reason to be in Los Angeles, so we decided to try Pizzeria Mozza, the restaurant owned by Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. The joint has a national reputation, and it takes reservations. So, while getting there involves more travel than a round-trip to Phoenix, if one needs to be in LA, the travel is not a huge burden.
Pizzeria Mozza is a very nice place. It's small, comfortable and the staff is very friendly. (None of the LA "attitude" one gets in certain places.) Prices are not low, but they're also not ridiculously high. Pizzas run from about $14-21, salads and sides are mostly less and wine prices are fair.
And the pizza? Very nice. Good. Tasty. Memorable? Not really. (Frankly, Pizzeria Vivace makes very similar pies in Tucson, they're as good or better, and the drive is 15 miles, round trip.)
I'm sure I'll try Pizzeria Bianco someday. (Ed Levine, in Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, gives his "best pizza" in America award to PB.) My journey to LA has given me an operating hypothesis for the time being, however: Some dining experiences are not meant to be memorable. I'll never forget a meal I had at Aureole, a fine French restaurant in New York. Or the sweetbreads and grilled octopus I ate at Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante in Miami Beach in 2008. Or the Pinot Noir I had at Sogno Di Vino, the wine bar next to Buon Appetito in San Diego. (I remember how wonderful it was, and how annoyed I was that I didn't note the name.) Pizza, though, is pizza. It's good and certainly pleasurable. (Some have said that, like sex, when pizza is good it's great and when it's not so good, it's still pretty wonderful. Of course, never having experienced "not so good" sex, I can't say.) It may be, though, that it's simply too simple to be really wonderful. Just not one of those "I'll never forget it" foods. Or, maybe, I simply haven't had the best there is!!!
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