Thursday, January 23, 2014

On Pizzeria Bianco

Considering that I usually space out chocolate reviews, I will assure you that I am only going to give the barest hint of a chocolate review today: what I really want to relate is an entire experience.

Most of us common folk don't often have the "complete culinary experience." A nice dinner might have an appetizer, entree, and dessert. But I don't think most of us, especially those of us who have chosen to live away from cities, often sit down for a long extent of time and make an entire evening out of dinner. And that's why I enjoy Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

It's by Downtown, right next to the Science Center. A cute little brick building with an almost completely glass front, it's always busy. Instantly busy. So you go in, give your name, and then hang out for an hour or two waiting for your table. There are seats outside, if you want to wait there when the weather's nice. But there's also a next-door building with additional tables where you can order drinks and appetizers; they let you know there when your table's ready in the restaurant. Usually there's someone there with a guitar, singing and playing.

A charming building, it has small rooms, mismatched tables, and pictures on the walls. House of Tricks in Tempe could be its cousin. Both times I've gone, we've ordered the cheese plate and some wine. For once, you have the chance to sit, unhindered, and just be. Conversation, music, and simple, fine food put together in a quiet environment make for a relaxing start to the evening. There are always three types of cheeses, along with a few other items, and I always enjoy seeing which flavors each person likes best.

When time has passed, you slip over next door to your waiting table. Start with iced tea and a salad and place your pizza order. Order as a group so that you can taste more than one. Then sit and watch as, just over the low brick wall, they pull the pizzas in and out of the oven. The atmosphere here is more vivid, less lazy than next door: next door was fun, but this is what everyone came for. Everyone came for the much lauded, much praised pizzas of Pizzeria Bianco.

The crust is rustic, a little toasty on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. I proclaim each time, much to the surprise of my groupies, that I still prefer the crust at Bill's Pizza in Prescott (it's almost sweet somehow), but there's still no denying that Bianco's has a good dough. All their ingredients are amazing. Their sauce is fresh and sprightly; you can taste it especially in the pizza that has no cheese or in the basic Margherita pizza. We ordered one pizza per person and moved them around the table, switching and switching them until we'd tried them all.

This last time, we shared a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. I have mentioned before, right, that I make flourless chocolate cake? It's quite easy, really, provided you're using good chocolate (and I mean good chocolate). So it's difficult for me to go to restaurants and have flourless chocolate cake that isn't as good as mine. But goodness, I believe Pizzeria Bianco makes the best flourless chocolate cake I have yet had the pleasure to taste. While others are good, this one was perfect. I think it raised my opinion of the entire restaurant by a few notches. Perfect texture and flavor provided a complete chocolate experience; I don't say that lightly.

I finished with an espresso, just a taste of strong coffee to bring the experience back down to earth. A walk out through the cold night, a glance at the watch to see how many hours have passed since you arrived, and there is the experience of Pizzeria Bianco.

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