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Santino’s Pizzeria & Trattoria
Our Fave… Sei ($19.95)
We are unabashed in our admiration for Vlad Costa’s 15.Quince Grill & Cantina, so when Vlad opened up Santino’s Pizzeria & Trattoria in March in the spot that formerly housed Belgian Jennie’s Bordello Bistro & Pizzeria, we knew it was going to be good. Inside, seven stressed-copper-topped tables seat just 29, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait. The space has been completely remodeled with beautiful wood floors and walls adorned with large Italian-style posters commissioned for Vlad. Inside the teeny-tiny kitchen, which boasts a window where passersby can watch the action, you’ll find a ginormous (think 5 feet tall) stand-up mixer where Vlad makes his New York-style crust (there’s a gluten-free option, too) each day. The kicker: The New York native ships in water from the Catskill Mountains for the dough. “Water is really important for the perfect pizza dough,” he says. Obviously.
Vlad, who received his training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and has the honor of being one of the youngest master chefs in the country, creates all of the recipes. Vlad moved to Arizona seven years ago; he opened 15.Quince, his first foray into restaurant ownership, four years ago. Just like its sister restaurant, Santino’s focuses on consistency and quality. The pizza sauce is made from fresh tomatoes and the spices all come from Mount Hope foods in Cottonwood. And while 15.Quince has a boisterous atmosphere, Santino’s is more refined, or “high-end without being snobbish,” as Vlad says.
“A restaurant is like a match,” he says. “When you hold it, it’s nothing until you light it and it comes alive. A restaurant is nothing until it fills with people and the smells of cooking. There’s an imagination behind it – it’s almost like reading a book.”
Our favorite pizza here is the Sei: creamy pesto sauce, thick slices of sopressata, New Mexico green chilies, caramelized onions, whole cloves of roasted garlic and mozzarella. It’s garnished with fresh spinach leaves. We love the marriage of the strong flavors and the satisfying heft of each slice. This is one of the most filling pies on our list.
Santino’s Pizzeria & Trattoria, 412 Main St. in Jerome (928-649-6075)
Vinnie’s New York Chefs Pizzeria
Our Fave… Pepperoni Party Sheet ($19.99)
Vinnie’s New York Chefs Pizzeria in Cottonwood is so authentic that the New Yorkers on our staff get misty-eyed just by pulling into the parking lot. Vinnie Yatsinko opened the joint 11 years ago, but he’s been making and selling pizza since he was a teenager in Long Island, tossing dough at Tony’s Pizza before he was of legal working age. “I’ve made millions of pizzas,” says Vinnie, wearing a black Mingus High School Football T-shirt, his New York accent still thick. So what’s the strangest pizza ever requested? “There was this pregnant lady who would come in for peanut-butter-and-tuna pizzas,” he says. “That’s no joke.”
When we visited Vinnie’s, he was at his original location in a strip mall next to Safeway, though he’s in the process of moving to the corner of SR 89A and 6th Street. The windows were covered in painted advertisements, and the interior walls featured framed photos of local youth sports teams. Vinnie’s 19-year-old son, Doug, was kneading dough behind the counter. Family snapshots were tacked onto the soda fountain, and the glass case near the register housed some of the largest slices of pizza you’ll find west of Mulberry Street in New York City’s Little Italy.
Customers drive from Sedona (and even from Prescott and Phoenix) daily for Vinnie’s pizza. Our personal favorite is his Sicilian-style pie, which he calls a Party Sheet. The rectangular pizza features a super-thick crust and boasts 32 – no, that’s not a typo – slices. We like ours topped very simply: red sauce, cheese and pepperoni. The pie arrives with the cheese slowly melting over the edge. The spongy dough is topped with lots of sauce, and it’s evenly cooked from one side to the next. “That’s the kind of pizza I eat,” says Vinnie.
Vinnie’s New York Chefs Pizzeria, 1675 E. Cottonwood St. in Cottonwood (928-646-3333)
by Liz Smith
Pizzeria Bianco has been lauded by the likes of Oprah, Martha Stewart, Food Network stars and others. But don’t let the hype fool you. The food’s not the most noteworthy facet of this legendary locals’ fave. What’s more legendary, in our opinion, is the three-hour wait the restaurant is known for. (This writer has waited two hours in the past and notes that it was on a weeknight.) So if you’re impatient, be forewarned.
But if you’re ready to make your meal an event, this is the perfect excuse to kick back with a glass (or several) of wine at next-door Bar Bianco – to catch up with old friends or to get to know a potential date or business prospect thoroughly – as your anticipation mounts to be seated for the main course in the intimate, rustic dining room.
There, you’ll find the menu simple and straightforward: three salads, two small plates and six pizzas to choose from. Among the tempting options, the Wiseguy (wood-roasted onion, house-smoked mozzarella and fennel sausage), the Biancoverde (fresh mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta and arugula) and the Rosa (red onion, parmesan, rosemary and pistachios).
Local tip: The restaurant is located in Phoenix’s Heritage Square, which means if you come for a leisurely lunch, you can top off your visit with an afternoon at one of several nearby attractions including the Arizona Science Center, which houses a planetarium, IMAX theater and hands-on learning exhibits.
Pizzeria Bianco, 623 E. Adams St. in Phoenix (602-258-8300)
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