Pizzeria Bianco Ė part one here at reply #99http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3654.80.html
Well I finally made it back to Biancoís and got to eat the pizza this time.
The last time I was there, it was during their annual vacation and I got to meet and chat with Chris but didnít get to taste the pizza.
I wanted to show up at 3:30pm for the 5 oíclock opening but did not account for rush hour traffic. That put us there at 4pm. There was about 25-30 people waiting outside already. Luckily itís winter there now so the temp was about 65F or so and sunny. I asked a few folks where the line was and promptly took my place. While in line, I made small talk with one of the regulars about pizza and it turns out that he too is a pizza fanatic. He travels from Vegas to Phoenix on occasion and makes sure to give Biancoís a visit each time. Chatting pizza with my new acquintance made the hour wait go by pretty quick. He told me that they can seat between 40-45 people at one time and then the others would have to wait until people leave. Well I was for sure in the first group so I was happy about that.
Just as the doors opened, the hostess said loudly, ď_______,Party of 8 your table is ready!Ē Apparently some folks had made reservations months in advance. Parties have to be at least 8 ppl and they are booked 2-3 months out. Well after a few minutes, a couple of cabs pulled up and out came about 8 ppl dressed in business attire with their brief cases, some with their carry on luggage.
Apparently these ppl had just gotten off the plane and barely made it. After they made their way through the crowd and into the restaurant, others were let in and seated. Just as we made our way to the front, the hostess said, okay weíre full, so Iíll have to shut the front door.
She took our name and told us it would be about an hour plus wait! Darn that party of 8!
After about 10 minutes or so, out comes the maitre dí. Frank, introduces himself and proceeds to explain to crowd what Biancoís is all about. Fresh local ingredients, dough made fresh daily, etc. He recommends the Margherita saying that it is the most widely photograph pizza. Pointing to the sky, he said that if you see aliens descending on Phoenix, they are coming for the pizza. Frank is a funny guy. He also mentions that if we wanted, we could go over to Pan Bianco, Chris' bar next door and have drinks while we wait. Taking his suggestion, I decided to check it out and then walked around the building to see if I can see the fresh herbs.
As I walked around the back of the building I spotted Chris but heís on the phone. He sees me but I donít think he recognizes me from our first visit. Not wanting to bother him, I continue walking back around to the front to chat with my father in law. After awhile, I see Chris in and out of the restaurant chatting with his staff. Last time I spoke with Horrachio (one of his pizza makers), I was told that Chris hasnít been making pizza the last couple of years because of health reasons.
It is now 30min into the wait and Iím getting bored. I decided that I would like to watch the guys make pizza and maybe time a few bakes just to kill some time. I asked the hostess if that would be okay and promise I wouldnít get in the way of the staff. She said yes and directed me to a spot right in front of the guys making pizza. There are 3 guys. One to open the dough, one to dress the pies, and a third to bake them. Just as I made it to my spot, I turned to my left and who do I see? Itís the Man himself! I really wasnít expecting to see him this time or get to chat with him again, but just in case I did, I had questions ready for him. I re-introduced myself but I can tell Chris doesnít remember. Quickly I pulled out my camera and showed him the picture we took together a few months ago. Chris gets a big smile on his face and says that he does remember me. Not knowing how much time I would have with him, I picked up right where we left off last. I jokingly told him I came on behalf of the forum and that members had questions for him. He chuckled and said to send his regards to the guys. The restaurant is small and it can get a bit noisy in there.
Me: Last we spoke Chris, you mentioned you were going to Italy to search out old world flours. Did you ever make it there?
Chris: No. Right now we are really focusing on North American flours. We are working with several millers and looking at some different flours. One out of Utah. (He mentioned a few other states but they escape me now).
Me: Are you still using Giustoís flour? If so what protein % is that? Are you blending it with anything or using it straight?
Chris: Yes, itís about 13%. I like to mix a bit of a stronger flour in, like a (winter/sp?) hard wheat. (I tried to press Chris for a % of the stronger flour but he didnít say).
Me: how about the dough Chris?
Chris: Itís all done by hand.
Me: Yes, but do you more of a straight mix or do you rest it and come back to it.
Chris: rest periods are good for the dough.
Me: And you also cold ferment the dough correct? Or do you make it in the morning and itís baked later that evening?
Chris: Cold fermentation is good. It helps develop the flavor. (I then try to press Chris for the exact times and the workflow). 16-18 hours is good. It really depends on humidity and other factors. (I couldnít tell if Chris was distracted or just not in the sharing mood so I stopped pressing him and moved on).
Me: Chris, since you cold ferment the dough, do you add an oil to it?
chris: No, never oil.
We chatted briefly about his use of cake yeast and old dough and then moved onto talking about the cheese.
Me: Chris I know you make your own cheese but do you also make the curd or do you buy the curd?
Chris: We use to make it ourselves but the health department wants a separate work area, so we buy the curd now. Right now we are working with someone from LA to get goatís milk curd.
Me: What brand of curd do you like to use? Iíve used Polly-O and Belgioso before and I really like Polly-O. Belgioso seems a bit rubbery to me. What temps are you stretching it at? I read that 170F is good.
Chris: Yeah, Polly-O is good. So is Grande. Belgioso can be but it depends how you work it. Stretch it hotter at 180 degrees.
Just then our waiter told us our table is ready and Chris said he had to go. I thanked him for his time and took my seat. I looked around the room and got a couple of nods from different people. I guess they must have seen me interrogating Chris. Lol.
We were promptly served our drinks, bread with EVOO (Queenís Creek OO). We ordered the caprese salad, a margherita and a wise guy pie. The bread looked pretty but it wasn't the best. It should have been retoasted more.
The caprese salad came quickly. Everything was fresh. The basil, organic tomatoes, hand stretched cheese, swimming in OO. Overall the caprese was pretty good. Itís hard to go wrong with fresh and lots of OO. The cheese was lacking IMO and could have been much better.
While waiting for our pizza, I meandered over to the pizza making station again and watch the guys open a few dough balls and bake a few pies. The dough looks great. Itís white and well fermented and has lots of bubbles distributed throughout after itís open. The dough opens very easily. They have a very unique method of opening the dough. Itís mostly gravity doing the work. The guys flip the skin from hand to hand, flipping over at every turn, allowing gravity to do most if not all of the stretching. The skins are stretched thin. Very thin in the center and a good size rim is left on the edge. The pies are topped moderately and baked on the outskirts of the hearth. The oven looks big to me and the fire is roaring with the flames licking the ceiling and arching over, just as on the website. The pies are baked rather far from the the fire. About 1-2 pie widths away from the fire and baked along the wall. I asked and am told by one of the guys that the pies bake for about 2.5-3 minutes depending on how heavily it is topped.
When the pies come out of the oven, they are sliced and served hot. The pies looked beautiful. Lots of charring on the rim. The bottom was not nearly as toasted as the rim. The cheese and sauce melded together perfectly giving it that molten cheese lava look. More elite NY-ish than NP look. When the slice is held out the tip had moderate droop to it. The center of the pie is very thin, almost too thin while there is quite a bit of rim, almost too much. IMO, this could have been balanced out a bit better. There was also a bit too much sea salt sprinkled on the top of the margherita.
The sauce was a bit scarce and hard to judge on itís own. The cheese again is okay if eaten hot. The crust was really good. Texturally it was very pleasing and done right. Crisp on the outside and very soft, tender on the inside almost like cotton. If squeezed, the fat rim gave way easily. The crumb structure is small celled and not opened like one of my typical pies, but it was exceedingly soft without the use of oil. The moisture of the crumb was just right. Not wet and not dry. It was very much like eating a good bread. The crust had a bit of chew to it but not overly chewy. I noticed that if I folded a slice up and ate the crust folded, meaning that I ate a lot of crust at once, then the chewiness was noticeable, but not overly. So it was semi-melt in your mouth. The flavor of the crust was just okay but obvious that the dough is not made with a starter and/or not subjected to a lengthy cold fermentation. The sauce and cheese seemed a bit sparse to me but it was well balanced with the thinness of the slice. The wise guy was good as well. Here, the onions and the crust stood out to me. My father in law really like the housemade sausage. I felt it could have had more flavor and ofcourse more fat. I don't believe in fat free sausage.
We ended up with a few slices to go. The ticket was around $40 for 2 pies, caprese salad, and a couple of drinks. All in all it was a great visit. Great to be able to chat with Chris again. I leave thinking about how often Chris must have the same pizza conversations with fans on a daily basis. But he always seems to take the time and give as much of himself as he can. The food was good and I would definitely recommend Biancoís if you happen to be in the neighborhood. If you want to be one of the first to be seated and eating early, I would show up at 3:30pm. If you don't mind eating at 7:30 or later, then show up at 7pm. The wait is longest if you've missed being in the first group to get in and much shorter as the night goes on. It seemed that folks showing up at 7pm did not have to wait as long for a seat.