One of the fringe benefits of my job is that I get to travel to an awful lot of cities. Whenever I travel, I have decided to spend any free time I have in the pursuit of tracking down the city's best pizza. I had the fortunate occasion to be in Phoenix from last Sunday through Wednesday and mapped out my strategy to finally taste Pizzeria Bianco's famed pie. I know the topic is titled Grimaldi's but I had no intention of eating there initially. It seems that there are two pizza joints which are not open when I try to visit them - Una Pizza Napoletana and Bianco. No matter how hard I try, there is always a reason why I fail.
This time the reason turned out to be that Bianco's was closed on the lone evening I had open - Monday. It's always something. I'm beginning to think that my first true Neapolitan pie will be tasted when I finally get around to building my backyard oven.
Anyway, back to Grimaldi's.
I decided to try the second best pizzeria in Phoenix as my consolation prize and I was mildly impressed in the end. First up was a Margherita. What a disappointment. The Margherita's crust was undercooked, bland tasting with no spring. The sauce was still overly sweet (just like in Brooklyn). While the cheese was the real McCoy, the oven was not anywhere near the required temperature to turn out a convincing NY style coal-fired pie. The char was light brown instead of black, is the best visual I can create with words to describe the crust's appearance. The crust felt more crackerish and hard instead of soft and supple. I commented to myself that the slices were like Granny's biscuits on the Beverly Hillbillies. Apparently their oven had door issues according to the pizza maker and they had a hard time keeping the oven temperature up.
Then it dawned on me. The Grimaldi's in Brooklyn can't seem to make a competent Margherita either. The balance of ingredients always seems to be off. They are most successful at making a pie with lots of toppings. Not that I have anything against that particular approach or anything. I have learned that one is better off going with the wind than against it no matter what my personal preference may be. So I decided to take matters in my own hands and order a pepperoni and sausage pie with extra cheese and half the sauce. It was an out and out winner. Though I must admit the crust was charred better on the second pie, they could benefit from a refresher course by the boys in Brooklyn about how to fire their oven. I ate there at approximately 6:30 at night and the crowd was sparse considering there was a football game on the TV. The point is the oven should have been hotter.
Overall, I suppose the pie was above average and a real find in a far away place like Phoenix which is not known for killer pies (with the exception of Bianco).