I'm glad my work is of value to you. I have a blast traveling around the U.S. pizza hunting. In the past month or so I went to four well known pizzerias with only one being a huge disappointment (Grimaldi's of Old Scottsdale). Settebello in Las Vegas, Spacca Napoli in Chicago, and Bianco in Phoenix were all top notch in their own way. What is the difference between a Grimaldi's and the other three? Easy answer. Settebello, Spacca Napoli, and Bianco all try to produce the best pie they can. The owners surely get up every day with the goal of producing their best. Grimaldi's doesn't.
When I complained about the lack of charring and the ten minute bake time on the day I went to Grimaldi's the manager on duty, Nick, confessed that the oven wasn't cranked up because they weren't expecting a big lunch crowd. What? I had to do a double take on that one. I then asked what the size of the crowd had to do with operating a coal oven at the proper temperature. Temperatures Grimaldi's is known for. Nick didn't have a plausible answer and I didn't have any appetite for chain store type pizza. Suffice to say that the pie was so bad that I ended up leaving a few slices behind. That type of business decisioning on the part of Grimaldi's ownership is representative of poor thinking and it borders on deceptive practices. It smacks of they wouldn't spend the extra money to give their customers what they are really paying for and more importantly what they advertise. Afterall, only a small group of customers was disappointed so who is to really notice. Repulsive business practice and not one which the boys in Brooklyn would stand for I'm sure. For the record, I have eaten at Grimaldi's of Old Scottsdale twice over the past year and each time there has been an oven issue of one sort or another. I will not go back. With that out of the way, let's discuss your question in some detail.
Out of the five pies we ordered, only two had any tomato sauce on them at all - the Margherita and Sonny Boy. The Margherita, which was my personal favorite, did have what was perhaps the best balance of crust, cheese, and sauce I have ever had the pleasure of eating. It also had an industrial strength Basil leaf or two on it which was as strong and flavorful as my home-grown Neapolitan Basil. I can't really say that the sauce stood out. In fact, I'm sure it did not. It wasn't designed to. I'm certain the sauce blended perfectly with what I had imagined a Margherita should taste like. I enjoyed mouthfuls of;
- pure crust (when eating the rim),
- crust and sauce,
- crust and cheese,
- crust, sauce, and cheese, and finally
- crust, sauce, cheese, and basil.
I found each one of the five different possibilities listed above to be highly desirable. For whatever reason, they matched my preconceived notion of what they should taste like. And isn't that why pizza is such a good comfort food. When times are good, we all go out and get a good pizza because we just "know" how it will taste and it adds to the fun. When times are bad, we all go out and get a pie because we "know" we can count on it being just as we remembered the last time. It is the perfect food in that sense isn't it?
What was amazing about the Margherita, for me, was how Chris designed it - where the crust was the real star of the show. The uber intentional showcasing of the crust was not the case with any of the other pies we ordered. On all the other pies, the toppings were the stars. They simply overpowered the crust and reminded me of a California style of pie. I think that may have been why the Rosa scored so high. The combination of unusual topping combinations nearly stopped all of us in our tracks and caused us to actually think about what we just ate. In my case, I savored every bite.
The genius of Chris Bianco, in my mind, is his ability to produce completely different styles of pies at the highest levels of quality. All the while producing an overall taste which was simply delicious. I mentioned in the original post about how everyone at our table felt that their last place selection was still better than any pizza they had ever eaten. Imagine that. The worst this guy has to offer was still better than the best we had all ever had. My head is still trying to digest that one.
If I had to isolate the base taste of his tomato sauce I would say they were similar to other tomatoes I had eaten while at the Scottsdale Princess during my stay. That is to say, they tasted completely different from the Florida Ugly Ripe. How? Well they seemed to possess a different texture and flavor profile bordering on creamy and fresh rather than what I'm used to which could be described as meaty and fresh. My sauce is chunky and fresh, Bianco's was creamy and fresh with some sort of organic tinge. I did not detect any spices in his sauce save perhaps for salt.
Let me know how else I can assist.