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Pizzeria Bianco - 623 East Adams, Heritage Square, Phoenix, AZ., USA
While reviewing information about restaurants to visit during our annual Arizona vacation, Pizzeria Bianco came up on The Phoenix New Times internet site. The reviewer, a Howard Seftel, cited this restaurant as the number one restaurant in Phoenix, and waxed eloquently about the excellence of the pizza. He stated that "This is, hands down, the best pizza in Arizona, and maybe west of Naples".
We ate there on two occasions during two successive annual trips to the Scottsdale-Phoenix area. After the first visit the following quickly became obvious:
Most likely, Mr. Seftel never ate pizza in Naples.
After the second visit, we concluded that:
Pizzeria Bianco should not be ranked as one of the best restaurants in Phoenix.
Upon arrival at the restaurant, the fellow at the door was competent, and contrary to all that we have read about long waits at the restaurant were seated us in record time.
We were served bread and the now obligatory olive oil for dipping while waiting. The bread was edible, but the oil was either pure -- as opposed to extra virgin oil, or it was the poorest grade of extra virgin olive oil possible for Chris Bianco, the genial owner, to purchase. It was highly acidic, and burned as it passed down our throats. What made this worse was the note at the bottom of the menu which indicated that extra virgin olive oil was available, at $2.00 an ounce! Insulting is the first word that comes to mind. Greedy is the second.
We ordered a roasted vegetable appetizer, and it arrived quickly. It was well cooked and would have been good without the poor quality olive oil with which it was dressed. After that however, things went down hill fast. As stated, our appetizers came promptly, but by our waitress did not take our entree order for quite some time.
When the pizze finally arrived, they were overdone. They had been left in the wood burning oven for so long that the cheese no longer had any moisture left, and was the consistency of leather. The crust was a thick dark brown substance, and was tough. Needless to say we did not finish them.
We decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and passed on dessert.
The wine, a 1995 Coltibuono Chianti was good, and fairly priced at $20.00 a bottle.
The cost of the meal was $59.06 including the tip. In our opinion this was $39.06 too much.
We returned to Phoenix a year later, and decided to try Pizzeria Bianco again. The restaurant was packed, and we waited at the bar for about 30 minutes. As was the case during our first visit, the staff, especially the bartender, were cordial and efficient.
We ordered two pizze, a plate of roasted vegetables and a bottle of wine. As was the case in the previous visit, the wine was quite good. When they arrived, the vegetables were cold . The pizze were so over baked that they were inedible. Again, things had not improved since our first visit. We left the pizze, uneaten, on the plate, paid our bill and left.
We are unable to comprehend why or how this restaurant continues to garner rave reviews. It certainly is a local hangout, and one which is easy to enjoy as far as the ambiance is concerned. The historical building is very nicely done, and the outside seating area is great on warm evenings. The atmosphere is a bit "clubby", in that if you are known to the proprietors , seating is much more rapid. That is not uncommon in the restaurant business, and we were mildly amused to see that Bianco's is not different in that regard.
Will we return on our next trip to see if things have improved? Probably not, as we seldom give restaurants a second, let alone a third, chance.