On tonight’s Cooking Channel episode of “Best in Chow” host Cris Nannarone went to torrid Tempe, Ariz. to find the best pizza. Cris, a veteran road warrior, took his love for food and people on this search and gave them the opportunity to judge Tempe’s best pizza.
Cris was in this ultimate university town, home of the Arizona State Sun Devils and more than 73,000 hungry students. What would a college town be without pizza? As he met up with hungry fans entering Sun Devil Stadium, he asked where he could get the best pizza. First he heard, Venezia’s for their New York style pizza, Nello’s for their thick-crust pizza and La Bocca was another place pizza lovers raved about.
So Cris went to La Bocca Urban Pizzeria & Wine Bar and met up with Julian Wright, the owner and chef who bragged about his vegetarian pizza. Cris is a carnivore, and this was not exactly what this Italian boy was looking for, so he needed convincing. As Julian made the pizza, he gently added cheese, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes and into the pizza oven at 700 degrees. When it came out, he added a sprinkling of truffle oil, goat cheese, covered it with spinach and balsamic dressing. Cris admitted he was wrong; the Truffled Mushroom Pizza was fantastic and Julian believes that his entry will most certainly win the Tempe Pizza War.
Next top on Cris’ hunt for his pizza PHD was Venezia’s where he met up with third-generation owner, Domenick Montanile, who gave Cris the scoop on his New York style pizza. It is a big pie, 18 or 24 inches, and they bring in the flour from New York. Domenick confessed to Cris, that when they first opened, the Tempe crowd was not ready for New York style pizza and he would cry on Friday nights because they had no customers. This situation has changed dramatically, as the place is always buzzing with hungry customers. Domenick made The Park Avenue, containing artichoke hearts, fresh spinach, garlic, fresh tomato, & grilled chicken. Domenick then told Cris about the party pizza, it was a challenge they do for two people to finish this 24” pizza in an hour or less and the pizza is free. So Cris went to find someone to take the challenge with him; the young woman was no match for the pizza, as she did not even finish her first slice, but Domenick is up for the challenge to win the best pizza in Tempe.
Next, Cris went to Nello’s where their slogan “in crust we trust” is how the founders, Geno and Brian Mei operate. Now their friend Eric Gronning sells the brother’s Chicago-style pizza in Tempe. Cris loves this thick crust pizza and also likes it well done. Eric made a margarita pizza with a twist. He starts with their famous secret recipe dough, then adds olive oil, Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic, fresh basil, stewed tomatoes, and a secret blend of sausage, fontinella and mozzarella cheese. Cris got his wish to have his well done,and he loved every bite. He raved about the crust and the ingredients came through every bite. Both the founders and the owner agreed that the margarita pizza with sausage was the best pizza in Tempe.
So Cris rounded up nine of Tempe’s lovers of pizza and put them to the test. They drove around in a stretch limousine and visited each place where they got to vote for their favorite. In the end, Cris told the owners that each pizza was awesome, but only one could be the winner.
The winner of the “Best in Chow” pizza wars in Tempe was Nello’s, congratulations to chef Eric and the brothers Geno and Brian, who made it possible. Hope you enjoy that pizza trophy!
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