Review: La Grande Orange Pizzeria - Phoenix (w/ photos!)
- Seth Chadwick Jul 31, 2006 12:47 AM
It seems as though the hottest intersection in Phoenix metro is not some great thruway or even near a shopping mall. It isn’t where a huge number of businesses are congregated, like at 32nd Street and Camelback.
Instead, the hottest intersection is in a quiet neighborhood in the Arcadia District. The intersection is 40th Street and Campbell Road, which is halfway between Indian School and Camelback. In what use to be a post office, a marginal Swiss/Italian restaurant, and a Circle K, an upscale wind blew into the intersection and turned it into a magnet for all types of people from across the Valley.
The two main anchors for the intersection are Postino’s Wine Bar and La Grande Orange, a combination market and restaurant, half of which is a pizzeria. There is also a little curio shop of sorts and a specialty cake maker, along with a gelato shop. More seems to be coming in the near future.
But my focus was on the pizzeria. Several people had recommended the place to me and I couldn’t wait to try it. Neil, Dave the Roommate and I headed on over to the place to have dinner. The first thing we noticed is how dismal the parking is. Space is tight here and they do a good job of getting people out there to point out open spaces, but the spaces are small and you make have to park on the street, even down a few blocks, during prime time. We were lucky to get a space near the main entrance.
We entered and the place was almost full, with just a couple of tables left open. We only had to wait a moment before we were seated. We were taken to a booth, but asked for a table instead, which was met with a bit of surliness from the hostess. It wasn’t an unreasonable request, but such is the way of the world.
We waited about five minutes before our server arrived and Dave and I ordered Diet Cokes ($2.50 each) while Neil had an Iced Tea ($2.00). Our server returned with our drinks. Our Diet Cokes were served from the squat, little 8 ounce bottles brought with a tall glass of ice.
By this time, we were ready to order and we opted to go with two different pizzas. Our first choice was the Margherita Pizza ($12.00) and our second choice was the Sausage Pizza ($13.00). I also wanted a salad and thought the Orange Fennel Salad ($6.00) was dying to be tried. Our server was kind enough to tell us that the pizzas are made to order so it would be about 20 minutes before they were at the table. This was fine with us because the pizzas that were being carried by smelled heavenly.
As we waited, I was taking in the interior. I liked the dark woods and the bold color highlights that give the restaurant a passive, comfortable and clubby feeling. The floor to ceiling windows in the front of the restaurant really gave the place an airy feeling, and I adored the open air kitchen where you could see the cooks tossing pizza dough and peeking under crusts for doneness. Considering the hard floors and the openness, I was a bit surprised that the place wasn’t louder than it was, which was a nice change.
About five minutes passed and my salad was brought out. The salad was a good-sized serving of arugula tossed with sweet onions, goat cheese, diced fennel and whole marcona almonds. The dressing was a slight tangy and sweet orange champagne vinaigrette. The salad came with avocados, but I opted for those to stay in the kitchen.
The arugula was crisp and cold. I liked the marinated sweet onions and the goat cheese was prime. The dressing was delicious, but I couldn’t discern any champagne. The almonds were very crunchy and gave a nice texture to the salad. I was disappointed, however, in the lack of fennel. I love the anise taste of fennel and that only came through every so often. Still, I liked the salad greatly and would order it again. Neil and Dave also gave a thumbs up to the salad.
Just a little past 20 minutes from the time we placed our orders, our pizzas arrived. I was all but salivating when the Margherita Pizza was set on the stand that elevated it from the table. It was within striking distance of my nose and I was ready to attack it. I grabbed a slice, but not before our server dusted the top with fresh Parmesan cheese.
I took my first bite and love the crust. Slightly chewy, occasionally crisp, and perfectly cooked, this was an excellent crust that wasn’t doughy or charred beyond recognition. The tomato slices were not overly thick so they didn’t cook nor were they dried out. They were hot, sweet and melted in my mouth. There was plenty of cheese, but the winner for me was the fresh basil. The leaves had been sliced from a chiffanade and sprinkled liberally on the top after the pizza came out of the oven. The burst of flavor from the basil was outstanding. I had no complaints about the pizza at all. Dave and Neil agreed that the Margherita was very good.
The sausage pizza was closer to Neil and I reached over for a piece. Like the Margherita, this one had also been dusted with extra cheese from our server and it was fast melting. I tried a piece and was really surprised at how much I like it because I am not a big sausage fan. The flavor of the pizza was very bold, salty an a bit spicy. It was a fantastic contrast to the Margherita pizza. The sausage was top quality and I liked the fact that the sausage pieces were substantial instead of the small pellets you often get at other places. Oddly, I was the one who picked the Margherita pizza while Dave and Neil wanted the sausage pizza, but I ended up liking the sausage pizza more.
In any case, both pies were excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to return or do take out from this place in the future.
We passed on dessert and our leftovers were boxed up for our trip home. Our server presented our bill and the total was $40.54 which included tax. I was somewhat surprised to see that our additional bottles of Diet Coke were not counted for each order. I am not quite sure of their system, but I think you get two bottles for $2.50 and then you get charged for another two.
Service was good, save the surly hostess who didn’t like our table request. While our server was good and kept things moving and water glasses filled, I did notice that there is somewhat of a pecking order at La Grande Orange. While service to everyone is competent, the fashionable and trendy people get the smiles and the idle banter from the staff. Fine by me, but some people resent that and I think it deserves a mention. (Some people have noted that the “attitude” is even worse at Postino’s next door.)
We left La Grande Orange and then decided we would make room for gelato at Arlecchino’s right next door to La Grande Orange. We were pleased with the pizza and salad and felt the quality of the ingredients made the pizzas shine. We all agreed to come back and try some of their other pizza creations.
As we ventured back to the house, all was well. The car was now scented with sausage pizza and I was thinking about how this little intersection in the middle of a residential neighborhood suddenly because all the rage.
Of course, with good pizza and a great gelato place, I shouldn’t have been too surprised.
La Grande Orange Pizzeria
4410 North 40th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Notes: Parking is limited.
Additional photos for this review can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com
Great review, thanks!
I frequent this place quite bit for weekend brunch and sometimes weekday breakfast but I usually hit it at 8:45 or so. A bit after 9 am on weekends is when parking and the line start to get a little much by PHX standards.
The one time I had pizza here, can't remember what the order was but I concluded that I for this style of pizza I actually prefer Streets of New York, so haven't put in the effort to revisit in the evening. Didn't enjoy it a much as you did, I think I'll make another trip and give it another go!
But I've sampled most of the breakfast/brunch menu. It's counter service in the mornings, so I haven't had much exposure to the table waitstaff. I've always found the counter service to be friendly.
Two brunch favorites: I love the "french pancakes" here, they're very thin almost crepe-like and always consistently great. Another favorite is the poached eggs on toast with prosciutto. The bread is always great, the poached eggs always have nice molten yolk... the proscuitto used to be so good and so plentiful that at one point I considered ordering this and removing the prosciutto as a more economical alternative to buying 1/4 lb of galloni at whole foods... at some point along the way they have started serving less prosciutto and I think they changed brands, it's not as good and may no longer be "di parma", maybe some domestic version.
The house-made granola with yoghurt and fruit is also nice, but it was much better when they used to prepare to order. At some point they started pre-mixing the granola and yoghurt and placing it in the cooler case, and the granola is not as crunchy and fresh-tasting as it was. Also, quality of the fruit served varies widely... sometimes excellent sometimes blah. Chalk that up to the market though.
So, while this place does seem to have deteriorated slightly as the crowds have grown, it's still a darn good solid morning spot unqiue in Phoenix and with a great atmosphere and a neighborhood "buzz" that beats the suburban quiet of many other options.
My favorite gelato next door is the blood orange... and I'm thrilled to see a gelato spot opening up at Greenway and 40th! Don't give a hoot about gelato-gate, both are good. Prefer Arlecchino's though.
Next time when you order Take out try the gladiator, this is the hubby and my favorite next to the roasted corn and goat cheese pizza. I love that they use Schriener’s Sasauge, I have been eating at Schreiner’s since High School as my friends parents owned the place so I know the ingredients are good. I haven’t had much of a service issue at LGO but find it completely pretentious and unnecessary at Postino, which is why we usually opt for Sportsman’s for wine and cheese.
I will also be frequenting Arlecchino's more and just found out expecting first kidlet and all I want is to eat cold and creamy foods.
Congratulations!!! Great news. And you need to have your first kidlet be a Chowhound, so of course you much eat lots of gelato. :o)
Now you too can have fun in locating all the decent, yet kid-friendly spots around town.
A tried the other gelato joint just up the street from Arlecchino's, and the quality just wasn't the same. We still remember that great pistachio.
sorry to threadjack Seth.
Can you compare La Grande to Pizzeria Bianco? I went to Bianco a few weeks ago and I still can't get the unforgettable taste of their fennel sausage out of my mind. In addition to the orgiastic food, the staff showed none of the elitism that you found evident at La Grande.
If La Grande snubbed your group, I can only imagine the kind of attitude they'll give the Deaf.
I cannot compare the two because I haven't been to Pizzeria Bianco. I am still wrestling with the idea of waiting up to two hours for pizza. Perhaps when the weather cools a bit.
That being said, my first inclination is to give the nod to PB. From the reviews here and the media, I would say that while LGO is "great," PB would be "fantastic."
Sorry I couldn't be of more assistance.
re: Seth Chadwick
We waited three. Believe me, it was worth the wait. While we waited, we grabbed some drinks at Bar Bianco, which was next door. They have a nice, esoteric wine list and some good local beers. The beer was four dollars a pint, which isn't too brutal. Wine was closer to ten dollars a glass. If that sounds too pricey for your wallet, there are plenty of bars in the area which are a few blocks away. You'll have time to walk, for sure.
Appreciate your reviews and this is no exception. Thanks for the photos, but I have a question: what constitutes a Margherita Pizza? OK, I know tomato slices, basil and cheese, but what else? I looked for a site for LGO, but never found one. By the name (spelling not withstanding), I almost expected lime slices and a rim of salt.
BTW, I usually request a table, where eve we dine, as my wife has undergone a hip-replacement, and a booth creates some real problems. I've never had the request looked upon with disdain. Too bad, as that sort of attitude is not good for return customers.
Also, am I correct that it is a BYOB (wine, in my case) establishment? Seems that I recall that comment being made by someone else, on another board. With Postino's in the same general space, this should not be a problem.
re: Bill Hunt
Unfortunatley, no, this isn't a BYOB place. I'm there about once a week for a work lunch or meeting. They do serve beer & wine by the glass/bottle though. There is also a small wine section in the corner of the shop (with surprisingly good prices). They make allow you to buy a bottle from the shop, since, essentially is all the same place -- retail & restaurant.
LGO doesn't have a website, which is such a pain in the neck in this day and age. Craig DiMarco doesn't have a site for any of his restos (Postino, Chelsea's Kichen, etc.)
Margherita pizza -- a history lesson. First made in Naples for the Italian Queen Margherita. A pizza of red, green and white the colors of the Italian flag. What a kiss up he was, huh?
re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
Thanks for the history lesson. Sounds beautiful, AND much more appetizing, than lime wedges and rock salt - whew!
Also appreciate the wine info. I must have mis-remembered who the BYOB restaurant in that area was. Just so long as they have wine in one form, or another.
Just had my first pizza experience at LGO. The bleu cheese and arugula created a did-that-just-happen reaction. My friend got plain sausage (a NYker). It was delicious, but not blow my mind. I was most impressed at the incredible crust, as many places with delicious pie toppings have sub-par crust. It's not only got the requisite blance of chew and crust, but had a slight croissant like layering.
Here's the reall reason for the post though...
Does anyone know what is going in across the street? Apparently it's associated with LGO
It's going to be a new Italian place. It's owned by Craig Dimarco, the guy who owns LGO. Not sure when it'll open.