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Phoenix Pizza - Oreganos?

Looking through azcentral's "Best of 2008" list, Oreganos was chosen in just about every category for best restaurant. Of course I laughed that it was picked as best date place and best dessert, but after the 6th time seeing it I started wondering. Is this place any good, or is it just a trendy chain pizza joint that non-foody arizonans like? Worth a try?

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  1. A discussion of those topics from earlier in the week:


    Mostly about the poll, but with a smattering of opinions about the food at Oregano's.

    1. If you are looking for a cheap inedible pie, Oreganos is the place to go. The crust is soggy cardboard and the toppings are devoid of flavor.

      On the other hand, the salad that we had was pretty decent.
      We have been to Humble Pie a couple of times in the past 2 weeks and it is excellent. The crust is puffy and lightly charred in places and the version with Schreiners Italian sausage was one of the best pies that we have had in the PHX area. Don't miss the green bean app. We have been to Bianco's and it is a great pie, but no pizza justifies a 2 hour wait.

      1. I would not call it trendy, but I find it a good place for lunch or a laid back dinner with friends. The atmosphere is casual dining and the decor is a little retro chic. think framed Rat Pack albums and old magazine covers. It is definitely cleaner and hipper than most national chains.

        The food is better than average, but not haute cuisine of Italy. Portions are generous and they have a variety of pizza, pasta, salads and sandwiches based on Chicago style dishes and recipes. They also do a half baked cookie dough and ice cream desert that is thorough comfort food enjoyment.

        It is not what I would call a destination restaurant, but as a place to have a good quality meal with friends on a weekday night, I think it's fine.

        And as for the Republic reader's poll, if you saw the other choices they gave you to pick from in the category lists, Oregano's winning so much makes sense. The poll had a lot of real low end stuff listed as options, so Oreganos was like a filet in a pile of hot dogs in many categories.

        Mmmm, hot dogs ... gotta go ...

        1. Oregano's is a chain pizzeria. Enough said.

          9 Replies
          1. re: firecracker

            Hardly enough said. Is 8 stores in Arizona enough to push a decent local brand into the same category as a Domino's or a Pizza Hut? I don't think so.

            We complain alot on this board about the lack decent local food not affiliated with big corporate chains, then when a concept actually works and they are able to open up more than one location, everybody starts wagging their fingers and saying "chain" like they sold out somehow.

            I say good for them and I hope they open more stores, and try other concepts. And the same for Fox, LGO, Arriba, and any other independent, family operator that can save us from Applebee's and Cheesecake Factory.

              1. re: kmarg

                Call it personal preference, but I just try to avoid chains. Food at chain restaurants has a sameness about it and is usually unremarkable. The fact that Oregano's is an Arizona based chain is fine, but it doesn't change my opinion of their product.

                1. re: firecracker

                  Yet you recommend Anthony's on another thread regarding waterfront dining in Kirkland. My husband and I very much miss walking down to the Kirkland location for Sunday brunch as a matter of fact, however Anthony's is in fact a long established local chain in Seattle, n'est-ce pas? Even an airport location these days!

                  On topic, Oreganos can be a fun place to go. My folks love it so we all go as a group a couple times a year. The wait drives me buggy however and on my own don't find it worth the wait...though I can't really think of anywhere I'd wait that long for.

                  1. re: ziggylu

                    Actually, I believe the question was on outdoor dining when the weather is good in the area. There simply aren't that many places with an outdoor patio and for good reason! Eight months of showers!

                    I agree with you, ziggy, on waits anywhere simply not being worth it!

                    1. re: firecracker

                      Give me the Slip in Kirkland for burgers and beers on the patio!

                      1. re: azhotdish

                        I agree, azhotdish! Tiny little place with a great selection of burgers and brews!

                        1. re: firecracker

                          We used to love the Slip as well. Sigh....it's going to be 108 this week here, this is the time of year we REALLY miss living up there and being so close to the water...

                  2. re: firecracker

                    Keyword: Usually. There are some amazing things to be had from chains, you just have to know where to look. It's OK to like chains; Thomas Keller loves In-N-Out Burger, and Julia Child carried in her purse a list of every In-N-Out in California.

              2. I like Oregano's, but not for their pizza. I don't know if its the cheese they use or what, but its incredibly salty, and I'm not someone who has a problem with salt. I really like their salads, and most of the pastas I've had have been pretty decent, as well as the appetizers. The wait can be incredibly long, and to me isn't quite worth it. I find that the best times to go are RIGHT when they open, the middle of the afternoon, or later around 8-9, as by then most of the families have left.

                1 Reply
                1. re: meleyna

                  I'm in your camp, the pizza really isn't anything special, but the Beefstro Classic and Big Kahuna Tuna sandwiches are pretty tasty. If you go when there's no line, it's at least worth a shot.

                2. Since we're talking Phoenix pizza here, besides Bianco and Oregano's, is there a place you guys recommend for great pizza? I'm going to be in Phoenix visiting friends in a few weeks and would like to take them somewhere they haven't been. Many years ago there was terrific pizza at a place called Pizzafaros on Camelback and 44th or 48th, but that's long gone and I think it's now a Cuban restaurant.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: firecracker

                    In the same neighborhood, 40th and Campbell, there's LGO Pizzeria - it's excellent. Yes parking is a mess, but it personally does not distract me. The Padre and the Gladiator are delicious. If they live anywhere close, though, they've probably already been.

                    There have been a lot of positive reviews of Humble Pie, although I have not been yet.

                    La Grande Orange Grocery
                    4410 N 40th St, Phoenix, AZ 85018

                    Humble Pie
                    6149 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

                    1. re: azhotdish

                      Actually a good friend moved to Phoenix three years ago, met a Montana transplant and married him. He's a pub grub kind of guy and she's a "needs a little more upscale" kind of gal. It's hilarious hearing about them trying to find places to accommodate both taste styles. When Deb moved down there I told her about the places I knew would still be there - Durant's, El Chorro, Tomaso's, Duck and Decanter - but I knew there would be a ton of new foodie worthy places as well. Think a place now known as Zest is the old La Placita of my beer and Mexican food days. Also known to have downed the coldest beer in town at the TeePee Taproom on Indian School which was not a chain at the time.

                      1. re: firecracker

                        Tee Pee is not a chain (who would want multiple locations of terrible food?); on the other hand, Tomaso's is.

                        I would definitely say LGO and Humble Pie qualify as "a bit more upscale".

                        1. re: azhotdish

                          TeePee is now terrible? That's just sad.

                    2. re: firecracker

                      Classic Italian Pizza is a true hidden gem. It's tucked away in the back corner of a long strip mall on Baseline east of Rural. The pizzas there are truly terrific, nearly as good as Bianco's and I've never encountered a wait.

                      Classic Italian Pizza
                      1054 E Baseline Rd, Tempe, AZ 85283

                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        One of my favorite places as well. Despite the attention they get here and through word of mouth, I'm astounded they're still around. Their location is incredibly hard to find, and the small space is never crowded. Go. Patronize. Make me wait. This is some good pizza, only to be surpassed only by the wood fired oven I'm building in my backyard.

                        1. re: modthyrth

                          If you need testers for the first few pizzas coming out of that, I'll be tentatively willing to volunteer my reviewing services. You might be able to find one or two more people around here who would also be willing.

                          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                            It'll realistically be fall before I get the oven finished--this is my first time attempting masonry, though I'm a handy gal in general. But once it's done, yes, I'll want lots of guinea pigs! Chow party at my house, once the only pizza oven is the small one in my backyard, not the whole of the valley in summer. ;-)

                    3. I like them. There's a wait almost constantly no matter which location you go to, so you might want to call ahead to check the wait time if such things bother you. I tend to be pretty tolerant of waits, so I'd say I would put my name on the list without a second thought up to a 30 minute wait. If they told me 45 I'd probably go ahead and stick it out, and would start thinking of other options if the wait was an hour or more. I just realized, this would likely be a good way of rating restaurants!

                      If you go for the New York style pies, you're going to hate Oregano's. They specialize in Chicago style thin-crust and deep-dish pan or stuffed pizzas. The thin-crust shines when toppings are minimal; the cracker-like crust surrenders when loaded up. Likewise, if you like your pizza super-deluxe, go with either of the deep-dish options; if you don't do much toppings in them, it's like eating just a huge block of cheese for dinner. If I'm in the mood for an appetizer of some sort, I'll do something that comes with marinara for dipping just because their marinara is the kind that you'll want to eat straight up with a spoon. And if you don't get their pizzookie dessert, you're seriously missing out. They bake a cookie in a deep-dish pizza pan so it gets crispy and caramelized on the bottom but is warm and gooey on top, then top it with several scoops of vanilla ice cream. It may be simple, but the result is pure bliss and an easy contender for the best dessert in town.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        I agree with the thin crust. I love mine with pepperoni, or if Tara is sharing it, pineapple and Canadian bacon. It's also great cold the next day. I've never tried their other crust styles, so I can't comment on that.

                        The pizzookie is a favorite. Some friends who moved to Mountain View always make it a point to visit Oregano's for a fix when they are in town. :)

                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                          We miss Oregano's now that we've moved from AZ. We were never dissuaded by a wait, because we were always seated in less than the anticipated time. You can order from the bar while waiting, and frequently the wait was softened by complimentary squares of pizza. My favorite pizza was spinach, mushroom and carmelized onion. The lunch slice was one of the best deals in town! The staff was always friendly and we enjoyed the lively atmosphere. Next time we're in town, it's one of the places we'd like to return to.

                        2. The Oregano's Favorite Salad with Chicken is tops on my list.

                          I can take or leave the pizza.

                          Pino's for pizza by the slice for me, thanks.

                          1. I personally don't care for the sauce, or the wait, at Oregano's.

                            My favorite pizza is from Red Devil. They also have multiple valley locations. I always get the Red Devil White, a thin crust topped with fresh tomatoes & garlic.

                            Red Devil Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
                            208 W Southern Ave, Tempe, AZ 85282

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: achicken

                              I'm with you, chicken.
                              When I was pregnant with beastie #1, one of my only saving graces was a weekly Saturday lunch of pepperoni-feta "well done" at Red Devil.

                              Thanks for the memories.

                            2. I've eaten *from* one of the Scottsdale locations (across from Scottsdale Healthcare) on three occasions. Two were pizzas and one was a plate. All were good, but nothing that I'd stand in line for - Pizzeria Bianco is about the only "line," that would do this for, and then not often. I hate lines, so usually get enough friends to get a reservation.

                              I've seen several comments on the mechanics of the poll. I've also seen similar results from polls around the country, and most end up the same way, if they are reader's polls. Maybe not to the degree as Oregano's did, but close.

                              For me, mark them up as good, but not great. I ate there, because they were close, but would not drive to that location (I would for Cowboy Ciao, SeaSaw, etc.) for the food.


                              1. Echoing the posts of most other people here, Oregano's isn't anything special, although it's not totally inedible either. The pizza is decent, just not worth a 2 plus hour wait.

                                Also, I know Chris Bianco is a god in this town, but I find PB a tad overrated. Their pizza is excellent, don't get me wrong, and I would reccomend it to an out of towner, but I find it hard to wait 4 hours for it.

                                I can't believe no one's mentioned Spinato's. The deep dish pizza (pepperoni and garlic is my personal recco) is AMAZING. You can't go wrong with that. I've also been wanting to try CIP for a while now...

                                1. Just got back from lunch at Oregano's. I go there once every few weeks simply for the Pablo Picasso salad...I could take or leave the pizza. That dressing...wow! And The pizzookie (ONLY the chocolate chip, the others aren't really even worthy of the name Pizzookie) is one of the only things in this world (other than a red velvet from sprinkles) that is just WORTH the calories! The way it melts in your mouth...mmm! The less done it is, the better. I like it undercooked but still warm, and the ice cream is pretty good that they top it with, and they also put chocolate chips on top to finish it all off. For those two reasons, I will continue to visit Oregano's.

                                  As far as the wait, you can try calling ahead and seeing how long the wait is, though they don't take call aheads (i.e., you can't put your name on the list when you're on you way there). You can try sitting at the bar and if you snag a spot, you'll get served much more quickly than if you had to wait 45 minutes to get a table. Also, since the summer weather has arrived in Arizona, the outside tables tend to have a much lower wait time, so locals who are used to the weather can again skip the wait time if they don't mind sitting outside (they have a misting system, anyway).

                                  But if you go for just one reason...make sure you get a chocolate chip pizzookie!!