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Pizzeria Bianco – Is Chris Bianco More Hands-Off These Days? (PHX)

Was traveling through PHX last weekend and decided to try Pizzeria Bianco for the first time. When we sat down, I was surprised to learn that Chris Bianco was away on vacation. I thought I’d read somewhere that he’s a little fanatical about overseeing all of the pizza making himself. Not sure if Chris has always taken vacations or if this is a new thing.

In any case, we had a nice meal there. My observations are below:

We arrived at 7 pm on Saturday night prepared for a wait. The actual waiting time was almost 4 hrs which was a little longer than expected. The bar across the street had good English beers on tap, comfortable leather reclining chairs, pool, and football on TV. It was a perfect place to hang out before having pizza. Bar Bianco (next door) was a little quieter and stiffer but also pleasant.

We ordered the Rosa, the Wiseguy, the Sonny Boy, and the Biancoverde with prosciutto. The parmigiano reggiano on the Rosa made it extremely rich. It was a nice one slice change of pace, but I wouldn’t want to eat a whole Rosa pie. The other pies were all good but not significantly better than what you can get at places like Settebello in Las Vegas. Two of my friends thought the Gaeta olives detracted from the Sonny Boy but I liked them. We all thought that the fennel sausage on the Wise Guy was excellent but that the pie might have been nicer with fewer onions (although none of us are wild about onions).

The highlight of all the pizzas was the extremely thin crust and the overall texture. Other pizzas I’ve had in this style sometimes get soggy in the middle but this wasn’t a problem at PB.

Overall, I was glad to have tried PB but probably would not brave the wait to eat there again.

Pizzeria Bianco
623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

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  1. I had the same experience on 7/3/09 when he was on vacation then too. I haven't been back since. Also haven't seen him at Pane Bianco in months and I'm usually there more than a few times a week.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rxenergie

      Funny, I didn't realize that he was EVER at Pane Bianco. Was there a time where he was working there regularly?

      Granted, I've only been there a handful of times (it's a bit of a hike), but I just assumed he delegated all of the Pane Bianco work to his staff.

      1. re: crsin

        I can't remember if I've ever seen him at Pane Bianco during service, but I know I've seen him a couple of times while getting my morning coffee at Lux.

        1. re: crsin

          Yes, usually he would be down below on his laptop, however I haven't seen him there in ages and my last Pizzeria Bianco trip was a disappointment as he wasn't there.

        2. re: rxenergie

          I saw Chris at Pane Bianco when I was there in Dec; but he was not there last Friday. I did used to see him at Pane Bianco fairly regularly baking the sandwich bread.

        3. Late last summer or early in the fall, Chris mentioned something about having to deal with an illness in the family, so that could explain his absence from the restaurants.

          1. Thanks Dhalsim for the review. I live about 10 minutes away from Settebello in Vegas and have often wondered if it would be worth it to make a trip to Bianco just to see how it compares. Maybe I shouldn't be in any hurry to travel out there and wait 4 hours when I have a place 10 minutes away where I can usually just walk right in the door and be seated within seconds and the pizza is just about as good. I'm sure some day I'll try PB, but I won't be going out of my way to do so.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Whisper

              Not discounting the OP's recollection but I've never been seated past 10:30 ( no matter what day it is ) and I usually arrive around 9:45 to put my name down. Now granted, I'm almost always a single and end up sitting at the bar but I've never seen a 4 hour wait, even on the weekends. That's stretching the bounds of what I've heard/witnessed there -especially these days.

              That being said, there will most certainly be a wait when you arrive but unless it's a super-packed weekend night, I'd guess that your wait would be less than 2 1/2 hours at the absolute maximum.

              1. re: azbirdiemaker

                To be more precise, we arrived around 6:45 and were seated around 10:30. They told us if we weren’t in Bar Bianco by 10 then we’d lose our place in line. Inside the bar I heard one group complaining that they’d waited for more than 4 hours.

                That said, I imagine that this was an unusually busy Saturday night. There were probably 5 or 10 thousand Green Bay Packers fans in town for the football game. Judging from the sea of green around the restaurant, a lot of them wanted to try this famous pizza that they’d seen on TV. I guess they don’t call those guys cheeseheads for nothing.

                1. re: azbirdiemaker

                  We've had a 4-hour wait quoted to us before, with a seating at about 11 pm. I forget what night it was, may have been a weekend? There were four of us. Needless to say, we decided to switch plans and ended up at Digestif and Cowboy Ciao. I love Pizzeria Bianco and don't mind waiting (especially sipping wine and noshing on snacks at Bar Bianco) but our limit is about 2-1/2 hours.

              2. Recently made another visit to Pizzeria Bianco myself. To reiterate what everyone else has said, it isn't excellent pizza, but very well executed. Overall, I think the food, service, and environment make this a special place.

                We had reservations for the 5:00 seating (there are 2 reservations available every night, one at 5, and another at 8:30). The reservation is for anywhere between 6 and 10 people (we added 2 more people at the last minute, and it was no big deal). I called at exactly 4 o'clock, exactly one month in advance to get the reservation.

                Everyone agreed that the pizza is not worth a 4 hour wait, but that if you embrace the wait as part of the experience (having a glass of wine at bar bianco) it is a wonderful experience, and worth doing.

                Chris was not on premises the night we went, which was interesting to me, as I understood that he was the only one who cooked the pizzas, and that if he didn't do it, they weren't open. Everything was wonderful, and him not being there didn't seem to effect quality. His wife was working, so that was interesting. He is often at Pane Bianco, not working the counter, but in the back (I think they run both restaurants out of the back of that place).

                1. If this is true -- Pizzeria Bianco operating with Chris in absenstia -- then it would truly be a tragedy.

                  Bianco is Chris. Without him, it really isn't worth the effort.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    i went to PB two weeks ago, waited 3.25 hrs for a table for two, only to realize Chris wasn't there (two guys were manning the ovens) and received two mediocre (not cooked enough in the middle) pizzas. i love PB, but this experience was incredibly disappointing. the saddest bit of it is that I was well over half-way to drunk, seeing that we spent over 3 hrs beforehand at Rose & Crown and Bar Bianco. i'll go back, but only with reservations.

                  2. Interesting if this is true. My impression has always been that when Bianco takes a vacation, so do his restaurants. The most zealous supporters of Pizzeria Bianco, those who make anyone unwilling to wait four hours sound like infidels, often justify their stance with the claim that Chris Bianco makes every single pie by himself. That's what I've observed when I've eaten there, and I like the results.

                    Nevertheless, if it's no longer the case and others can be trained to make pies of equal quality, then one can legitimately ask why not move to a larger site or open a second location. I'm not really in favor of either, but the question seems logical in light of the report that started this thread.

                    I've seen Bianco on site at Pane Bianco about half the times I've been there. I don't go there with the expectation that he makes every single sandwich himself, though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: silverbear

                      We were all surprised Chris was not there (which is why we took note of it). The food tasted just as good as the other time we were there (which I think has more to do with the quality of the ingredients combined with the magic of the wood-fired oven, and less to do with who is sliding the pizzas in and out).

                      I think Pizzeria Bianco isn't the same if they expand (unless perhaps, they start serving pizza at Bar Bianco), open another location, start takeout, etc. PB is a special place, specifically because of its current space, and the aura around the long waits. They change anything, and it becomes just another good pizza spot.

                    2. Amen on the review. This is the most overrated restaurant in the country. IMHO. Probably a good topic for another thread, but what are the other most overrated spots in Metro Phx? I'd start with Barrio Cafe and Cowboy Ciao.

                      1. I was there around Thanksgiving and he was there. The pizza was excellent. We only had to wait 1 1/2 hours. Had a nice time next door at Bar Bianco, so it went quickly.

                        1. People actually wait four hours for a PIZZA? Seriously? Life is too short. I've always wanted to try PB but will have to find an off time to go. You can go to the store, buy the ingredients, make the pizza dough and bake the pizza, clean up, and still have time left compared to a 4 hour wait.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mesafoodie

                            Actually, this is the Chowhound board after all, for the "food-obsessed" -


                            Which is exactly where I would expect to find like-minded people willing to wait hours for Bianco pizza (using ingredients impossible to find at the local store, I've read his dough fermentation time is about 18 hours, and you can't duplicate it with a home oven).

                            Though I agree. I'll wait a couple of hours, but not four...

                            (PS - Speaking of pizza, thought I should mention that for their two-year anniversary, Humble Pie is featuring half-price pizzas all day today at both locations. Haven't been yet, but planning first visit tonight.)

                            Humble Pie
                            21050 N Tatum Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050

                          2. I started going to Pizzeria Bianco in the mid-1990s when he was in Town & Country Center. Since 2003 or so, I've hardly been there, mostly because of the wait. I don't know when the myth about him baking every pizza himself started, but it's not true. Sure, he makes most of them and he's most always there, and the restaurants go on vacation together when he & the staff do. I've seen him many times at Pane Bianco, which I still patronize, but it's betting to be a hassle too.

                            1. I'm a heavy-duty chowhound and a rabid pizza-head to boot, but a four-hour wait is extreme. No way in hell I'd do that regardless of how heavenly the pie.

                              1. I guess I just don't understand the mentality at work here ...

                                Is it possible that there's anyone out there who DOESN'T know there's an extremely long wait to get into PB? I mean, really -- someone shows up at PB and is told that there is a multi-hour wait ... ... and it comes as a surprise?!?! I'm sure there are a few but it's just that ... a few.

                                I know that going in it's going to be an evening so I make plans accordingly. I'm pretty sure I've said this before but I think it's an excellent date spot. Good way to pass the time while you're waiting is to partake of a few brews or glasses of wine and ... wait for it ... ... TALK to the person(s) you are there with. I know that speaking is an antiquated form of communication these days but really ... c'mon man!

                                The wait is part of the quirkiness/mystique of the place, IMO. There are numerous ways to pass the time if you don't like to talk to people ... play cards, have even more liquor, check out Chase Field, check out the museum, take a tour of Heritage Square. Put your name down and have a walk around the downtown area - there are plenty of places within walking distance to have a drink, if Bar Bianco isn't your thing, and maybe a small app to tide over any hunger that the troops are experiencing.

                                When it's time to sit down, I'm usually lubricated enough to enjoy the pie even more and now I know my dining companion(s) that much more.

                                4 hours *is* a long time to wait for food indeed if all you're doing is waiting and watching the clock.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: azbirdiemaker

                                  I can’t say I disagree with azbirdiemaker’s comments. The wait at the bars surrounding PB is not unpleasant. There are good things to drink at reasonable prices. There are comfortable places to sit. The PB staff is friendly and communicates well. If they had sat us right away, we very well might have wandered over to the bar across the street afterward voluntarily. Having drinks and conversation before or after a pizza is not torture; it’s a great way to spend an evening.

                                  The reason I’m not in a huge hurry to go back to PB is not the wait in and of itself. It’s the fact that I can get equally delicious pizza at other, more convenient places. That said, the PB experience is a fun little adventure that is well worth checking out. I’m glad I went.

                                  1. re: Dhalsim

                                    Where? I've eaten a LOT of pizza around town and Bianco's Margherita is my Platonic ideal of pizzas.

                                  2. re: azbirdiemaker

                                    I really enjoyed your comment..you put the obvious in a very pleasant perspective. PB gives you one of those times in life to slow down, talk,relax and explore the nieghborhoods offerings. As you stated, plan accordingly and slow life down for a few hours.....oh yea, and I would add..leave the phones, I-pods and lap tops at home for the evening!

                                  3. Stay away, stay very, very far away from that place.

                                    The Rosa is my favorite pizza. Ever.

                                    1. This answers the OP's question, what sad news for someone so passionate.

                                      Chris Bianco no longer making pizzas
                                      Asthma keeping Bianco, 47, out of acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco; 'My doctor says I have to keep my head out of the oven if I want to see 50".....

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Rubee

                                        The same thing happened to the owner of a Taiwanese breakfest joint in Los Angeles. Had to retire and sell his restaurant b/c of lung complications from working with the dough. Sad. Very sad. Both instances.

                                          1. re: Rubee

                                            Front page article about this in today's Arizona Republic. Front Page! I also saw where there was so much traffic to read the post online yesterday that it crashed the newspapers server. I know I couldn't get through.

                                          2. I just ate there tonight, I was alone so I got a seat right away. Others were waiting 3 hours plus at 6:00 PM. I was really disapointed, the mozzarella in the salad was very chewy.
                                            the Margarita pizza was very disapponting. The Pizza verde was a little better. I had a lot of leftovers and I shared it with a homeless guy. He was also unimpressed. The pizza at Cibo nearby was way more delicious.

                                            Pizzeria Bianco
                                            623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: burrata

                                              What was it that you disliked about the Margherita? You don't really say so I'm curious. What did you like about the Biancoverde?

                                              No offense meant, but believing that a homeless person gave a poor review of the pizza is a stretch for me. I would think he/she would be overly excited about the prospect of a hot/semi-warm meal.

                                              The margherita pizza is one of my favorites of all time and I certainly think it's in the tops at PB.

                                            2. Chris Bianco was the in the San Francisco Bay Area recently and I’ve been posting about recent pizzas at home. So I thought I’d add my 2¢ to the ongoing discussion about Pizzeria Bianco. Last month I was another victim of the sloppy execution in his absence.

                                              On a Friday night I showed up at 8pm hoping to get a single seat at the bar. I spent two hours at an outdoor table (60 degrees and no heater) at Bar Bianco waiting to be called at Pizzeria Bianco. Tried this bar bite, local goat cheese and olive oil on crostini. Didn't like the lambrusco but the crostini were fine and the olives, meaty.

                                              At 10pm, I was seated at the bar and had a clear view of the pizza oven. The hostess told me that they make more than 200 pizzas on busy nights.

                                              I enjoyed the complimentary bread and especially the olive oil. But then it went downhill from there, and I’ve been referring to my experience here as “Three Strikes, You’re Out.”

                                              First, a gawd-awful farmers market salad - tough and fibrous escarole, stinky sulfurous red onions, blue cheese and bread crumbs, drenched in an oily, untasty dressing with little acidity. I returned it and asked if I could have something else. Then, the second attempt was a mixed green salad – limp greens and the dressing was nearly straight acid. Guess someone forgot to stir the dressing and the later customers got the puckery vinegar fraction from the bottom of the pot.

                                              The third failure was the pizza. I wish I’d ordered the margherita instead, but I wanted to try one of the unique offerings here. I ordered one of Pizzeria Bianco's signature pizzas: Rosa, topped with Parmigiano Reggiano, local pistachios, rosemary, and shaved red onions. Finally, a pizza that's scorched as much as I want. But other than the crust, a big disappointment. I could tell just by looking at the very thick shellacking of hard cheese that this was not going to be good. The first bite of a fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza tells the whole story . . . in this case, the crust at the center of the pie was soaked through and limp, over-lacquered with tough and rubbery cheese, stinky onions, and a heavy hand with the rosemary. My favorite part was the crust around the rim that had just a thin fluttery edge of cheese. The crust did have good yeasty flavor development enhanced by the smoke of the wood fire. But it turned tough and overly chewy fast around the rim and was soggy in the middle.

                                              Because it was so late and I didn’t have much confidence in the staff to make me something more palatable after three strikes, I didn’t ask for the pie to be refired or attempt to order something else. The pizzas served to the other patrons at the counter were similarly loaded down with toppings and I figured that’s the house style. I chalked this up to a bad night or maybe they were too tired at the end of a long shift to give me my money’s worth.

                                              I took the Pizzeria Bianco leftovers back to my hotel with me so I could photograph them the next morning in daylight. Very uneven application of toppings with a mass of pistachios on one half and hardly any on the other. Really overloaded with stiff, baked-on-hard Parmigiano cheese that weighed down the thin crust, exuded grease, and made the main flavor of this pie the nutty taste of denatured cheese. The rosemary used here had too much of an unpleasant piney, terpene aroma.

                                              In profile, the heavy hand with way too much cheese is easy to see. I'll have to remember to not order pizzas with raw onions as inevitably, the crust gets soggy fast.

                                              The scorching on Bianco’s pies was mightily impressive, taking it all the way up to the edge of charcoal on the bubbled high spots but not turning completely black.

                                              And the view of the well-scorched upskirt on the Rosa pizza. http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                              I might go back if someone gets me a reservation at an earlier hour when I’d have the energy and fortitude to insist on better execution.

                                              Pizzeria Bianco
                                              623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

                                              Bar Bianco
                                              609 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Maybe this had something to do with it.


                                                Sometimes front-of-the-house competency, or lack thereof, will reflect directly on back-of-the-house quality.