October 31, 2008

Flagstaff's Best Pizza Joints

(This article was written by me and first published in Flagstaff Live!)

In search of Flagstaff's Best Pizza

Pizza. The variety you can find in this one menu item is almost amazing. It may sound simple and easy, but pizza is really an art form, at least at the great pizzerias. It’s like the famous old saying goes, “Pizza is a lot like sex. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”
I went on a quest to find not just good pizza, but the best in Flagstaff. I forced myself to dine on pizza pies at New Jersey Pizza Co., Fratelli Pizza, Oregano’s, NiMarco’s Pizza, Roma Pizza, Scott’s Chicago Pizza, the Pizza Guy and Alpine Pizza.
Here’s a look at the best of the pies I tried.

The Best

New Jersey Pizza Co.

This small and relaxed pizzeria gets the overall best pizza rec. I managed to come here over and over to be sure it deserved top billing. It does.
New Jersey pizzas run from $8 for a plain cheese 12-inch to $18 for 16-inch specialty pies.
There’s an actual chef back in the kitchen and you can taste the care in the pizza. All of the ingredients blend together smoothly to complement, not overpower, the others.
The sauce is fantastic! Flavors of fresh tomatoes and spices are infused to make an almost creamy sauce. The cheese is generously doled out. It’s salty, but not overly so.

The crust is very thin and crispy. Everything about this pizza tastes fresh.
Another reason for the superior taste, New Jersey uses as much locally grown and organic ingredients as they can. Many places charge extra for organic, but that’s not the case at New Jersey Pizza Co. Another bonus.
You can even order pizzas (for a little extra cash) with their homemade Mozzarella cheese. I saw them making this one day when I was dining there and it’s pretty cool. Tasty too. (You can buy New Jersey Pizza Co.’s homemade cheeses at the Flagstaff Community Market on Sundays through Oct. 12.)
New Jersey Pizzas take time to make. It’s never a quick in-and-out dinner, so plan accordingly.

Fratelli Pizza, downtown location

Fratelli is the classic Flagstaff pizza joint. It’s comfortable, low key, has a super friendly staff, and makes a good pizza pie.
My favorite thing here: the slice combos. (See sidebar for details).
To feed the family, the office or a group of friends, ordering a whole pizza is a better deal. They range from $7.25 for a 10-inch plain cheese to $20 for the 14-inch Chicago, which their menu calls “the manliest pizza alive.”
Fratelli makes a great thin crust. The cheese is super-gooey with just the right amount of sauce. The dough is homemade and hand tossed then baked in a stone deck oven—perfect if you like New York-style thin crust, which I do.
I recommend going for a little different pizza here: the pesto. It’s basically their thin crust cheese pizza with pesto sauce. Even if you’re not a huge pesto fan you should try this. The pesto is blended right into the cheese. It tastes so fresh and smells so good. Most days the pesto pizza is one of the options on the slice deal too!

Also worth mentioning in the best category: Oregano’s Chicago-style stuffed pizza. Their stuffed pizza tastes like authentic stuffed Chicago pizza. The stuffed feeds an extra person than the same size thin crust and runs from $12.95 for a 10-inch cheese to $22.95 for a 12-inch meaty Numero One-O.
I used to live in Chi-town and ate the best stuffed pizzas on the planet. This one isn’t the best I’ve had, but a great substitution considering your only other option is to fly 1500-plus miles to eat.
A great way to test out Oregano’s stuffed pizzas—the lunch special personal sized pizza (see the sidebar for details).

The Rest
There will be NiMarco’s fans who disagree with this, but I have to say NiMarco’s may be the most overrated pizza in town. They have a great patio and great prices ($1.75 for a plain cheese slice) and great sauce. But the pizza itself is sub-par and greasy with a cracker-like, dare I say cardboardy, bland crust. The sauce is tangy and tasty, but not good enough for me to recommend ordering pizza here.


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