Chris Bianco—who traveled to Montana with Jimmy Kimmel to help him cross an item off of his bucket list—keeps the menu at Pizzeria Bianco simple: two appetizers, three salads, six pizzas. But what the pizzeria lacks in options, it more than makes up in flavor. Critics rave about the chewy yet puffy crust, house-smoked mozzarella, homemade fennel sausage, and garden-fresh herbs. The pizzeria had humble beginnings—Bianco opened his first pizza joint in the back of an Arizona grocery store in 1988—but its out-of-this-world wood-fired pies have spawned national acclaim, having been hailed as the best of the best by everyone from Jeffrey Steingarten (author of The Man Who Ate Everything) to Ed Levine (author of Pizza: A Slice of Heaven). In 2003, Bianco won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest, and his insatiable desire to create exceptionally good pizzas shows no signs of slowing down. Today, he helms three pizzerias (two in Phoenix and one in Tucson), each committed to creating pizzas that rival Italy’s most authentic creations. RobbReport.com recently caught up with Bianco to chat about his inspirations, his personal bucket list, and what makes the perfect meal. (pizzeriabianco.com)
RobbReport.com: What are a few of the things on your personal bucket list?
Chris Bianco: I have had a very lucky, blessed, and Forrest Gump life … but I do want to one day drive coast to coast in search of the greatest banana cream pie.
RR.com: What’s your favorite part of cooking?
CB: My favorite part of cooking is the relationship forged between food (ingredients) and farmers, and the challenge of not screwing up what is already perfect.
RR.com: What do you think makes the perfect meal, and what are a few of your all-time favorite dishes?
CB: The perfect meal for me is a table full of family and friends falling off their chairs in laughter … and food that comes from as close to that table as possible, made with love, respect, and gratitude. A few dishes at that big table would be just-picked buttered sweet corn on the cob, Mexican-style whole split chicken from a mesquite grill, and ice-cold, sugary watermelon to finish.
RR.com: What is your proudest cooking moment so far?
CB: Watching my 2-year-old daughter Nina finish all her scrambled eggs. I really do like making scrambled eggs, so I was very, very proud.
RR.com: Can you share some secrets about how to make the perfect pizza?
CB: Here is the biggest secret about pizza: There are absolutely no secrets to it. Use the best ingredients, preferably organic and free of pesticides and preservatives. There is for me no universal perfect anything; I always try to empower people to find their perfect and let that be your template and guide. I only make food I like to eat…and pray along the way a few others might enjoy it too.