|I would be insulted if I were Julia Roberts.
Our children have been gone for weeks and weeks. Mark and I flew down to Phoenix last weekend, like the peppy middle-aged couple enjoying their almost-golden years that I guess we are. Damn. I don’t like the sound of that one bit. But the reality isn’t bad at all.
So, Phoenix. It turns out to be a cheap destination in July. Can you guess why? We had two goals and accomplished them both with ease on our 30-hour vacation. Both were delightful experiences that I highly recommend should you ever find yourself in that hot and lunar city.
Goal #1: Eat at Pizzeria Bianco. I reported a story about pizza several years ago and the sources kept mentioning Chris Bianco in Phoenix as pioneer/guru/forerunner of American pizza. His pizza was reputedly amazing. Amazing pizza in Phoenix? This was like hearing that the best pulled pork can be found in Anchorage, or the best Thai food in America in Las Vegas. The latter is actually true, or used to be. But it’s bizarre.
We headed to Pizzeria Bianco straight from the airport. We went to the branch in an open-air mall. (There's another downtown.) The restaurant was pleasant, unfussy, and uncrowded, with flea market paintings and mismatched school chairs. It was surprisingly feminine for a pizzeria, but not at all precious.
I hate describing pizza. I’ve been forced to do it in the past and finding new ways to say that pizza is delicious will drive a writer to verbal extremes that contradict the uncomplicated essence of the thing itself. Here’s a description of a Chris Bianco pizza from an Eater story: “the crust’s lip was full but not puffy, more Julia Roberts than Angelina Jolie, and the lacy mozzarella, butterscotch-tinged onions and hunks of fennel sausage showed a generous hand.”
The second part of the description is fine. The first part? Points for effort.
We returned the next day on our way back to the airport and ordered two more pizzas, including my favorite, the Rosa, an austere pie topped with Parmesan, red onions, rosemary, and pistachios. To quote from the Eater story again, there was an “intricate chemistry between the stinging red onion, the piney rosemary, and the earthy-sweet pistachios.”
That works, though I think “intricate chemistry” is a stretch. It’s pizza!
Freaking great pizza.
|Other than a donut, pizza was all I ate in Phoenix. Mark might have also eaten a banana.
Goal #2. Taliesen West. This was Frank Lloyd Wright’s live-work compound for the winter months, a magnificent network of stone buildings in an expanse of cacti, rattlesnakes, javelinas, and rock. There are a few pools and some Chinese pottery integrated into the design, as well as a small auditorium and screening room, but the angular structures were designed to meld with the stark, sere landscape. Gorgeous and strange. I know nothing about architecture but have always loved touring FLW buildings. Mark and I decided that a project for our dotage will be to take short trips to tour FLW sites in Wisconsin, Chicago, and Pennsylvania. At least one of them even offers a senior discount.
Incidentally, we stayed at the Phoenix Biltmore, a stunning hotel that Wright helped to design. Very affordable this time of year. We thought we’d go cool off in one of the many Biltmore swimming pools, only to discover that even pool water is hot in Phoenix in late July. So we sat in lounge chairs in the shade where I drank diet Coke, Mark drank frozen margaritas, and we read our books.
It’s fun and peaceful being a couple without kids around. You forget.
In other news, last night, I made this zesty pasta to deal with the cherry tomato bonanza in our backyard. It’s a delicious dish with the gutsy, swarthy flavors of mint, garlic, Pecorino and caramelized sweet tomato. Intense, but not overwhelming, more Robert De Niro than Al Pacino. . .