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Arizona Woman

January 2004

Patsy Grimaldi's Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria

4000 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-994-1100

Open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight.

 

Thin crust? Deep-dish? Laden with toppings or just the essentials? When it comes to pizza preferences in the Valley, anything goes and just about does. From tasteless pedestrian pies to “designer” pizzas, we’ve got them all.

 

Some saucer aficionados are particularly partial to deep-dish pies, closely associated with Chicago. East Coast transplants like the thin crust New York-style. These folks also like to fold slices in half before consuming. Raised in the Rocky Mountain region, I face a slice of pizza head-on, enabling me to survey the total landscape of my topping choices and appreciate its vastness. While folding a slice of pizza may give rigidity, it also distorts the view of what’s on or in the pizza. Everything, it seems, is in suspension within the sauce/cheese/toppings amalgam. The same is true for deep-dish devotees. What is really deep down inside? For me, a thin crust pizza delivers the perfect platform on which toppings and sauce can star, without one or the other dueling for top taste-bud billing.

 

In the Valley, we’ve got all the pizza styles covered. Do we really need another pizza parlor? Seems we do, according to the folks with Patsy Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria, a New York institution that evidently took up the “Go West” catchphrase a bit late. Grimaldi’s pizzas are baked in coal-fired brick ovens and come with some rather impressive credentials — “Best Pizza” and such bestowed upon the restaurant from various publications over the years. I must admit, though, that I’m not easily swayed by media hype. The test is in the

taste.

 

Grimaldi’s took over a spot in downtown Scottsdale that once housed a Kinko’s. I’ve been in Scottsdale for 15+ years and I can’t remember it being a Kinko’s. Guess I was not the only one; thus reason for management to sell.

 

Inside, Grimaldi’s is welcoming. Brick walls throughout are lined with celebrity photos. Red and white checked tablecloths decorate tables surrounded by black lacquered chairs. Front and center in the restaurant is an open kitchen, displaying huge, coal-fired brick ovens, for

which Grimaldi’s is known. The aroma of baking pizzas fills the air, along with Sinatra tunes and other crooners from the period who can get your toes to tappin’.

 

What you need to know about Gimaldi’s is that it’s not your everyday pizza joint, offering sizes galore and a list of toppings as long as your arm. These folks know what they’re doing and know what goes on a pizza to make it delicious and appreciated for its flavorful simplicity. The trademark hand-tossed, thin-crust pizzas come in two sizes: small (16

inch, $13) and large (18 inch, $15) with a tomato sauce base, as well as small ($15) and large ($17) white pizzas that have a mozzarella and garlic base. Leftovers, if you have any, make for a terrific late-night snack or hearty breakfast, really. The list of toppings ($2 to $4 each) is short and includes oven-roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies,

pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms (unfortunately, plain white button), ricotta cheese, ham, onions and black kalamata olives.

 

When constructing your custom-built savory saucer, a rule of thumb would be not to pile on everything. Grimaldi’s pizzas are layers of flavor. The crust is as delicious as the best artisan bread. Tomato sauce or opting for the fresh mozzarella and garlic base, this layer has flavor, too. Try not to bury those terrific tastes with too many toppings, which seems to be the norm at too many pedestrian pizza parlors where the crust resembles cardboard and the sauce is a snoozer.

 

For my money, the white pizza, which has a glorious garlicky kick, layered with red peppers (I love the red peppers!), kalamata olives, onions and extra mozzarella is just this side of pizza paradise. If you gotta have tomato sauce, a model with Patsy’s pizza sauce, red peppers, Italian sausage, mushrooms and onions is something to write home about. Get

some more oomph with anchovies.

 

While waiting for your pizza to bake, sink forks into Grimaldi’s mixed green salad (small or large) and smile. The small, which for five bucks can easily feed three, delivers a platter piled with a mix of romaine, red onion and mushroom slices tossed in a balanced vinaigrette. Crowning all are strips of intensely flavorful, house-roasted red peppers, which is reason enough to get the salad. Or have an antipasto platter dropped off at the table. On it you’ll find the robust red pepper strips, along with slices of salami, baguette and house-fashioned

mozzarella, along with a couple of green olives. Again, it’s the red peppers

that give the antipasto a lift.

 

Grimaldi’s also offers a cousin to the pizza, the calzone. Basically, it’s like a pizza only folded in half. Toppings, rather stuffings for the calzone, are the same and the same rule of thumb should be exercised when filling your stuffed pizza. On one visit, waiter docked our calzone creation – it resembled a small barge, and this was the small calzone – and then proceeded to hoist a thick, steamy slice onto each of our plates. The “pizza package” was golden and redolent of garlic, Italian sausage and freshly baked bread. Hot mozzarella, blended with ricotta, trickled from the calzone and pooled on the plate. Now this is a calzone, I thought. And it was. And it was a little dry, too. Patsy’s calzone comes with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses (more ricotta than mozzarella) and garlic as standard equipment. We added Italian sausage and mushrooms as options. The flavors were choice, but on my next visit, I’ll have the cooks toss in onions and, most likely, the roasted red peppers to pep up the moistness factor. Of note, Patsy’s calzone represents the New York

style, which means no sauce is ladled in before it’s sealed and slid into the brick oven. A small bowl of Patsy’s pizza sauce is served along side for dipping or whatever you want to do with it. However, at the risk of offending all the New York purists, I still prefer the sauce on the inside.

 

Though it does require some preplanning, you must save space for dessert. The cannoli ($4), filled with sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips, is an admirable model, despite its too-thick pastry shell. It took quite the effort to chisel off a bite-size bit. An oversight with this batch? Most likely. The cheesecake ($5) is oh-so rich and velvety and thankfully not cluttered with additional flavors like strawberry or blueberry, either swirled in or spooned over top that mask the true flavor of cheesecake. When a cheesecake is this good it should stand alone.

 

Any chance the to-your-door pizza places will pack it in and head out of town because of Patsy Grimaldi’s, the new kid on the block? Not likely. Will other pizza joints find fewer tushes in their seats? Who knows? The seats at Grimaldi’s, however, seem to be filled most nights. Offering delicious pizzas delivered by a friendly and efficient wait staff, Patsy Grimaldi’s has managed to grab a slice of the Valley’s pizzeria business.

 

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