Chris Bianco on Searching for Pizza Perfection
I'm back in Phoenix for a few days, a city where I used to live from 2001-2005. My wife and I got back to our favorite restaurant, the famous Pizzeria Bianco. The “pizzaiolo” (pizza maker) and chef, Chris Bianco, won the James Beard award for his work, which is basically the Academy Award for chefs. It was a huge shock to the culinary world that a pizza maker would win, yet alone a restaurant with $14 entrees. His pizza was also named best in the country by the book American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza.
We love eating there. The place just has this incredible feel – great pizzas, each one touched by Chris Bianco himself (his only nights off are Sunday and Monday each week and a three-week shutdown each August).
The staff is pretty much the exact same staff they've had for the last six years that we've been going there. It's something simple — the same menu, the same pizzas in that little restaurant, but there's something special. It's rare, so you appreciate it for more than just the pizza.
Chris is somewhat the “zen-master” of Pizza when you talk to him or read interviews with him.
PM: Does it ever get boring to do the same thing every day?Bianco: No. It never does.PM: What keeps it exciting?Bianco: I've never made a perfect pizza. There've been times when the stars are aligned and it's as close to perfection as I've ever made it, but never perfect.
This reminds me of the Toyota mindset of striving for perfection, of today being the worst you'll ever be. Chris Bianco makes amazing pizzas, he's featured on national TV, gets awards, all the praise in the world. But he claims he's never made a “perfect” pizza. You have to admire that kind of dedication to his craft, to himself, and to his customers.
The goal of perfection and the idea of being in business to take care of others, to give something to others — I wish we would see more of that. Instead, we normally run across people trying to get by with the bare minimum, people who don't really care about what they're doing. What's why Pizzeria Bianco is so rare and why it stands out to me.