After our fast-food experience at the Spotted Donkey Cantina, J. and I were up to trying another new restaurant in Scottsdale. Initially, J. had a craving for seafood and after getting some input on good seafood places in landlocked Arizona over at Chowhound, we decided to have … pizza. However, we wanted something new and, perhaps, a positive experience.
Thumbing through a few Google searches and some posts on Chowhound, we narrowed down our choices and then decided to head to one of the Pizza Picasso, a small, Arizona group of pizza places focusing on what they call “gourmet pizza.” We hopped into the car and headed north until we found the restaurant which was on the outer ring of the large shopping plaza on the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. When we arrived, we had a bit of trouble finding the place until we consulted one of the directories stationed throughout the mall area. Parking in a spot just steps away from the entrance, we headed in and found the place about half full of patrons.
We were taken to a comfortable table near the back of the restaurant and were handed menus by a very amiable man who would be our server. He said he had some pizzas to deliver, but would be back shortly to take our order. We actually hoped he wouldn’t come back too fast as the menu was home to 45 different pizzas, not including the make-your-own section. We were a bit overwhelmed.
Our server returned and I ordered an Iced Tea ($2.25) while J. just had ice water. We asked our server about various aspects of the menu including the size of the pizzas, the difference between the small and medium salads and the various crusts used. He was very helpful and then retreated to the kitchen to deliver more pizzas and get our drinks. I mentioned to J. that the place was nicely decorated with a large bar along one wall with a railing separating it from the dining room.
After a long discussion, we decided to each get a small pizza to our individual liking and then split the Caesar salad. When are server came back, we decided to get the medium Caesar Salad, but our waiter waived us off on the medium and suggested we start with the small Caesar ($8.25) noting that it would be plenty for two. However, if we wanted more, he would bring a second small Caesar and just charge us for one medium. That was really quite nice of him. For our pizzas, I went with the Meatball Pie ($16.50) on the regular thick crust and the addition of fresh garlic (free). J. decided on the Leaning Tower Pizza ($15.00) also on the thick crust with fresh garlic.
I kept one of the menus and reviewed it while we waited. Pizza Picazzo offered four types of crust: original thick, thin, cracker thin and gluten free. Our waiter informed us that all were good, but the cracker thin crust would often be overly charred on the bottom and not thoroughly cooked on top. Honestly, he was a very good server who was informative without being overbearing. We were also caught off guard by how extensive the menu was regarding the pizza. There were just so many specialty pizzas and a laundry list of items to pick from if you wanted to creative yourself.
When our Caesar Salad arrived, I was so happy our server kept us from going with the medium. The large, oval plate contained enough Caesar salad for 3-4 people completed with lots of lemon wedges to give the salad an extra tang. The salad itself was a simple preparation of Romaine lettuce, a housemade creamy Caesar dressing, Parmesan cheese and croutons. I mixed the salad together and served it up on the two plates provided. The lettuce was cold and crisp and the dressing was very flavorful. Thankfully, the kitchen hadn’t drowned the salad in the dressing, but they also didn’t skimp on the Parmesan cheese either, so J. and I were very happy. We both commented that if this was the small, we couldn’t even begin to imagine how much salad would have been brought out on the medium or, even, the large.
Our salad plates had just been cleaned when our server returned with two pizza stands and a notification that our pizzas were on the way. He cleared our salad plates and headed back to the kitchen. Moments later he returned to refill our glasses before heading back again to get our pizzas.
My Meatball Pie was still bubbling on the sides when it reached the table. The pizza was a nice mix of some wonderful ingredients and the scent had me salivating in no time. I allowed it to cool for just a few moments as I surveyed the pie. There were numerous meatballs, blobs of ricotta, crushed garlic, slivers of fresh basil, plenty of mozzarella and a smattering of grated Parmesan all sitting on a thin layer of tomato sauce. I took my first piece and put it on my plate, steam still flowing out. I took a bite and I was very pleased with my pizza. The one thing I suddenly noticed was that there was something crunchy on the pie and discovered that it had some pinenuts sprinkled on top that were hidden by the basil, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Everything was quite flavorful and I did like the fact that the crust wasn’t falling apart or soggy, although I did find the crust to be just a tad too doughy. Still, I really enjoyed the pizza. I did mention to J. that I thought it was on the verge of being too salty, but it wasn’t enough to mar the pizza.
J.’s Leaning Tower Pizza was a mixture of mozzarella, chevre, fresh spinach, mushroom, Roma tomatoes and Italian sausage all on a thick crust that had been covered with a creamy Alfredo sauce. The result had J. smiling. It really was a nice mixture of various tastes and J. thought it was good that the Alfredo sauce didn’t overpower the taste of the other ingredients. I liked the combination of the sausage and spinach which I thought was a nice way to balance out each of those two components because they both had the potential to take over the dish. But the various ingredients played well together and I think we were both surprised at how good the pizzas were. J. also liked the crust, but, like me, thought it could have been a bit more “light.” Perhaps a longer proofing time or a bit less working of the dough would have helped.
By the time we each finished half of our pizzas, we were asking for a to-go box to take a full pizza back home. The serving size for a small pizza was quite generous and we were happy with our selections. As we sat nursing our drinks and waiting for our food to settle a bit, our server offered dessert, but we had other plans and declined. We did request our bill and our server left to grab a box and our bill.
When he returned the damage was $45.34 which included tax. J. and I thought the value was okay. We had a small discussion about the price point because we thought that $15 – $18 for a small pizza was slightly high. Yes, it was specialty pizza and it was quite good, but we just felt if the range was a dollar or so less, that would have been in line with an average pizza base. Still, we did enjoy our food very much and the salad was quite a generous serving for what we paid.
Service was impeccable with plenty of information and a friendly waiter who was patient, helpful and attentive.
We had a wonderful time at Pizza Picazzo and we enjoyed our pizzas. It certainly was a nice surprise after our disappointing meal the previous outing.
And with that, we got into the car and headed out for some ice cream at Scottsdale’s newest ice cream spot: Sweet Republic.
7235 East Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 11 AM to 9 PM; Friday and Saturday – 11 AM to 10 PM
Notes: Other locations in Tempe, Sedona, Flagstaff, Glendale, Peoria and Goodyear.
Alcohol: Full bar.