For food lovers, Phoenix is synonymous with Pizzeria Bianco, but believe it or not, there are other dining options in the desert. Case in point: La Grande Orange Pizzeria, a strong restaurant with varied offerings that aren’t just limited to pizza.
The airy space was welcoming, with concrete floors, wood tables, fresh flowers and orange walls. After all, it is La Grande Orange. The best part was probably the community table, which not only offers views of the open kitchen, it also allows diners the opportunity to meet each other. This fits with La Grande Orange’s reputation as a community hub.
Baked and grilled chicken wings featured a nice sear and offered some initial kick. I like my chicken skins crispier, but that probably isn’t possible with grilling. It’s a dilemma, since fried wings wouldn’t have been as light. Still, the results worked.
Each day, La Grande Orange Pizzeria features a different market-driven salad. During our visit, that meant Asian pears with slabs of cantaloupe and arugula tossed with Meyer lemon vinaigrette. To top it off: thin-shaved ricotta salata, a firm aged cheese. The salad was pretty good, but couldn’t compete with the pizza, burgers and wings.
The Gladiator is topped with crumbed Schreiner’s sausage – the same sausage Bianco uses – plus pepperoni, mozzarella and two kinds of cheddar. The tomato sauce wasn’t nearly pronounced enough, but the pizza was still very good.
We also ordered an open-faced green chile burger, patterned after a burger found in New Orleans at Port of Call. The shredded Tillamook cheddar is tossed on top cold, so the oils from the cheese don’t bleed into the burger. The grilled bun was a nice touch, and the sheets of sweet pickle imparted nice tang. The crunchy cole slaw was above average, incorporating green and purple cabbage and a judicious amount of mayo.
The burger and wings were both good, but the big winner was clearly the pizza. To demonstrate how much we liked it, on Sunday, before we left town, we grabbed two more pizzas for the road, including another Gladiator and an off-the-menu option: the Padre, with prosciutto, dried black Mission figs, ricotta and slightly bitter arugula that cut the pie’s richness.
Most pizzas have a short life span and turn to cardboard as they cool, but not at La Grande Orange Pizzeria. Thanks to the pliant sourdough, the pizzeria remained appetizing for hours as we drove through the desert. Of course it’s better hot, but it was still a good sign. La Grande Orange plans to offer pizza when they open their Santa Monica restaurant in early May. Los Angeles hasn’t had much success with pizza, to say the least, so this is reason for hope.