Cafe Review: Will the Next Generation of Phoenix Pizza Be Mobile?

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In a trailer under newly fallen darkness, a man was going berserk.

He was jolting from task to task in a way that almost made me anxious. He fussed with a deck oven. He opened it to inspect a square pan. He spun to another pizza, blinked, then grated on a rain of cheese. Shifting, he drove a knife down through its crust. A thunderous crunch resounded over the dark parking lot of Rosacci Law Firm.

There I stood, awaiting that pizza. I had reserved mine three days before. Harry Canelos only makes 80 per week. Though he thinks, breathes, develops pizza every day, Canelos only cooks out of his mobile trailer, Quadro Pizza, on Fridays and Saturdays. He tends to sell out early in the week, not long after his social media announcements.

As Canelos scrambled to finish my pizza, I talked with the Quadro trailer’s second man, Antonio Rosacci (of the law firm), a childhood friend of the pizzaiolo’s, who was managing payment. I expressed interest in baking pizza at home. Rosacci started to hype Quadro.

The dough uses a multiday rise, he said. Canelos has trashed a whole week’s dough when not fully satisfied with it. Though square, cooked in pans, and featuring crust armored in cheese, his pizza isn’t Detroitstyle, but somewhere between Motor City and Sicily. The flour? A blend that includes Hayden Flour Mills. “I am excited for you to try this pizza,” Rosacci concluded.

I watched Canelos grate on a second flurry of Grana Padano — always two per pie. He folded two boxes shut. My pizzas were ready.

In March 2020, the pandemic started to change the Phoenix food scene. Nearly a year later, we have a better sense of that still-ongoing change and how things might look after. Something that has become clear, at least for now, is that launching new brick-and-mortar restaurants has become riskier. One solution: low-overhead mobile kitchens.

Recently, several mobile pizza makers have found their groove. Will the next link in the long chain of Phoenix pizza greatness be one that moves, cooking in the open air?

“The pandemic kind of changed everything,” says Guillermo Magaña, proprietor of Bored Baker Pizza Maker. “Food trucks are where it’s at right now.”

Before March 2020, when catering events were still common, Magaña towed a pizza trailer around. In response to the pandemic, he upgraded his mobile pizza rig. Now, he blazes pies in a 900-degree wood oven inside what looks like a moving truck. Until three years ago, Magaña worked as a baker across the Valley, spending 12 years in stints at various operations, including Binkley’s and The Four Seasons. Today, his focus is just one kind of dough: pizza dough — shaped from Italian 00 flour, given a 3-day rise, topped with mozzarella he pulls himself, and rapidly baked by fire.

Pie from the Bored Baker Pizza Maker.EXPAND

Pie from the Bored Baker Pizza Maker.

Chris Malloy

Bored Baker Pizza Maker is a higher-volume truck. With a big truck comes a big menu. Magaña slings about a dozen different pies. His Neapolitan-style pizzas have soft crust, paper-thinness, and puffy rims. A white pizza, Don’t Kale My Vibe, unites bright heirloom tomatoes, frilly kale, and the measured umami of a four-cheese blend. Its splayed green and violet leaves look pretty cool, especially when divided, by pizza wheel, into two separate slices.

The kale pizza’s light, squishy crust had a moderate bottom char, creating some crispness. Other pizzas I ordered lacked this char, making for a one-dimensional purely soft bite. A Margherita pizza had far puffier crust than others on the menu (though its mozzarella was on point and its sauce went nicely aggressive on the oregano). Bottom line: You might encounter some inconsistency that perhaps comes from this pizzaiolo’s recent truck upgrade, but when things click BBPM can bake a strong pizza.

Shine your searchlights deeper into the markets and parking lots of our pizza scene, and you’ll continue to find surprising pizza. Recently, I rolled three pies cooked by Ryan Moreno, AKA The Hungry Homie. This man’s Vanna White is a top-10 pizza in the Valley.

“I’ve been obsessed with pizza since I was like 7,” Moreno says. “It comes naturally to me I think.” He started in pizza about six years ago, when he ditched his desk job for a gig at Grand Avenue Pizza Company. As The Hungry Homie, he pops up two nights a week, on Fridays at Shady’s Fine Ale and Cocktails and on Saturdays at Roosevelt 16 Market.

Moreno blazes 12-inch pizzas in an oven that fits one at a time. Cartoonish char bubbles from pies with puffier-than-usual rims and an unbelievably heady doughiness. Though Moreno says his pizza is in the Neapolitan tradition, it has a thickness that almost pulls it out of this tradition, overlapping somewhat with fresh-out-of-the-oven bread.

It’s good bread. His Margherita pizza reminds me of dunking a slice into a long-simmered pot of tomato sauce, one of my favorite food traditions. Moreno uses Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, the best around.

Even lacking those glorious tomatoes, his Vanna White is masterful. For it, he poaches whole garlic cloves in butter. He sends a tsunami of these onto each pizza. No joke. You might get a whole head of garlic on a single pie and ask yourself if this guy is high. But the butter-poaching takes the fire out of the garlic, summoning their inner fragrance. Moreno also slicks the garlic-loaded butter, leftover from the poaching, onto each pie. The result is a pizza that tastes like garlic knots dialed far beyond their full potential.

The Vanna White.EXPAND

The Vanna White.

Chris Malloy

Moreno bakes 60 pizzas a night. Back at Quadro — where I stood waiting and salivating in the early winter darkness — Harry Canelos keeps batches even smaller. He became obsessed with the idea of micro-batch, ultra-high-quality pizza after reading Pizza Camp, a cookbook by Joe Beddia, a Philadelphia pizzaiolo once known for baking just a few dozen pizzas a night despite a national reputation.

“I want to make 50 pizzas a day, and I want to make all of them, and I want to make them as good as I possibly can,” Canelos says, channeling this ethos.

That may explain the manic energy, the obsession, the anguish of this driven artisan attempting to bag elusive perfection two nights a week. All of that worry, all of those dumped subpar dough batches, all of the fermentations lasting up to four days, all of the not-one-but-two rounds of grated cheese? Worth the painstaking trouble, as I discovered upon arriving home and flipping open my Quadro boxes.

These square pizzas have four square slices each. Tall and dictionary-thick, each slice looks just under the size of a mousepad. The crunch that tears through your cranium and reverberates down your spine when you bite in could register on the Richter scale. And yet, it is not excessive. It is measured — crunchy as hell on starkly dark outer crust that gives way, quickly and elegantly, to soft inner dough wonderfully light, airy, and flavorful.

You can taste that the cheese is good. The grated Grana Padano builds complexity (if maybe a shade too much salt).

The sauce on an expert Margherita (made with Italian tomatoes) has a sweet hint. The burrata pizza has louder sugary notes from chile-infused honey, which leaks, together with the juices from Schreiner’s Fine Sausage links, to every last bite — even the crust, whose giant, crunchy reverberations are still probably echoing in some distant corner of the universe.

Verdict: In this parking lot trailer, Quadro is making some of the most memorable pizza in town, brick-and-mortar or mobile, square or round. All three of these relative newcomers have some legendary Phoenix pies to live up to, but they’re off to a solid start.

Quadro Pizza
3411 North 32nd Street (but mobile)
480-410-9082
Burrata pizza $20
Cheese pizza $16

Bored Baker Pizza Maker
Mobile
Don’t Kale My Vibe $12
Carne $11

The Hungry Homie
Mobile
Vanna White $11
Margherita $10

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