Editor's note: Today, Chuck K., a New York expatriate living on the West Coast, drops by with some news about a little slice of heaven in Sedona, Arizona. Buon appetito, friends! —Adam
Attention, pizza lovers: There is a pizza paradise that has been under the radar for far too long. I first discovered this oasis in the pizza desert (some say that's everywhere west of the Hudson River) four years ago when I was returning from a road trip through the Southwest.
I came to the proverbial fork in the road, where I could either head west on Interstate 40 out of Flagstaff, Arizona, or continue south on 89A, where the mystical village of Sedona, land of the energy vortex, lay ahead. A little voice told me to head south. I did, and I discovered thousands of shops hawking every possible New Age product known to man. There were energy crystals, nature sounds, tantric massages, and enlightenment, all available for a price.
But as I was driving down the road, I noticed a sign that caught my attention like a Mike Tyson left hook. It read: Apizza Heaven.
Well, here I was in the middle of Red Rock Country, but my sharp sense of culinary geography instantly registered "New Haven" in my brain and gastrointestinal tract. Apizza, pronounced "abeetz," could only mean there was a Connecticut pizzaiolo kneading dough nearby. Tired, hungry, and incredulous as I was, I swerved my car right into its driveway.
Inside a very tastefully decorated restaurant I found David Muzzo, who, just as I had guessed, had relocated from New Haven to Arizona a few years earlier. I learned that Muzzo had pizza in his blood, as his father had been a pizzaiolo in New Haven for 50 years. At this point I seriously began to consider the possibility that I had stumbled upon a real pizza paradise.
In less than a half hour my greatest hope was realized as I found myself sitting at a table and staring at and breathing in the gustatory essence of an absolutely gorgeous half-sausage, half-Margherita pie. It was every bit as good as I had hoped, and, as a result of this unprecedented pizza experience, I have returned several times, even when it meant traveling many miles out of the way.
The other week I was touring through the Southwest again when I decided that my friend, who is also an ex–New Yorker with a keen appreciation for pizza, needed to try Mr. Muzzo's creations. Now when it comes to evaluating pizza, the cogoscenti often point to New York City water as the source of Gotham's well-deserved, world- class pizza reputation. Other pie aficionados argue that a coal-burning brick oven is essential for producing award-winning pizza. Ingredients like fresh buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh basil are also commonly cited as factors that combine to make an epicure salivate.
First of all, he uses a gas oven, which he feels gives him better control of the heat than wood- or coal-burning ovens. The oven is set at 550 degrees, the temperature commonly used for baking pizza and far from the high heat some great pie-makers use. Nevertheless, the crust was sufficiently charred and crisp, with a structural integrity that did not collapse when folded and eaten. As can be seen in the photos, the basil was cooked into the cheese and sauce, suffusing the entire pie with its herbal essence. As for the cheese, I was surprised to learn that Muzzo uses East Coast commercially available Polly-O. I did not ask for specifics about the sauce, but it was delicious. Not overly spiced or sweet at all. The sausage was a tasty fennel; grainy and spicy. Last, the oil was flavorful and not excessive. There was no residue dripping off the pie.
To sum up, David Muzzo does unequivocally deliver a scrumptious pizza, with the whole much greater than the sum of its parts. Sedona, Arizona, most definitely deserves a place on the Slice pizza map.
2675 West Highway 89A, Sedona AZ 86336 (map)