By Elise McClain
The love of pizza is a universally spoken and understood language. And while most people enjoy a good pie, not everyone agrees on what makes it good. From deep dish to cracker crust, pineapple or no pineapple, marinara sauce or alfredo, anchovies or no anchovies — the list goes on. So what’s the secret to great pizza? It all depends on whom you ask.
For Alexis Favis, local Tucsonan and co-creator behind the popular @Pizzagrateful Instagram account and 365 Pizza Grateful food blog, great pizza comes in many forms. Sample Favis’s favorite, unmissable pizza joints in Tucson, and discover a cheesier side of town.
Fiamme Pizza Napoletana
When you ask most local pizza lovers and aficionados who has the best pizza in town, Fiamme is a usual suspect. Born from a hand-built pizza caravan, Fiamme could once be found at any number of local breweries, farmers markets, and bars throughout town. However, after years of touring his hand-built brick oven around Tucson, chef-owner-pizzaiolo Scott Volpe finally established a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2017.
“This is a great place to have a classic margherita pizza,” said Favis. “Fiamme is a smaller and more intimate restaurant — you’re pretty much right there in the kitchen as the pizza is being made. As soon as you walk in, you can see the oven and the food. It’s a cool experience in addition to great pizza.”
Volpe delivers quality pies using fresh ingredients and Old World techniques, in wood-fired ovens fueled by locally grown mesquite wood. And if you visit on the right night, you might get a chance to spot Volpe flexing his tossing muscles. As five-time world champion of the annual Pizza World Championship in Parma, Italy, Volpe puts on an acrobatic and freestyle pizza-tossing performance like none other.
Located in Tucson’s south side, Walter’s Pizzeria is the new kid on the pizza-making block. This New York-style joint serves slices, specials, calzones, paninis, and whole pies at unbeatable prices. You’ll find Walter’s inside American Eat Co., Tucson’s first all-local food court featuring seven restaurants, a coffee shop, raspados, a full bar, and an arcade. Perfect for group outings and family gatherings, Walter’s uses fresh ingredients to make unbeatable ’za.
“They serve a great variety of things at Walter’s Pizzeria,” said Favis. “But for those hungry for a classic slice of pepperoni pizza, this would be a good place to start.”
The pie at Pizza Luna can best be described as Neo Neapolitan — handcrafted pizza concepts that marry thin crust with cutting-edge baking science and years of carefully honed techniques. This is the ideal spot to sample nontraditional, gourmet, and curated ingredients like three-day fermented dough, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, housemade sausages, Crow’s Dairy goat cheese from Buckeye, AZ and more.
“I would recommend the sausage rossa or fig, pig and goat,” said Favis. “All of their toppings are a bit more elevated. This isn’t a spot you go for a slice of pepperoni.
Los Olivos Pizzeria
Los Olivos is a hidden gem that serves simultaneously unexpected and scrumptious takes on classic Italian dishes. Located in west Tucson, Los Olivos opened its door to the public in 2013 and has delivered delicious daily specials and family favorites every day since.
“Los Olivos is the ultimate friendly neighborhood pizza joint,” said Favis. “This place is my favorite because I love green olives on pizza, and they do that really well. They also have a pizza called La Mexicana with chorizo, bacon, jalapeño, tomatoes, beans, and onions that I highly recommend.”
With training in classic French and Italian cooking, chef-owner Quetzakoatl Lora prides himself on his ability to fuse unique and delicious ingredients. Order by the slice, or sample from a large selection of both far-reaching and traditional pizzas, pastas, and salads.
Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria
Having served Tucson for more than two decades, Rocco’s is an undeniable mainstay. Get a taste of the Windy City in the Old Pueblo, with world-renowned, authentic Chicago-style deep dish and wings. With local favorites like the Big Bad Wolf, the Kitchen Sink, and Fungus Humongous, Rocco’s couples quality ingredients, enormous portions, and affordable prices to deliver crave-worthy ooey-gooey chewy pies.
“Rocco’s thing is deep dish, and they do it well,” said Favis. “But surprisingly, it’s their thin crust that I love more. And more than I love their deep dish and their thin crust, I love their hot sticks most, and I do think they have the best wings in town. If you’re looking for a place that would please everybody, then this is definitely the place to go.”
When asked to name the best pizza joints in town, Favis was hesitant to say, for fear of missing one.
“It’s tough to choose the best, because there’s a lot of great pizza in Tucson,” said Favis. “Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink, Empire Pizza, Magpies, and Little Anthony’s are all great too. And looking to the future, a new Detroit-style pizzeria is supposed to open in the coming months, which I’m really excited to try.”
As a lifetime lover of pizza, Alexis founded @pizzagrateful in 2016 to document her, and her husband Adam’s, exploration of the Tucson pizza scene. In the same year, Alexis launched 365 Pizza Grateful, an online food journal that chronicled 52 different pizzas over the course of 52 weeks. Keep up with Alexis and her pizza journey on Instagram @pizzagrateful.