Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dining: Began's Classic Italian Pizza

Began's Classic Italian Pizza is hidden away in a strip mall in Tempe, Arizona, as observed on 15-January-2011

TEMPE, ARIZONA - While I can get excited about world-renowned pizza restaurants like New Haven, Connecticut's Pepe's and Sally's, I really appreciate trying out lesser-known establishments and finding surprisingly good pizza. When I received a tip that such a pizzeria might exist in suburban Phoenix, Arizona--which some classify as better than Pizzeria Bianco reviewed last year--it made my agenda for my next visit to the Copper State.

Began's Classic Italian Pizza is well-hidden in Tempe, Arizona. If my "brother" cousin had not known where it was, I might have had trouble finding it--while it has a Baseline Road address, it is not visible from that street, nor it is readily seen from the other streets surrounding the strip mall east of Rural Road where it is located. It seems symbolic--you're not going to find out about this place from world pizza guides; knowledge has to come by word-of-mouth.

Unlike Bianco or the New Haven establishments, there is often not much of a wait for tables at Classic Italian Pizza. While we had reservations, we didn't observe people waiting very long for a table, especially if they were willing to sit outside, which even in January is a comfortable prospect in this part of Arizona. That doesn't mean that one doesn't wait, however. After placing our order, it was over ninety minutes before the pizza was served. That might be acceptable for a special social event, but with young children, it was almost intolerable. Frankly, waiting outside where the youngsters could run around was actually a better experience.

Plain cheese, Diavola, and Cappricciosa pizza slices from Began's Classic Italian Pizza were observed on 15-January-2011

Our order included a plain cheese pizza (er, Margherita holding the basil), the classic Diavola with sausage, pepperoni, red peppers, and jalapenos, and a Cappricciosa with ham, salami, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, and artichokes amongst other vegetables. The ingredient quality on the toppings was second-to-none, and I was especially impressed with the sauce, which might be the best tomato pizza sauce I've ever experienced in the world. However, the crust, while clearly baked in the wood-fired oven and of far above average quality, did not stack up to the best of the New Haven restaurants, not being remarkable in taste or texture, and soggier than it needed to be at the very center of the pizza.

Still, Began's Classic Italian Pizza is a gem of a restaurant. If you don't mind waiting for a quality pizza, it's a better experience than its more famous downtown Phoenix competitor, and even if it isn't the best pizza in the world, it is clearly top-echelon and the best pizza in Tempe.

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