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AZ Central Restaurant Gems

AZ Central
Howard Seftel

The "Piazza" in this family-restaurant's name is pizza-master Justin Piazza, a man who has single-handedly put Glendale on the Valley pizza map. Even Guy Fieri of the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives" was impressed enough to come by and film a segment.

And Piazza is even more big time: His pizza has received a certificate of authenticity from Verace Pizza Napoletana, an Italian trade association that promotes Naples' strict traditional pizza standards. (Only two other Arizona pizzerias qualify.)

What does the VPN's stamp of approval mean? It means you're going to get a real-deal Neapolitan pizza, ultra-thin, with about a 12-inch diameter, made with premium "OO" flour, fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, fired for about 90 seconds in a superhot, wood-burning oven.

Add in some fresh basil, and that's the recipe for Naples' basic pizza, the margherita. But Piazza also puts together a superb white (sauceless) pizza, topped with mozzarella, ricotta and enough garlic to keep the vampires at bay for several days. And if you're looking for an animal-protein rush, opt for the Italian, heavy with cotto ham, soppressata, pepperoni and sausage.

While pizza is undoubtedly the restaurant's featured player, regulars know that the pastas make up a strong supporting cast. Both the homemade meat lasagna and rigatoni with chicken and artichokes draped in melted mozzarella taste like they came out of an Italian grandmother's kitchen.

Stick around for first-rate desserts like the Italian cheesecake and Italian almond wine cake, which provide a sweet finish to a lovely Italian experience.

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