Though Terry "Joe" Black spent more than two decades in the restaurant and food industries, for many years the notion of opening his own pizzeria remained a wistful one. Smitten with the restaurant business during his college years, he spent the first 15 years of his career working for national chains, then another 10 in food distribution. It wasn’t until Black met and befriended Nick Heddings, owner of Arizona Pizza Company in Tucson, that the gears were set in motion to allow Black to make the leap to ownership, spurred in part by Heddings's support and pizza recipe. Black and his wife, Mary, kept the concept simple: a limited menu centered around tasty, New York–style pizza. They resolved to be fanatical about their customers’ experience and to create a welcoming, neighborhood feel. To further that goal, Black and his family remain active with local schools and organizations to this day.
Their focus on quality and friendliness has paid off. Of Jimmy & Joe’s signature "Serious Slice," blogger Michele Laudig said—as part of the Phoenix New Times’ 100 Favorite Dishes series in 2010—"It's super thin and crisp on the bottom, with puffy, chewy edges." Each gigantic slice is cut from the 24-inch Big Jimmy, arrives on its own metal pan, and, like a celebrity’s engagement ring, is bigger than the average person's head. As testament to its food’s deliciousness, the restaurant has won multiple awards, including the Reader Pick for Best Pizzeria in the East Valley Tribune's 2011 Best of East Valley.
If you’re tired of Arizona's desert landscape, blame the Flancer goat. Legend has it, the greedy little guy saw Arizona’s once-lush land and greenery as a personal buffet—he ate and ate until the landscape became barren. And though he's now extinct, it is said that the goat's shadow can be seen running through the café with a satisfied grin on his face.
Lucky for hungry Arizona natives, Flancer’s manages to offer a robust, diverse menu despite its desert location. Sandwiches are built on made-from-scratch breads that are baked throughout the day. They come stacked with unique flavor combos such as filet mignon and caramelized onions, or chicken breast marinated with prickly pear.
Owner Jeff Flancer claims you won’t find the café's bruschetta anywhere else but Flancer’s. The appetizer comes with breaded goat cheese, basil, and tomato piled atop baked-to-order crouton bread. With innovative food offerings such as this, it’s no wonder the restaurant claims to have been "rockin' taste buds" since it opened in 2000.
The oven at Papa Kelsey’s Pizza & Subs works a double shift. The family of cooks in Papa Kelsey's kitchen not only sends pizzas into the fire, but also bakes all 17 of their hearty subs until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese melted. An expansive menu lists the handheld creations, from a classic ham, cheese, and salami stack to the Cowboy Cut, which is piled high with barbecue sauce, sliced steak, and hot peppers. Seven specialty pies rise from the flames, including the plain and simple garlic pizza—which foregoes classic sauce for a brushing of pure olive oil—and Papa Kelsey's Special crowned with ham and italian sausage. Though known for its pizza and subs, the kitchen also crafts meat-packed ravioli, crispy calzones, and green beans appealing enough to coax diners to eat vegetables that haven't been hidden inside a chocolate cake by their parents.
Go-karts hugging the turns of a winding indoor track. Bowling balls tumbling down glow-in-the-dark lanes. Lasers zipping past black lights and glowing murals. Within Amazing Jake’s more than 90,000-square-foot indoor amusement park, these attractions are just the tip of the iceberg. Elsewhere, cars collide in a bumper arena, intrepid adventurers scale a towering climbing wall, and riders of the mini-coaster scream their teeniest, tiniest screams.
Those are tough to hear inside the arcade, which resounds with the bleeps and blips of more than 150 redemption and video games. While the older kids enjoy all these spoils, younger guests can savor four attractions of their own, including a train ride and carousel. To help visitors reenergize, Amazing Jake’s houses a 100-foot all-you-can-eat buffet stocked with pizza slices, pastas, and salad fixings.
Before there was Vito's Pizza and Italian Ristorante, there was Vito Carrieri, rocking gently on a boat to the United States from his home in Ripacandida, Italy. After casting anchor in Chicago—where he feasted on the city's pizza, helped get it elected mayor, and met his wife JoAnne—he packed his bags and family recipes, moved west with JoAnne and his kids, and opened Vito's Pizza and Italian Ristorante in 1986. Eschewing the Windy City’s deep-dish roots, the eatery's specialty taps into Chicago's less heralded thin-crust traditions, with dough dusted with imported Italian flour and topped with cheeses from Italy and Wisconsin. Those family recipes from Vito's bags are also put to good use, with Northern and Southern Italian specialties made with house-crafted marinara sauce and italian sausage.
For more than 30 years, the pizza makers at Ray's Pizza have been hand-tossing and baking pies that hearken back to old-world Italy by way of New York. Their food can satisfy appetites for both thin- and thick-crust pizza with Neapolitan- and Sicilian-style slices, and curb Italian-food cravings with hot hoagies and pasta dinners. The Scottsdale location's interior is as warm and welcoming as the pies, with TVs, brick-covered columns, and archways that invoke a rustic, European vibe—like a palace painted light brown with cappuccino. The Glendale restaurant, on the other hand, boasts a full-length mural depicting the New York City skyline.