The future looks bright
Many new restaurant projects have opened this year, or are opening now, or just on the horizon. Barrio Bread, a community-supported craft bakery opened a retail shop this month. Owner Don Guerra specializes in slow-fermentation and local grains, fitting into the heritage niche that Tucson represents. A former funeral home Downtown will morph into a swanky cocktail bar, courtesy of the folks behind Penca, the three-year-old Central Mexico-inspired restaurant on Broadway Boulevard.
The explosive growth of restaurants in Tucson doesn’t seem to be slowing down, even though there have been a couple high profile closings this year, both from out-of-town restaurateurs. Proper, a concept from Flagstaff, closed in June, after a three-year run, although the remaining Flagstaff operations are thriving. More recently, Pizzeria Bianco closed after a two-year stint.
“There is much to celebrate in Tucson, especially when everyone comes together,” said James Beard Best Chef Southwest (2003) Chris Bianco, who opened, then closed a branch of Pizzeria Bianco, his award-winning pizzeria based in Phoenix, where he has two locations, in addition to Pane Bianco and Tratto.
“It wasn’t the right fit for us, that location,” he said, “But we still have a presence in Tucson. We still have a mobile pizza oven and do catering. And my eyes are open, I’m just looking for the right fit,” he said.
Is Tucson the best food city in Arizona? Bianco, arguably the king of Phoenix dining, doesn’t take the bait. He thinks the question is divisive. The whole state is a treasure, he insists.
“You’ve got to embrace what you have,” he said. “Phoenix is fantastic. Flagstaff is killing it.”
Yeah, but seriously, is Tucson the best food city?
“Tucson is a total romance for me,” Bianco said. “I still believe in it.”