That's Amore

Moon over the pizza pie at No Anchovies and Zachary's.

The origins of pizza are much debated, but pretty much everyone can agree that pizza stems from a gussied up notion of flatbread. Whether you subscribe to the school of thought that Roman soldiers tasted matzo and thought it lacked a few ingredients (oil, herbs and cheese) or whether you hold out several centuries until Columbus brought tomatoes back to Europe from the New World, the vote is pretty much unanimous that pizza, as we know it, hails from Italy.

The first confirmed historical sighting comes during the 16th century when Maria Carolina, the Queen of Naples, had a serious jones for "peasant fare," and begged her husband, King Ferdinand IV, to permit the royal ovens to crank out the peasant pie. And of course the most famous pizzaiolo created the now famous Pizza Margherita, using tomato, basil and cheese, both to honor the Italian flag and suit the secret pizza junkie Queen Margherita.

No matter how you slice it, pizza is a beloved concoction with an ancient history and a firm footing in mainstream American cuisine. Indeed, it can practically be canonized as its own food group.

Surely wherever there are youthful metabolisms, good pizza shall be found. It's not impossible to find good pizza in Tucson. Of course, this depends on your definition of pizza. My Italian friends scoff; my friends from Chicago roll their eyes; and naturally anyone from New York is still struggling with the fact that people say hello on the streets here.

Too bad for them. They obviously never dropped by No Anchovies, located within a stone's throw of the university. While there are many pizza places near the UA, No Anchovies specializes in utter devotion to the art of making the mighty pie. You can select from any number of house specialties, or build your own pizza with over 51 different toppings ranging from ravioli to meatballs, pineapple to spinach.

All pizzas are available by the slice as well. And at any given time 10 to 12 fresh pies are available. Which is a good thing, since it is hard to choose from so many heady offerings.

Take, for example, the classic simplicity of the Tabano. It's a pie that calls to mind Queen Margherita and her lust for the fine, simple things in life: tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes and whole, fresh leaves of basil. Drizzled with olive oil, the simple combination of fresh ingredients is deeply satisfying. (All the pies are offered at the set prices of 12 inches for $9.49, 16 inches for $14.99 and 20 inches for $18.99.)

Should you require something a little unconventional, try the Teriyaki Chicken, a perfect example of why the American palate is often considered perverse. Marinated teriyaki chicken, roasted red bell peppers, green onions, sesame seeds and hoisin are slathered atop a slightly chewy crust. Clearly this pie is just masquerading as pizza, yet somehow, in some bizarre way, it calls upon the roots of pizza, which is after all, flatbread. With the combination of the slightly spicy and slightly sweet toppings, it works.

Likewise with the potato pizza. This pie features provolone cheese, cubed potato, bacon, cheddar cheese and fresh herbs. Reminiscent of some village life that is probably more an imagining than a reality, there is something both provincial and faintly repulsive about this pizza that makes it pretty much irresistible. You might want to wait until the winter months when cooler weather and a desire for rich food will offset the bludgeoning effect this hearty dish will inflict on the average digestive system.

The list goes on: the Pesto Artichoke pizza is a solid find, as is the classic White Pizza (ricotta, mozzarella, romano, provolone, garlic and virgin olive oil). And of course no visit is complete without at least having a slice of the Hot Wing Mozzarella Pizza. This is the most sinister-looking dish I've encountered in quite some time--a pie slathered in crème fraiche and blue cheese, studded with chunks of spicy chicken wing and dabbed with ranch dressing. Recreational drugs may be a prerequisite to actually find it appealing, but there are some things in life too strange not to be sampled. This is one of them.

Whether you choose to build your own pizza or indulge in one of No Anchovies' signature creations, you'll be sure to celebrate the pie in the way it was meant to be enjoyed: with gusto.

CONTINUING ON WITH ITS long tradition of adaptation, deep-dish pizza is a decidedly American interpretation. And should you be a diehard fan of the deep-dish pie, then you'll be pleased to find that although Zachary's has changed locations, it hasn't changed anything else, including the menu.

If you ever frequented Zachary's during your college haze, or if you just fell in love with its serious deep-dish pizza, then you'll know that the first thing you do at Zachary's is place your order because you'll have to wait. And wait. It takes at least 20 minutes to cook one of these big boys to order, and that's when they aren't busy.

If you don't know where to start, the Big Z is a safe bet. A 2-inch-deep pie is stuffed to the brim with pepperoni, onion, green pepper, sausage and mushrooms ($15.25). One slice is enough to fill any reasonable person. To commit to two is to declare to the world either that you have the metabolism of a hummingbird, you're a gym fanatic or you're fat. I've only seen one person eat three slices, and he grew two inches in front of my eyes. The only thing missing was his blue ox.

Still, the combinations at Z's are winning. The Milano, for example, features mushrooms, provolone, prosciutto and garlic ($14.24). If you really want to live large, ask them to add spinach. It's worth it. Just make sure to bring along a small crowd of people if you really want to polish one off.

The T-Rex is still ragingly popular. A serious carnivore endeavor, this pizza is loaded up with pepperoni, ham and sausage. When it arrives, it practically takes two people to heave it up onto the table. This baby is loaded, dripping and sizzling with flesh. No matter that it's a heart attack waiting to happen, people can't get enough of this big boy ($18.50).

Whether you have purist feelings about the noble pie or you choose to count it among your own personal food groups, pizza is meant to be celebrated in the spirit of the moment, whatever incarnation it may choose to reveal itself in. Best to be sloppy and happy, and check your calorie count at the door.