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Best Pizza

Magpies Gourmet Pizza
Three locations

READERS' PICK: It's not the cheapest pizza in town, but then again, that's not why we order from Magpies. Their delicious Build-Your- Own New York Pizza category offers four types of crust with a tempting selection of 14 regular and 16 premium toppings, including fresh spinach and piñons. Some of the combinations are Mag-nificent: the Tori Special, with mozzarella, roasted eggplant, piñon nuts and tomato; the Juan Carlos Pesto, with a blend of basil, cilantro, spinach, piñon nuts, garlic and romano cheese, topped with mozzarella; and the Seven Cheese, with mozzarella, romano, feta, provalone, Swiss, cheddar and ricotta. Someone call Jack Copeland! We wish we could tell you exactly what they put in their sauce, but our centrifuge is on the blink so you'll just have to taste for yourself. It's an extraordinary sauce, teeming with savory herbs. The menu offers everything from "Lite" Pizza to 13 choices of specialty pizzas, including The Pueblo, a combo probably not found in New York City.

STAFF PICK: All pizzas are not created equal. There are pizzas that taste like cardboard, pizzas that look like grease and, worst of all, pizzas that are nothing more than flat, thumb-sized, rectangular pieces of ivory Play Dough with unidentifiable goo dots on them. But then there is Picurro's Pizza, shining like a beacon of flavor, variety and quality. A Picurro pie can satisfy your hankering for about any meal you'd like--that is, with an herbed tomato sauce and on top of soft, crunchy crust. With toppings as multifarious as shrimp, artichoke hearts, broccoli and feta, you can create concoctions that will drive the administrators of pizza homogeneity in Italy out of their skulls. Of course, you can also stick to the roads more traveled by ordering a pepperoni and mushroom pizza. But even if your taste buds are not as daring as the Picurro menu, take consolation in knowing the common toppings you do order are first-rate quality and crown an exceptional toasty crust. Picurro's has two locations: 3011 E. Speedway and 2921 E. Fort Lowell Road. Now, our staff had already voted on our choice for Best Pizza at least a month before the three Picurro's pizzas showed up uninvited at our office last week. We hope the gesture was kindness and not an attempt at bribery; we'd hate to have to disqualify our favorite.

CAT'S MEOW: As the heat of the California-inspired wood-fire, brick-oven pizza craze died down to its now more- resilient embers, Ovens Restaurant opened its doors in St. Philip's Plaza, off the crossroads of River Road and Campbell Avenue. That was nearly three years ago. Ovens offered some of the best pizzas in the Southwest to emerge from delicate pecan smoke. The pastas, with Cajun andouille sausage or fiery Thai chicken, were also worth the visit. Times have changed. So has Ovens. It's even better. No longer just a casual and bright spot for good pizza and inventive pasta, Ovens has rounded its eclectic menu to include a lot more good stuff at reasonable prices. The pizzas are still primo. Most recent pizza enjoyed at Ovens was with great yeasty crust, topped by grilled portabello mushrooms, fresh tomato, scallions, artichoke hearts and fontina and tangy goat cheeses.

Case History

1998 Winner: Magpies Gourmet Pizza
1997 Winner: Magpies Gourmet Pizza
1996 Winner: Magpies Gourmet Pizza

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