When it comes to pizza, plain pepperoni is just plain passé.
Artisan pies with their thin-but-chewy crusts and unusual toppings are all the rage, but The Heist takes things to a whole other level. Check out these pile-ons: cherries, honey, Brussels sprouts. Yup, they’re tossing those on pizza. Not all on the same one, though.
Brought to you by chef Aaron May — who’s Phoenix-based but has been house-hunting here — The Heist opened in September in the former home of My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. It joins his two other Tucson restaurants, the 3-year-old May’s Counter Chicken & Waffles on East Speedway near Country Club and the year-old The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen near the Foothills Mall.
Full disclosure: The man is revered in our household.
May’s Counter is a regular birthday-dinner request, and we’ve made special trips to Phoenix to dine at the breakfast- and lunch-only Over Easy (Spoiler alert: May is looking to bring one here).
So, the guy can do no wrong — and we figured he wouldn’t once we rolled into The Heist and were greeted with the intoxicating scent of roasting garlic.
That gentle but heady aroma spiked our appetites and got our mouths watering — until the kids got a look at the menu.
Two out of three were not amused.
Kids are nothing if not pizza purists, but they were willing to try, so long as there was the promise of dessert at the end.
Just to freak them out — because, really, where’s the joy in being a parent if you can’t have a little fun at your kids’ expense? — we ordered Finger Licking Fried Chickpeas ($6.99) to start. Not only did this feature garbanzos but shaved Brussels sprouts. And get this — we ended up fighting over it.
Tossed with copious amounts of salted-just-right, crunchy pancetta, the warm, softened chickpeas and buttery sprouts were earthy and delicious.
The Heist’s pizzas are hand-stretched into 12-to-14-inch rounds, enough for two. We opted for a trio of pies: the Fennel Sausage ($10.99), the Smoking Room ($10.99) and the Bianco di Pollo ($11.99).
Alas, the Brussels sprouts-pancetta-goat cheese pie went unordered. Another visit. You can only push sprouts so much, ya know?
Topped with crumbles of house-made sausage scented with fennel, the straightforwardly named Fennel Sausage Pie was a nice blend of meaty sausage, slightly sweet tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. The Heist’s crust is thin but not so paperlike that it’s hard to handle. You can easily flop the edges together, devouring the soft middle that gives way to a crisp edge with the telltale dark spots from the gas-fired stone oven.
The simple Smoking Room sported lightly smoked mozzarella with kicky, fresh oregano and Campari tomatoes, soaked in a balsamic vinegar-spiked marinade and then roasted before being placed on the pizza. The result is soft rings of candylike tomatoes that married well with the smoky, creamy mozzarella.
The standout, though, even the kids agreed, was the sauce-free Bianco that threw together the unlikely but delicious medley of roasted chicken, corn, halved red grapes, bacon, mozzarella, garlic and olive oil. The first chomp belonged to the garlic, but each subsequent bite was this perfect blend — a touch sweet, a bit crunchy, smoky and salty and melted, creamy cheese. The two leftover slices nearly sparked a WWE-worthy smackdown.
The Heist has a good-sized dessert menu with six offerings ranging from gelato to a chocolate-hazelnut torte, but we couldn’t resist the cutely named Led Zeppole ($4.99), mini Italian doughnuts fried and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. We would have preferred the accompanying chocolate sauce heated — it came stone-cold — but there was no arguing with the smooth texture and bittersweet flavor. Tiramisu ($6.99) lovers shouldn’t miss the cloudlike dessert, a blend of mascarpone, ladyfingers and light custard, just barely kissed with coffee flavor and laced with a subtle dark rum.
It’s called The Heist for a reason — it’ll steal your stomach, in the best possible way.