West-side staple Bianchi's takes top spot in Wing Madness competition

2014-04-10T00:00:00Z West-side staple Bianchi's takes top spot in Wing Madness competitionBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Vincent Bianchi put extra effort into mustering support for the Arizona Daily Star’s Wing Madness competition.

Bianchi owns Bianchi’s Italian, a west-side institution opened by his parents, Randy and Nancy Bianchi, in 1980.

On a menu that includes pizzas, pastas, subs and salads, the Buffalo wings — served by the dozen for $8.79 — have been a staple for more than three decades.

The homemade recipe was something in which Randy Bianchi took a lot of pride.

“We are from Rochester, an hour away from Buffalo, where wings started,” Vincent said. “My father died in 2010. We wanted to do this in his honor.”

Bianchi’s big push paid off on Sunday, when the restaurant took the top spot in the final round of Wing Madness with a commanding 470-to-95 win over Thunder Canyon Brewery.

The triumph serves as fitting tribute to Bianchi’s father, who, with the support of his family, created an oasis in what was once considered the middle of nowhere.

The Bianchis moved to Tucson from New York in 1976 to escape the cold winters back East and to help soothe Randy’s severe asthma.

Vincent was 8 years old at the time.

After a couple of failed commercial ventures, Randy and Nancy launched their first Bianchi’s, a small but popular joint dubbed Bianchi’s Pizza, on North Oracle Road, in 1977 where the Tucson Mall stands today.

They didn’t open their current location, at 1110 N. Silverbell Road, until 1980.

At the time, the intersection of North Silverbell Road and East Speedway was surrounded by mostly desert.

There was no Albertsons, no O’Reilly Auto Parts store. Housing developments were few and far between.

The physical building Randy was interested in had gone through several incarnations, including as an El Taco, a sandwich shop and a health food store.

“A lot of real estate friends told him not to try there,” Vincent said.

But Randy saw opportunity.

“My dad parked at the neighboring Circle K and counted the cars going by for a couple of days,” Vincent said. “He had a sixth sense. He thought we could make it.”

The restaurant not only survived, but it became a popular destination as businesses and neighborhoods began popping up west of Interstate 10.

Running Bianchi’s wasn’t easy.

Nancy worked the day shift. Randy managed at night.

Vincent and his siblings spent countless hours assembling boxes, washing dishes and learning the ropes in the kitchen.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears was poured into this place,” Vincent said.

But the payoff, a dedicated and loyal customer base, has proved invaluable.

Today, Bianchi’s continues to cater to a large swath of Tucson’s west side with Vincent and his wife, Denise Bianchi, at the helm.

The menu is significantly larger than it was in the beginning, yet many of the original recipes, right down to the sauces, are still the same.

“Why change something that works?” Vincent asked.

Vincent took over Bianchi’s when his parents retired in 2002.

He would one day like to see one of his four children take his place.

“They are all in high school and middle school,” he said. “We haven’t pinpointed who might be interested just yet, but we are hoping.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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