Somewhat unexpectedly, downtown Phoenix has become a hub for traditional Neapolitan pizza, pies made with great attention to detail; fresh, local ingredients; and adherence to Italian tradition. Within a single square mile, Bianco, La Piazza, Pomo, and Cibo all fill that niche by serving authentic pizza in a full-service environment. What downtown Phoenix doesn’t have nearly as much of, though, is good pizza served by the slice in a more casual, counter service environment. That’s finally beginning to change with the arrival of Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop.
Ziggy’s is located next door to the Van Buren concert venue, in a section of the presidential streets that’s becoming known for live music. The entrance is found facing Fifth Street, just four block west of the Van Buren / Central (westbound) and Van Buren / First Avenue (eastbound) light rail platforms at Central Station. Bike racks are found next to the bus stop facing Van Buren. A small patio provide a little bit of outdoor dining space. Inside, customers immediate encounter a display of that day’s pies, already sliced, and ready to be reheated upon order.
Cheese and pepperoni, the two classics of American-style pizza by the slice, are always available, but on any given day, customers will also have a choice of several specialty pizzas. That can mean choices like Pretty Fly for a White Pie, with creamy ricotta and fresh tomatoes, or So Fresh, So Clean with an abundance of vegetable toppings. These pies are always available as whole pizzas and are often sold by the slice. Beyond the half dozen pizzas listed on the menu, there are usually some additional specials that make occasional appearances.
Not being bound by Neapolitan customs, Ziggy’s does not hesitate to depart from tradition, whether by unabashedly offering ranch dressing as a dipping sauce or by topping pizzas with pineapple or even French fries. All the pizzas benefit from a well-fashioned crust that offers enough structure to hold the toppings while still allowing for some New York folding ability. Once the slices have been warmed, customers can top them with the usual condiments of red pepper flakes, grated parmesan, or, best of all, Ziggy’s Stardust, a mix of Italian herbs and Tajin.
Besides pizza, Ziggy’s offers chicken wings in both Buffalo and barbecue preparations, Caesar salad, and impressive garlic knots dusted with herbs and brushed with just a bit of oil. Those fries that occasionally appear as pizza toppings? They’re also available under pizza toppings in a sort of Italian-American version of poutine. All of these foods can be consumed at a handful of tables inside Ziggy’s, but there’s another option behind a hidden door. Head down the corridor to the right of the counter and look for an unmarked door that looks like it leads to a freezer.
Beyond that door lies Stardust Pinbar, a pinball arcade and bar that echoes the David Bowie theme of Ziggy’s while adding disco decor in the form of an illuminated dance floor with a mirror ball overhead. While Ziggy’s food can be enjoyed in either Ziggy’s proper or Stardust, there are some logistical differences to keep in mind. First, while Ziggy’s is open to all ages and suitable for family dining, Stardust is restricted to clientele 21 and older. Second, while Ziggy’s sell a little canned beer, a much more extensive liquor selection is found down the hall at Stardust.
Customers wanting to combine the best of both worlds can stop first at the Ziggy’s counter, order and wait for their food, and then carry it into the bar. Alternatively, it’s possible to just order everything, both food and drinks, at the bar inside Stardust. Some of the cocktails served at the bar have Bowie-inspired names like Moonage Daydream or Diamond Dog. Others, like the Saguaro Slammer, a summery drink that lands halfway between a gin-and-tonic and a margarita, are completely original down to the cactus-shaped glass in which it is served.
Stardust also has draft beer with options like Victory Brewing’s Sour Monkey or a vanilla porter offering alternatives to the India pale ales that dominate the tap list. The bartenders are happy to provide tokens for the pinball machines that surround the illuminated floor. Due to its nightlife orientation, Ziggy’s keeps late hours, serving pizza after shows have ended and other places have closed. Taken by itself, Ziggy’s is a worthwhile slice shop, the kind Phoenix needs more of. With a pinball speakeasy behind it, the pizzeria adds a little magic to live up to its name.
401 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix AZ 85003
Van Buren / 1st Avenue (eastbound) and Van Buren / Central (westbound) stations