The Parlor

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1916 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
602-248-2480

Housed in the old Salon de Venus (a beauty parlor built in the 50s), The Parlor is still a parlor, only this time, for pizza. Clever huh? What's even cooler is the sleek but comfy environs, which combine shiny subway tile, gorgeous wood (salvaged from the beauty parlor), swiveling salon chairs and -- the piece de resistance -- a huge expanse of window fronted by patterned, see-through cinderblock (original, of course). Thank God father and son team Dan and Aric Mei had the good sense to retain everything they could, making this lovely old Mid-Century building everybody's favorite new hangout. More importantly, the wood-fired, thin-crust pies are first-rate, slightly crunchy and blackened on the bottom, their edges puffed with airy dough. Build your own pizza from a lengthy list of toppings or simply go with one of nine specialty pies, including Funghi (my favorite), topped with wild mushrooms, goat cheese, chives and truffle oil. Salsiccia, topped with Schreiner's "Parlor blend" sausage, grilled radicchio, sage and saba (think syrupy balsamic) is equally swoon-worthy. Loved the bruschetta, smeared with ricotta spread and piled high with sweet-sour caponata. And if you're the sort of person who can come to a pizza parlor and NOT order pizza, you're probably tailor-made for the Duck Club, a club sandwich layered with duck breast, crispy bacon and red wine-tomato jam. The juicy burger, offered with various topping combos, is another dish so good you won't be staring enviously at everyone else's pizza. For dessert, chocolate cake with jewel-like Italian cherries and vanilla crema, elegant lemon budino (think pudding, with thyme raspberries) and warm crostatas filled with seasonal fruit. No wonder this affordable place is consistently crowded! Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat. $-$$