The day East Valley pizza lovers have been waiting for for more than a year – the reopening of award-winning Classic Italian Pizza – is almost upon us.
Owner/chef Azhar Began says his new location, now dubbed Began’s Classic Italian Pizza, will open at the end of this month in the former Hoodlums Music space on the southwest corner of McClintock and Guadalupe in south Tempe.
The credit, Began says, goes to Changing Hands co-owner Gayle Shanks.
“She’s been my customer for years,” he says. “She would always pull me out of the restaurant, grab my hand, and say, ‘Listen to me. You need to go into my shopping center. It’s the best in town.’”
Still using wood-fired oven
Like its predecessor, the decor still is Old World-ish – lots of dark wood, iron, and stone – but the extra square footage (1,600, vs. 1,380 at the old location) has allowed the full bar to be twice as big.
The former brick-encased Renato wood-fired pizza oven has been replaced by a brand-new Renato wrapped in gray stone (pictured), which already has been cured for the necessary seven days and is ready to go.
Open for lunch, 7 days a week
What else is new? Began has created a selection of panini sandwiches for lunch – the old location had been open for dinner-only since its second year.
Another change: “This is a much better location, so we’re going to be open seven days a week,” he says.
The rest of the menu will be pretty much the same – 12-inch pizzas, calzones, salads, and a few appetizers – although Began is toying with the idea of streamlining it for the first few months until he settles into the new digs.
“I might just go with the four most popular pizzas we had before,” he says. “I had 15 (specialty) pizzas before, and I’ve developed four more. But if I put 20 pizzas on the menu it might be a little overwhelming.”
Reverse happy hour plans
Another idea he’s considering: Reverse happy from 10 p.m. to midnight when he offers “half off everything across the board.”
As for his sudden closure in February 2013 that caught his customers off-guard, he blames the owners of the decaying strip mall.
“I was the last tenant there for over two years,” he says. “They wanted me to sign a 10-year lease with some ridiculous numbers. Then the TI (tenant improvement) numbers they promised they slashed in half. I just couldn’t do it.”