According to Local First Arizona, a nonprofit organization that celebrates independent businesses throughout Arizona, downtown businesses have seen anywhere from an 80 to 100 percent decrease in profits over the last few months. Recognizing the need, Suns Charities huddled up with Local First and Devin Booker and committed to supporting downtown Phoenix-area restaurants and food vendors with $100,000 in funding that will go towards helping feed the hungry in our community. As part of the Suns’ Small Business Assist program, Pizzeria Bianco has received $5,000 that will underwrite meals for those in need.
To spotlight the participating businesses, we connected with Pizzeria Bianco Founder and Executive Chef Chris Bianco, who shared more about the local restaurant, the partnership with the Phoenix Suns and giving back to the community.
Pizzeria Bianco (623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004) recently provided meals for Maggie’s Place, a nonprofit that provides life-changing programs and services for pregnant and parenting women and their children.
Can you provide a little history of Pizzeria Bianco?
I opened my original restaurant back in 1988, it’s been a pretty long journey since then. In fact, we started in the back of a grocery store and we eventually moved our restaurant to Downtown Phoenix in 1995. We’ve had a long, crazy history and in 2001 opened Pane Bianco which is a little sandwich shop and bakery and another Pizzeria Bianco over near 20th Street and Camelback. My relationship has always been with the community of Phoenix and believe it or not, Jerry Colangelo was one of my very first customers.
What drives the passion behind the menu at Pizzeria Bianco?
I put my energy into things that I believe in, things that have integrity and good intention. For us, if I had to pinpoint a singular thing that drives the passion it would be the study of what makes good things good. It starts with the intention to make something special and understand how that comes to be and to make a commitment to the ingredients. For us that means local farmers, organic practices and commitments to the highest quality and to share that back with the community.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the Downtown Phoenix culture?
I’ve spent my last 35 years in Phoenix as a resident, it’s definitely home for me and when I travel the world I take a big responsibility to show others that Phoenix cares about food and what we put into the world. When we moved to Phoenix, we had a responsibility that if we wanted things to change and a culture to develop in the city was to make a commitment financially and emotionally. We set up camp near 7th Street and Adams and we’re still there today and I feel as the neighborhood grows around us the Suns, Diamondbacks, other restaurants and local businesses are partners in the city.
How important is giving back to the community to Pizzeria Bianco and what does it mean to you to team up with the Phoenix Suns?
Any relationship and opportunity to partner with the Phoenix Suns is an honor of mine. History is always a good teacher, and the history for the Suns in my life and experiences is one that gives back. They support the community and those in need and I think sometimes we lose sight of what sports teams can mean to a community. I think in times like this it’s especially important to reach out to the community and help those in need.
What are your current restaurant capabilities and what are some current offerings you would like to highlight?
We are continuing to do takeout and delivery to the best of our abilities. We have just begun slowly opening our dine-in but at a limited capacity. We’re only allowing about 30 percent of our available occupancy and abiding and ensuring tables are six feet apart or more and all our of our staff our wearing gloves and masks, and practicing all the measures presented to us to keep our teams and community safe.
Why is it important to support local businesses?
If there is one thing I know after being in business for as long as I have, it takes much more than a village. Our success is from the success of others and lifting as many others up with you as possible. The world is round, and things come full circle pretty quick. This pandemic has given no mercy to anyone and we need to care more about our community both locally and globally.
How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your business model?
You learn quickly and adapt. In our case we had to wear masks and spread tables out. Initially we weren’t on Postmates or Uber Eats and we quickly learned and adapted accordingly. One of my favorite quotes is “Don’t tell me what we can’t do, tell me what we can do,” and I use that saying nearly a thousand times a day. We’re doing what we can and doing it to the best of our ability.
What is it going to take for small businesses to survive this difficult time?
We’re going to need leadership from every level. We need economic help gravely and we need an understanding of how to navigate through this. I think we need to continue to work with local leaders to find solutions through more dialogue, listening and action. Teamwork makes the dream work. We’re all here to continue to feed our community safely and support those that are feeding others as well.
To support this local business and browse Pizzeria Bianco locations and menus, visit www.PizzeriaBianco.com or follow Chris on Instagram at @PizzeriaBianco. Be on the lookout for more local restaurant profiles from the Phoenix Suns as we continue to partner with Local First.