By Valerie Vinyard
Tucked away on Sixth Street just east of Sixth Avenue, Anello is a hidden dining oasis in downtown Tucson.
There’s no sign. No phone number. But what the restaurant does have is a vocal group of diners and a committed set of regulars who extoll the virtues of Scott Girod’s exquisite pizzas.
Girod didn’t start out dreaming of being a chef. The Phoenix-born 33-year-old graduated in 2008 from NAU with a degree in finance.
After graduation, his first gig was working for Charles Schwab as a licensed stockbroker. After about a year, he returned to Japan, where he studied abroad while at NAU. While he was there, he wrote a business plan for what would become Anello.
“I always wanted to do a small business,” says Girod, who had worked jobs in school as a cook and in pizza delivery.
He also traveled to Italy, where the avid cyclist rode his bike and persuaded a pizzeria owner to teach him to cook in a wood-fired oven.
When Girod returned to Phoenix toward the end of 2011, he says he was “reluctantly” hired by Chris Bianco of the renowned Pizzeria Bianco.
Girod worked for Bianco about four years, including opening the Tucson location in 2014 on Congress Street.
When Tucson’s Pizzeria Bianco closed in September 2016, Girod struck out on his own. He didn’t want to move back to Phoenix, and “the opportunity was here.”
He happened upon 222 E. Sixth Street while cycling around town. The 800-square-foot space only had a swamp cooler and needed a lot of work to convert the former art gallery to a restaurant.
Girod signed the five-year lease in December 2016. Then reality set in.
“We knew we were all in at this point, so it was terrifying,” he says.
Anello’s doors opened October 1, 2017, and it didn’t take long for word of mouth to fill the small space with hungry diners. The intimate restaurant has 30 seats at six tables, five four-seaters and one 10-seat community table in the middle of the dining area.
If tables are full, takeout is available, and next door, hungry drinkers also can be served pizzas Tuesdays to Thursdays at local microbrewery Crooked Tooth.
Girod first wanted to name his restaurant Monello, but trademarks got in the way. Anello, which means “ring” in Italian, evolved from that.
So, what makes a perfect pizza?
“All pizzas can be excellent in their own way,” Girod generously says.
“What sets us apart is ours is simpler, more focused, classic.”
Tucsonan James Hoy has eaten at Anello a few times, and he’s never disappointed.
“I heard about Anello from a friend, and I’m so glad I did,” says Hoy, 45. “I like the open kitchen, and you can tell they really know what they’re doing. The food is fresh and utterly delicious.
“I almost don’t want to tell people about it, because I’m worried it will get too busy.”
Girod, who employs eight, estimates that Anello sells 60 pizzas a night.
A must-try item to start with is Girod’s seasonal veggies or fruit ($7). The dish could range from a combination of watermelon, mint and cheese to artfully roasted broccoli and will make even an ambivalent veggie eater a fan.
“The key to making good food is you’ve got to start with new ingredients,” he says. “We make it easy; it’s all from scratch. I think it is so much more worthwhile.”
Girod’s oven is a Stefano Ferrara from Naples, Italy, and can fit up to three pizzas that bake for 2 to 3 minutes at 800 to 870 degrees. He uses an actual leavened dough, meaning the crust isn’t going to be “super poufy.” Instead, the pies lean toward crispness over chewiness.
Save for the occasional special pizza of the day, Anello’s menu stars four 12-inch pizzas ($12-$14). The marinara is topped with tomato, garlic, oregano, basil and olive oil, while the margherita adds house-made mozzarella to the pie. The Bianca is a delightful combination of mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, basil, chiltepin and olive oil, while the Verde uses smoked mozzarella, green sauce, garlic and pistachios.
Meat toppings can be added for $5 and feature local butcher Ben Forbes’ sausage and prosciutto and salami from an organic farm in Iowa.
Girod uses mostly organic ingredients. For example, he uses goat cheese from Benson and organic flour from Utah.
Anello’s wine and beer list is small but well chosen. The five reds, four whites and two roses range from $30 to $50 a bottle ($8-$12 a glass) and includes an excellent Broc Amore Tocai Friulano from California. Three of the four beers available hail from Arizona and are priced $6 to $8.
Desserts are almond olive oil cake ($7), dark chocolate cake ($7) and gelato ($4).
“This isn’t a snooty, uptight place,” Girod says. “We have fun together over food.”
“People should come here if they want to have a good, quiet time,” he said. “We want people to connect. Pizza’s all about sharing.”
222 E. Sixth Street
5 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
Information: There is no phone, and reservations aren’t taken for parties of four or fewer. Requests for reservations for parties of five or more can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.