The Eclectic Inspiration Behind Chris Bianco's Famous Rosa Pizza

While some might recognize Chef Chris Bianco for being featured on  Netflix's "Chef's Table," many more would recognize the flavor of his famous Rosa pizza. The Rosa pizza consists of pizza dough and just four other ingredients: Parmigiano Reggiano, onion, rosemary, and pistachios. Conspicuous in that lineup is the absence of the typical marinara sauce base and the atypical addition of nuts. So it's definitely a unique pizza, but what inspired Bianco's creation?

During an interview with Tasting Table in September 2022, the chef discussed how a trip to Italy 50 years ago eventually led him to create his signature dish. Bianco said, "I was in Liguria, and I had a pizza there. It was actually focaccia, but it was thin like a pizza. It had Grana Padano — a Parmesan-style cheese — and sesame seeds. That was all that was on it, except for olive oil." He went on to note how mesmerized he was by the simplicity of the items sold in the shop. He continued, "You could order these focaccias, these sparse, simple pizzas, and pair them with the meats. It was amazing." The experience stuck with Bianco even after he returned home to Phoenix, where he got to work creating his own version of the pizza-like focaccia he'd had.

Bianco played around with ingredients to eventually create the Rosa pizza

Years later, back in the U.S., Bianco got to work creating a pizza inspired by his revelatory food experience in Liguria. He started by scrapping sesame seeds because, he explained, they require ultimate freshness in order to taste good. In search of a replacement, he reflects, "I started thinking about, 'If I have to tweak it, what do I have here in Arizona?'" This got Bianco thinking about pistachios and pecans, both of which are abundant in certain regions of Arizona. From there, the recipe started coming together. 

He continued, "I tried to put something together by replacing the sesame seed with pistachios and gave them a little bang with a mortar and pestle. I traded the Grana for some from Parmigiano Reggiano, a younger one that would still have a lot of moisture. I changed the grate, or I grated it much coarser than I did before."

Then, inspired by the onion bialys he'd had as a kid, he added red onion to the top of the pizza, which gave a pinkish tint to the overall look of the pie. Bianco said, "That's where the name Rosa comes from, which is pink in Italian. Everything came into place." Finally, he added rosemary, inspired by the abundance of rosemary plants around Phoenix, including right outside his pizzeria. Bianco concluded, "I didn't really invent it. I was inspired by something. I owe a lot of gratitude to that inspiration."