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Baja Eats: Falora

Slow down and enjoy a slice of Italy in the heart of Tucson, with pizzas and salads crafted with obsessive attention to preparation and detail.

May 1, 2017

Baja Eats

Falora is one of my favorite pizza places in Tucson. Located on Broadway in the historic Broadway Village shopping center, the self-described “analog neighborhood spot” features pecan wood-fired pizza, a variety of artisan salads, four bottled beers, and 14 wines available by the glass or bottle, all served from Falora’s 100-square-foot kitchen. In the spirit of analog, guests receive a coupon if they arrive by foot or bike, and Falora has a daily Vino+Vinyl hour from 5-6 p.m.—guests are encouraged to bring their favorite record to spin on Falora’s vintage stereo while they dine, and receive a free bottle of Chianti for their trouble.

The Aridus Tank red blend is sweet and lingers on the palate.

Falora’s patio looks out onto Broadway Boulevard, and it is a great spot for enjoying a warm Tucson evening. We arrived just in time to enjoy the sunset while sipping Willcox-produced Aridus Tank red wine ($7.50/glass). Owner Ari Shapiro says they are “huge fans” of Aridus wines, and “love rotating along with them.” This particular red blend was sweet to taste and lingered on our tongues, and provided a nice contrast with our Leone Salad ($9.50), which featured roasted purple potatoes and summer squash, ripe, flavorful cherry tomatoes, and zesty arugula dressed in an artichoke and asiago vinaigrette. The potatoes added an unexpected heft to the salad’s texture, and we enjoyed stacking our forks with something of everything for each bite.

The Leone salad combines sweet, vibrant tomatoes, spicy arugula, hearty potatoes and squash, and a tangy asiago vinaigrette for a winning dish.

Falora’s pizzas come on the small side, so if you plan to skip the salad, I recommend you order at least two pizzas for a table of 2-3 adults. We threw moderation to the wind and ordered three, and I blame this entirely on Falora’s wide variety of delicious-sounding pies. The result was a fresh-from-the-oven range of flavor profiles: the classic Margherita pizza ($13), the NYC bagel and lox shmear-inspired Fumo pizza ($16), and the sweet and leafy Figaro pizza ($16).

The Margherita pizza is simple, savory, and awash in classic pizza flavors: melty mozzarella, fresh basil, and a red sauce that is out of this world.

The Margherita kept things simple, with thick and melty pools of mozzarella cheese, whole basil leaves, and a red sauce made from imported San Marzano tomatoes that was absolutely bursting with flavor. I asked Shapiro what makes the sauce so good, and he credits the growing conditions around Mount Vesuvius for giving the tomatoes their sweet flavor, low acidity, and rich red pigment. The only thing he adds is sea salt, saying he prefers to let the volcanic soil “work its magic,” and that it’s “best to leave it alone.”

The Fumo pizza takes its cue from the bagels with lox shmear of Shapiro’s hometown NYC.

The Fumo’s fishy profile is an homage to Shapiro’s New York roots, and successfully translates the concept of bagel-plus-lox into a delicious pizza. Featuring wild-caught Alaskan salmon, light and fluffy chevre, heirloom cherry tomatoes, capers, and red onions, the dominant flavors alternate between the ripe, bright punch of tomatoes and the tender, smokey fish, with the capers adding just the right amount of tang. It’s definitely worth the trip outside of the pizza ingredient comfort zone.

The Figaro promises sweet pizza dreams, with Brussels sprouts, walnuts, Mission figs, melted brie, and balsamic dressing.

The Figaro, as the name suggests, features Black Mission figs sourced from Arizona orchards. First dried then “slightly re-hydrated” before going on the pie, the fig’s texture was reminiscent of sun dried tomatoes and played off well against the leafy, only slightly cooked Brussels sprouts and crunchy walnuts, with a melty, double-cream French brie cheese tying it all together. A sweet balsamic dressing topped things off. It’s a pizza capable of satisfying both your sweet tooth and one of your vegetable servings for the day. Next time, I’d like to add some Soppressata (+$3) or Beef Sausage (+$4), to further push the savory/sweet line.

No matter what gets piled on top, Falora’s pizzas wouldn’t be such knockouts without their outstanding pizza crust, which is made from Caputo 00, a flour from Naples that’s been milled since 1924. Shapiro says the secret behind Falora’s slow-fermented dough is “being hyper-aware of temperature, proofing” and “generally knowing the dough’s behavior—from the minute it comes out of the mixer, to how it feels when we’re stretching it for the pies.” As for the guiding philosophy behind Falora’s menu, Shapiro points to simplicity as the key, stating, “All elements have to be in balance.” He admits to an obsession with ingredients and preparation. He wants to make dining at Falora a “satiating and satisfying experience,” and judging by our full stomachs and smiling faces as we left, I’d say it’s a goal Falora accomplishes with aplomb.

3000 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85716
(520) 325-9988

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