It's no surprise that Chris Bianco won a 2003 James Beard award for "Best Chef Southwest." Pizza fiends call his the best pies in America, and even when the mercury reaches 110°, folks still line up 40 minutes before opening. Why? Ingredients are impeccable, combinations are fresh but never wacky, and the pies are baked in a wood-fired oven. $$; dinner Tue-Sat. 623 E. Adams St., Phoenix; 602/258-8300.
The same standards that made Pizzeria Bianco such a critical success guide this 2-year-old take-out sandwich shop near Steele Indian School Park. Ingredients like tuna with arugula, lemon, and niçoise olives, or housemade mozzarella with fresh tomatoes and basil, are layered in crusty focaccia rolls (baked in-house, naturally). In the Italian tradition, everything is kept very simple and close to the source. $; lunch Tue-Sat. 4404 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; 602/234-2100.
A former ski patrolman, chef Nobu Fukuda combines inventive Japanese tapas (think whitefish carpaccio with skillet-baked scallion bread) with left-of-center wine pairings. Watch him work his magic from one of the handful of seats at the exhibition bar. $$$; dinner daily. 7133 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale; 480/481-9463.
At 30, chef de cuisine William Bradley has turned the steakhouse concept on its ear. The dining room is desert-sleek, the ingredients carefully chosen, the preparations ambitious. Bradley understands that aroma is the better part of flavor, so tender young greens are served with a lemon verbena-scented vinaigrette, and delicate John Dory fillets are finished with heady twin sauces of curry and sorrel. $$$$; dinner Mon-Sat. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Scottsdale; 480/444-1234.