A pizza is only as good as its crust, sauce, and cheese.
In the case of Zio Peppe, a new pizza joint opening up for service on May 10, they hope their crust and cheese will do enough of the talking.
This is because Zio Peppe will be using a variation of the Neapolitan pizza. This is an Italian style of pizza that is made up of very specific crusts, mozzarella, and tomatoes. The key difference here is tomatoes, not sauce.
The tomato sauce-less pizza isn’t necessarily a new concept here in Tucson. In fact, you’ll find several pizza joints that have abandoned the homemade sauce for a more Neapolitan meets California style of pizza. These pizzas generally use an olive oil and cheese cream-based white sauce, instead of the heavier tomato sauce (although for some pizza places around town this is by necessity due to the thinner crust’s inability to hold up under the weight of a tomato marinara).
Devon Sanner and Mat Cable, two local chefs that have been around the food business here in Tucson for years, are hoping this style of pizza really connects with locals. The pizza joint, named Zio Peppe and located at 6502 East Tanque Verde Road, is named for Mat’s uncle Joe (Zio Peppe means Uncle Joe). Joe Sottosanti opened the very first Sicilian pizza restaurant here in Tucson just about 50 years ago.
Of course, Uncle Joe’s Sicilian pizza was vastly different from the new Zio Peppe, as Sicilian pizza is a thicker-crust style of pizza, comes in a rectangular shape (due to the squared pan it is basked in) and it does use a heavier tomato sauce. So while Zio Peppe is named for Uncle Joe, the pizza will be 100% different at the new restaurant.
As tomato sauce is not, and will not be a major ingredient used at Zio Peppe, the crust will need to stand out on its own. To do that, Devon Sanner and Mat Cable experimented with various crust recipes until they settled on a traditional Neapolitan recipe that also includes locally grown red wheat and mesquite flour. You will notice the slightly browner, more robust, and smokey flavor within the crust as soon as you take a bite.
There will be a number of pizza options available, with most designed to be personal-sized pizzas. This will make it easier for you to order the style of pizza you’re interested in and then share it with friends. Some pizzas will include a green chili powder, there is a Margherita pizza with basil, and another pizza that is made using fennel sausage and blue oyster mushrooms.
Of course, the restaurant will not only be about pizza. There will be other food options for you to order, including a handful of pasta dishes.
The two co-owners of Zio Peppe have been running around kitchens here in Tucson for some time now. Mat Cable, for whose uncle is the restaurant’s namesake, has owned Fresco Pizzeria & Pastaria since 2008, so he’s been around pizza for some time now. He’s also been running the First We Eat Catering and Confections since 2019.
As for Devon Sanner, he has been working in kitchens throughout Tucson, including James Beard award winner Janos Wilder’s Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, plus The Carriage House.
If you’re hungry to try out a slice of 'za and are ready for Zio Peppe, the restaurant will have hours 11 AM through 9 PM for both delivery and takeout. The patio will open up in the coming weeks as will inside dining, so stay tuned for those announcements.