A Pizza the Pie

Harvest Restaurant owners Reza and Lisa Shapouri opened Oro Valley’s newest pizzeria quietly last September, but it’s certainly left its mark — its char, if you will — on Tucson’s far northwest side culinary scene. Charred Pie stealthily slid into the space left vacant by Harvest Moon and later Sakura Sushi next to the Century Theaters at Oro Valley Marketplace and diners are abuzz about its amazing eats.

Reza Shapouri did his homework. After enjoying wood-fired pizza in a Phoenix eatery, he bought an outdoor pizza oven and got to work on perfecting a recipe over the next year and a half. Just as he got things dialed in, he met Chef Luke Smith and decided it was go time. And the pies started flying. Actually, they began spinning. The wood fire/gas combination oven that serves as the visual centerpiece in Charred Pie is unique (and may be the only one of its kind in the state). It spins the pies so they evenly enjoy its 800-degree heat for three minutes or so. The house-made dough is cooked through and kissed with a perfect char making it easy to handle and capable of inducing eye-rolling ecstasy on the palate. No joke. It’s that good.

What exactly is the formula for such creations? It seems to be fifty-fifty ingredients and process. “We use a more germinated flour with more structure to it and we mix our own yeast,” explains Shapouri. “The dough is mixed in a special Italian mixer that uses a paddle, a gentler process, to let the yeast do its job.” This process takes a little longer, but it’s well worth the time investment by Chef Luke and his team. That dough, topped with imported tomatoes tasty enough to be eaten on their own, as well as myriad other beautifully fresh and creative ingredients, gets fired to perfection and voila! Pizza pie to die for.

Standout pies include the traditional Margherita (red sauce, mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil); the Prosciutto & Arugula (also featuring red sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, red onion and pecorino), and the Sausage & Fennel (red sauce, mozzarella, Italian sausage & roasted fennel). If you’re not a pizza fan, the Roasted Veggies & Hummus sandwich (veggie hummus, roasted portobello mushroom, onions, red bell peppers, avocado, and radish sprouts on house-made multigrain bread) is uhmazing. The Bloody Mary Grilled Cheese and Korean Wings are simply outstanding finger-licking options. The latest addition of Charred Eggplant (oven-roasted eggplant, red sauce, Parmesan Reggiano, ricotta, basil and extra-virgin olive oil) is making quite the splash. Trust us when we tell you that plans for a return visit will be solidified by the second bite of whatever is ordered.

Beyond offering excellent food, incredibly friendly service and inside/outside dining make this a great spot. But it’s going to get even better with renovations to the patio that will allow for all-weather dining with a view. Work to enclose the patio for a slightly modified (clear enclosure) alfresco experience should be complete by July.

Govinda’s Resprouts!

Last summer, a fire at a nearby business spread to Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet and pressed pause on a 30-year run of vegan/vegetarian lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch buffet service.

By Kimberly Schmitz

Just short of five months later, the soup was back on in time for Thanksgiving festivities. The fire ran along the back of the building, damaging the kitchen and storage areas. A lot of food and most of the infrastructure of the 1950s building housing the restaurant was damaged. What most would consider a tragedy, proprietor/ manager/cook/hostess Sandamini Devi (Mother Sandamini to some) regards as a blessing on many levels. “Thank goodness, the damage was pretty minimal. Nobody was hurt. In that sense, this was kind of a cleansing,” Sandamini explains and adds with a chuckle, “The insurance process was a bit slow, so that also was the first real vacation I’d had in 30 years!”

Govinda’s is now sporting updated gas and electric lines, a storage room that doesn’t leak, a new walk-in fridge, and renovated bathrooms. In the dining room, guests are now welcomed by refreshed walls, tables, décor, and even a few more seats. Sandamini says, “I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this. But because not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of God, from a spiritual aspect, this was all for the good.” Devi is most grateful for the support from the community. “I was pleased and so proud of our Tucson. People donated money, clothes, food – there were donations in many forms. People even came to help clean up. In times of difficulties, you see and really appreciate those who come to your rescue.”

As expected, buffet and spiritual services are still going strong. Wednesday through Saturday lunch buffet is open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday, Dinner is 5-9 p.m. with Sunday brunch buffet served 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Vegan and vegetarian dishes from around the world are presented throughout the month with Tuesday evening exclusively featuring dishes from India. All cuisine served on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is Vegan. Long-time fans and the vegi-curious are all welcome to dive into scrumptious potato and cheese quesadillas, veggie and tofu manicotti, dreamy lentil soup, splendid samosas, curries and chutneys galore, and more at this blessedly renewed Tucson vegetarian/vegan favorite locale.

The Pros Who Know: Citrus State of Mind

The Pros Who Know: Citrus State of Mind

Desert Treasures Citrus Groves has been a Tucson treasure since 1947, when local residents could purchase fresh citrus and dates directly from the original 25-acre parcel located along Orange Grove Road. The property experienced a renaissance when it was purchased by Peter Larsen in 1972. He sold his products to local residents and wholesale customers.


The family tradition has continued through the second and third generations — son-in-law Chris Duggan and grandson Liam Duggan. More than 30 varieties of citrus and, more recently, dates are grown on the remaining ten acres and are offered seasonally at local farmers markets.

Tips & Trends

• White Marsh grapefruit is most prolific and available through most of the year, as they stay on the tree throughout the year, their sweetness improves over time. The Ruby Red grapefruit is prized for its dark pink flesh.

• Blood oranges, such as Sanguinelli, Moro and Tarocco, are the most requested orange, known for their deep red skin and flesh.

• Unusual hybrids have been developed, such as Mineola tangelos, Temple and Ortanique tangors that are prized for their juice content and tangy flavor.

• Mandarins are very popular. Dancy, Gold Nuggets, Murcotts, Kinnows, Honey, Fairchild and Daisy can be found early in the season.

• Unique and specialty citrus varieties, which are difficult to find in grocery store, include kumquats, limequats, mandarinquats, cocktail grapefruit, and pomelos.

• Navel oranges are sweet and seedless favorites that arrive early on the market. Cara Cara is a sought-after pink hybrid navel.

• Arizona Sweets and Diller Oranges are the most popular.



Oro Valley Farmers Market and Rillito Park Farmers Market, www.heirloomfm.org


Tucson Lifestyle Magazine Brick

Bricked & Beautiful

A little-used yard got a complete re-do to become a great space for entertaining.



The owners of a midcentury-style home wanted to create a landscape that would honor the design aesthetic of the house. They contacted Landscape Designer Kathryn Prideaux of Prideaux Design to re-envision their barren, 1,500-square-foot backyard. She reached out to Cimarron Circle Construction Company to build the pool, and Sonoran Gardens Inc. for the green spaces.

The plan was to retain one key existing element — the brick walls. They were in good condition, which helped with the budget, and also complemented the home’s architecture. However, the walls’ original wood panel inserts were too worn to save. They were replaced with rusted steel panels set within a one-inch frame. Continuing the rusted steel aesthetic, a new self-closing gate and steel screen panels were fabricated and placed at opposite ends of the garden.


The patio’s support beams were replaced with four-by-four-inch square steel posts. An integral color concrete patio with a pebble-etched finish was installed and extended to the pool’s edge. A small area adjacent to the pool features stabilized decomposed granite defined by steel strap edging. Prideaux’s jewel-like design of this raised-edge pool takes center stage, with its turquoise glass tile exterior and pebble finish interior. The stunning contrast between the rusted steel components and the glass-tiled pool creates a modern vibe.

Prideaux chose drought-tolerant plants in her design, such as Yellow Bird of Paradise and Palo Verde “Sonoran Emerald.” The shrubs included Artemesia, Desert Milkweed, Gopher Plant, Deer Grass, Lady’s Slipper and Rosemary. Agave “Blue Glow,” Weber’s Agave, Grass Tree and Mexican Fencepost added sculptural elements to the space.

Now, the backyard encourages entertaining and relaxing, plus it creates a beautiful space to view from indoors.


Landscape Design: Prideaux Design, Prideaux-Design.com

Garden Contractor: Sonoran Gardens, Inc., SonoranGardensInc.com

Pool Contractor: Cimarron Circle Construction Company, CimarronCircle.com

Masterful Makeover

Beautiful landscaping that flourishes throughout the seasons is only part of the appeal of this oasis.

The front entry of Eileen and Robert Durazo’s home is flanked by sculptural topiaries and cascading blooms

If you visit Eileen and Robert Durazo’s Foothills home, you’ll enter a stately courtyard, at the center of which stands a large, gently flowing fountain. Plants surround you, from bougainvillea that climbs the courtyard walls, to potted varieties such as asparagus ferns and flowering bushes. On either side of the front door stand two topiaries, shaped into spheres.

The backyard is equally colorful, providing a gorgeous frame for the Catalina Mountains that sit to the north. This yard has evolved through the years, and will continue to do so, as it is Eileen’s passion.

“We moved here 15 years ago,” she says. “We had to do a lot of work to the backyard.”

That renovation included adding a retaining wall to better secure the large mesquite trees growing on a slope on the western half. In addition, Eileen and her husband incorporated a grass lawn and a built-in barbecue. A large mesquite tree, which sat outside the backyard, was removed because it blocked the view.

The walled entry courtyard is graced with clusters of containers overflowing
with colorful annuals.

The Durazos and their guests aren’t the only ones who enjoy this oasis. They get bobcats and javelina because they’re near a wash. Snakes also are a concern, though Eileen has only encountered non-poisonous king snakes that like to hang out and get water.

In its past, the home was popular with celebrities, too. “It has a little bit of a history,” Eileen says. “Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson rented it while Johnson was filming a movie here. Apparently, there were lots of parties.”

That movie was the smash hit Tin Cup, the iconic golf film that has become something of a movie legend. Scenes were shot at The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, as well as the Tubac Golf Resort.

Just as you cannot make a big-budget movie by yourself, it’s nearly impossible to tackle a major landscaping makeover and its continued maintenance alone. For help, Eileen turns to her friend Edd Ruiz, who co-owns Old Pueblo Petal Pushers. Their friendship goes back many years to their days as parents of Salpointe high school students. Ruiz worked in the insurance industry and later for a manufacturing firm before branching out into his current company, which he co-owns with business partner Gina Scherer. Together, Ruiz and Scherer create flower arrangements for special events, offer landscape design services, and build container gardens for clients.

With help from Ruiz in the selection process, Eileen plants a dizzying array of flora throughout the year. Kale, pansies,

flowering cabbage, foxglove, delphinium, alyssum, hollyhocks, geraniums, lantana, plumbago, trailing vines, and bougainvillea can all be found in the Durazos’ yard at some point during the spring and

early summer months.

Although Ruiz assists with seasonal planting advice, Eileen does much of her own gardening, spending many hours doing basic maintenance like deadheading. However, she also has landscapers come in once a week for general upkeep.

She says that gardening in the Sonoran Desert can be hard. “I have to pay a lot of attention to the sun — what gets direct sun and what doesn’t. Plants have to be moved a lot and changed out for that reason.”

She isn’t afraid of trying new things. She notes that her landscaper often will offer her plants that other people have decided they don’t want. “They’ll bring them here and we’ll give them a shot,” she remarks.



Old Pueblo Petal Pushers, Edd Ruiz and Gina Scherer, oppetalpushers@gmail.com

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