Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Ship of the Desert

No, this won’t be a blog about camels.

On August 31st, I promised that that day’s entry would be my last blog about pizza for a while. Has it been a while yet? I hope so.

A couple of days ago, I lamented about the paucity of restaurants in Page, AZ. But a local pizza joint was listed as the Number Five restaurant on, got four stars on, and three and a half stars on So Canyon King Pizza seemed to be a pretty safe bet.

You can’t miss this place. There you are driving down the street and suddenly a large paddle wheeler comes into view. This is the home of Canyon King Pizza.

“The Canyon King paddle wheeler was envisioned and built by the legendary Tex McClatchy in his backyard, on the banks of the Colorado River in Moab, UT. The launch of the Canyon King was a spectacular affair. Tex launched his dream with the labor of 800 people and 1200 more well-wishers, but the sand bars of the Colorado River proved to be a challenge. The beloved ‘King’ had to be trucked to the north end of Lake Powell for her journey into the hearts of Page locals and visitors to Lake Powell.

“Thousands of weddings, parties and events of all kinds were celebrated aboard. Her sparkling lights decorated Wahweap Marina as guests enjoyed a dinner cruise each evening.
When the Canyon King lost her coast guard certification in 2008 and could no longer serve as a tour boat, owners Kris and Gary Francis stepped in to give the Canyon King her final port of call” (

The "launching" of Canyon King Pizzeria was "...the realization of a dream of Gary and Kris Francis, longtime lake visitors from San Diego, who have ‘retired’ in Page. The couple bought the 75 tons of local history for $40,000…. ‘We didn’t ever figure we would do a restaurant, ever, but what do you do with the Canyon King?’ Gary Francis said. ‘It’s too large to stay on the lake, and you can’t do a business on the lake. You have to bring it into town. The highest and best use of it is as a restaurant’” (Todd Glasenapp, Arizona Daily Sun correspondent).

Canyon King may have the word pizza in its name, but it serves more than just pizza. There is a long list of salads ranging from the more typical Caesar to the Antipasto Specialty Salad with Genoa salami, pepperoni, provolone, parmesan curls, stuffed green olives, cherry peppers, red onion, and mixed greens. I saw this being served to a couple across the room, and I can tell you that it is an enormous mound of food.

Pastas include Lasagna and spaghetti with meat sauce along with Pasta Prima Vera (spinach fettuccini, broccoli, mushrooms, red onion, bell peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and olives in an olive oil, garlic, and lemon sauce) along with Lobster Mac (five cheese Mornay sauce served over baked macaroni with bacon, lobster, crab, and white fish).

While walking across the parking lot, we decided that we would stick with our new pizza maxim for restaurants in out of the way places—keep it simple and order the basic cheese and sausage. How badly can someone mess that up? Well, pretty badly as we have learned. But more than times than not this philosophy has served us well.

But we saw a Margherita listed as one of the specialty pizzas and were interested. After extensive grilling of our server (“Does the basil go on before or after it comes out of the oven? Does the pie include both regular and fresh mozzarella?”), we decided to order one small Margherita. Since both cheeses were used, we asked for half the amount of the regular mozzarella. And yes, the basil goes on after the pie is removed.

With this, we ordered a small (twelve-inch) cheese and sausage—light cheese, of course.

Both pizzas were quite good with a thin and almost cracker-like crust. There wasn’t too much sauce on the cheese and sausage and by halving the regular cheese we came up with something to our liking.

I must take a few minutes to talk about our server—Roger Farrison—who is another man born for the hospitality industry. He caught my
attention when he approached a family with two young children. As he is clearing the dishes, he asks one of the parents “Do I ask about the D word?” How smart to ask the question this way rather than using the word
“dessert” and getting the kids all excited (when the parents may have not planned on dessert). We learned that Roger moved to Page from Scottsdale, AZ, and he passed along a travel trip for our stay in Phoenix—take a ride on the paddleboat at Canyon Lake. It is now on the schedule.

And when we asked about The Fry Bread House—a spot on our
“musts” list for lunch—he mentioned that he knows the owner, Cecelia Miller, and that both are members of the Hohokam O'odham tribe.

This turned out to be a very pleasant evening. Good pizza. Good atmosphere. Good service. A 4.0 Addie night.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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