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11:36 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Chew on this: Bill's Pizza thrives on decades of experience

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>

Jim Sobo, general manager, left, his daughter, Lucy, and owner Bill Tracy displaying the popular Elton John vegetarian pizza.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br> Jim Sobo, general manager, left, his daughter, Lucy, and owner Bill Tracy displaying the popular Elton John vegetarian pizza.

PRESCOTT - Bill Tracy, owner of Bill's Pizza, said he grew up in San Jose, Calif., where he first tried a pizza crust baked with sourdough in the 1980s.

"That was the best pizza I ever had," Tracy said. "It gives it more flavor. It's not just white bread. The sourdough gives it a better texture and crispiness."

Tracy graduated from the Western Culinary School in Portland in 1984, and has been in the field since then. He owned the Dinner Bell in downtown Prescott from 1999 to 2004.

Tracy said he sold the restaurant to "take a break," then headed to Oaxaca, Mexico, to teach for three months at Seasons of My Heart under the tutelage of acclaimed chef Susanna Trilling.

Meanwhile, Tracy opened Bill's Pizza in 2006 in downtown Prescott.

Afterward, he spent three years in Thailand, where he graduated 18 months ago from the Wandee Culinary School in Bangkok. Upon returning to Prescott, Tracy said he had plans to buy a Thai restaurant. When that fell through, he opened Bill's Grill in December 2010 on South Montezuma Street.

Tracy also opened a Bill's Pizza in Palm Springs, Calif., in April 2010.

He said he has wanted to open a pizzeria since the 1970s, and traveled around Italy tasting pizzas.

"Now that I own three restaurants, I need to figure out how to run three restaurants to the best that can, so I hired Jim Sobo as the general manager."

Sobo, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, started as general manager in January, and oversees Bill's Pizza and Bill's Grill.

Sobo said the sourdough bread "has less sugar and you won't have as high glycemic value." Bill's Pizza also uses extra-virgin olive oil, which is high in omega fatty acids, Sobo said.

"Those are oils your doctor tells you to use," Sobo said.

He said Bill's Pizza imports flour from Italy, and buys Schreiner's sausage from Phoenix. The sausages are hot, Sicilian (with fennel seed) and sweet.

Sobo and Tracy noted the honors Bill's Pizza has received. Popular Plates named Bill's Pizza in the top 100 of pizzerias nationwide in winter 2010.

The Menu

Customers at Bill's Pizza may select from a variety of pizzas, salads and pizza combos, and order soft drinks and beer.

Prices start at $2.25 for a slice of cheese pizza and $3 for a small house salad. Customers may order 10-inch individual pizzas, starting at $6.50 and peaking at $9.50 with as many as seven toppings.

Eighteen-inch pizzas start at $16 with just cheese, and max at $21 with as many as seven toppings.

Customers may build their own toppings, with $1.50 each after ordering seven items. The toppings include carmelized onions, black olives, artichoke hearts, green chilies, pineapple, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, anchovy and chorizo.

Bill's features 24 combo pizzas ranging from $9.50 for 10 inches and $21 for most 18-inch pies. Some are named for famous people, including The Charlie Sheen, John Henry and Elton John.

Elton John is the most popular at the Prescott and Palm Springs pizzerias, Tracy said. It features roasted garlic infused olive oil, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cooked spinach, red onions and four-cheese plus feta.

"It surprises me, being a vegetarian pizza," Tracy said.