Squared Up Pizza: Sicilian-style pies with New York City vibes

"We aren't mall pizza... We are family pizza in a mall."

As Huey Lewis and the News once said, it’s hip to be square. Come to think of it, the combination of dough, sauce, cheese, and various toppings want to be hip every now and again, too.

The Park Place Mall has a new pizza joint that’s joining the group of the other not-so-ordinary “mall food” destinations in the building — for example, Street Taco & Beer and Fiesta Filipina.

Squared Up Pizza

Photo courtesy of Squared Up Pizza

In February, Squared Up Pizza opened up and has been slingin’ dough left and right since its conception. Like every other business during its first few weeks, the pizza spot has experienced minor bumps in the road but co-owners, Patrick McColley and Mariano “Mario” Badali, feel that they’re doing a great job at the mall.

“It’s been great,” said McColley. “It’s a perfect spot for us to start to gain word of mouth with the foot traffic needed to get our product to market.”

Sicily, New York & Tucson unite

Squared Up Pizza is making Sicilian pies, as they do in New York, right here in Tucson. At first glance, you’ll realize they’re not the typical round pie seen around town and are in the traditional Sicilian square. It’s got crunchy crust, a thick base to keep things sturdy, and enough toppings to convince you to come back for more.

However, there’s something special in the mix that’s making the dough rise to the occasion, so to speak.

Squared Up Pizza

Photo courtesy of Squared Up Pizza

It’s all in the water

“We use a New York WaterMaker,” said McColley. “It’s a machine specifically designed for my water main and turns Tucson water into the best drinking and baking water. New Yorks’ water is naturally filtered through the Catskill Mountains, and the calcium and magnesium levels in it are what make the yeast react to the growing.”

Therefore, with the right filtration, it creates a splendid crust and a soft middle in bread.

“This is why pizza and bagels are so good in New York,” said McColley. “I found the company that creates this machine and we worked for about four months to dial everything in. It’s been worth every minute and penny of it. I hope others join. We need some competition.”

Squared Up Pizza

Patrick McColley (Photo courtesy of Squared Up Pizza on Instagram)

Taking a slice out of the Big Apple

The past couple of years have been odd for everyone and everyone dealt with it in their own way. McColley, who was born and raised on the east side of Tucson, spent time in New York to get a feel for how “mom and pop” restaurants were coping during the pandemic.

He wanted to meet strangers and pick their brains about their favorite places to eat. Coincidentally, co-owner Mariano “Mario” Badali’s pizza joint was a block away from where he was staying.

“I ended up trying the pepperoni pizza and fell in love with it,” said McColley. “I got home back to Tucson and within a month I was overnighting the pizzas to my doorstep. After I built a relationship with Mario, I convinced him it would be better out west for him, and if he wanted to I’d do whatever it took to make sure the integrity of his product was not sacrificed.”

Squared Up Pizza

Mariano “Mario” Badali (Photo courtesy of Squared Up Pizza on Instagram)

So, after about 20 months of market research, lots and lots of pizza consumption, and making connections with suppliers in the area and the nifty New York WaterMaker, the pair made a dream come true.

They considered their first pizza a science experiment. However, with the success they’ve had so far, they’re ready to square up with the competition.

Sometimes round is just as profound

I get it, you may not want a rectangular slice of pizza, right? Luckily, Squared Up Pizza isn’t only about squared up pizza pies. They’ve got round options as well and they’re working on getting a delivery system implemented soon.

“We aren’t mall pizza,” said McColley. “We are family pizza in a mall.”

Hours of operation are 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Squared Up Pizza is located at 5870 E. Broadway Blvd. For more information, follow Squared Up Pizza on Instagram or call (520) 519-2000. 

At a very young age, Matt was gifted with the artistic ability to masterfully roll a burrito to the highest of standards.