Adrian Langu just took salads off the menu of his Old Town Scottsdale pizzeria.
That leaves Langu with a menu of nothing but pizza, which he makes with nobody but himself. Not only does this one-man pizza shop somehow manage to pump out pies, Langu refuses to cut corners. He uses cold fermentations that exceed 24 hours, olive oil that peppers the back of your throat, and aluminum pans to crisp his grandma-style pizza.
And these square pies, though thick, are improbably light.
In the taxonomy of pizza, Neapolitan lords over all other pizza classes. If you eat in Phoenix, you probably know this style like you know the creases in your hands: airy dough, crack-thin crust, tiny pies blazed at north of 800 degrees. The style comes from Naples, the cradle of pizza, and it has long been king.
But the world contains other strange and beautiful pizza styles. Lots of others. And after a decade of Neapolitan monopoly in the States, we should feel cautious joy at the emergence of new ones.
“I personally like grandma-style because I like a little bit of a fluffy texture with crispness between,” Langu says. “It’s gotta be light and airy, like a baguette.”
But Langu takes care of the details. He takes care of this one and the others. It’s what makes his shop the kind of place that dances through your head after you leave, what makes his square pies a cool and worthy addition to the metro Phoenix pizza scene.
His standard grandma-style pie comes topped with torn basil. Though thick and crunchy on the bottom, the pizza has surprising lightness. It’s Neapolitan in spirit, somehow: Neapolitan in a thick-crust vessel. We're in oxymoronic territory here, that of spherical cubes and jumbo shrimp. Langu's squares have more finesse than you find in your typical heady, gooey, thick-crusted pie.
Langu utilizes 00 flour and a long fermentation. He uses two olive oils. The Californian extra-virgin olive oil he drizzles on pizzas right before baking is a grassy variety, one that gently needles your throat, the oleocanthols coolly burning. Langu doesn’t cook his tomato sauce, letting it stay clean and fruity. He makes his sauce from some tomatoes he hand-mills, some he hand-crushes.
You can order pizza by the pie or slice. During lunch, Langu keeps a red-sauce pie or two on hand, and when folks order a slice or three, he tops them with pepperoni or whatever the customer has ordered. Toppings are plain. They're in keeping with old-school pizza staples.
Langu doesn’t crank his gas-fired oven much higher than 500 degrees. His thicker pizzas take a little more time, and he’s only one guy. Though his shop is sleek (and red, white, and brown — pizza colors), this isn’t a place you go expecting sterling white-glove service, simply because Langu is doing so much. Langu, though, does like to chat with customers.
Crisp Premium Pizza may be a step in an upcoming Phoenician thick-crust evolution. In addition to or in fateful revolution against Neapolitan dominance, we may see more thick-pie styles on the horizon. Rejoice, pizza eater, for what may be coming. Langu’s shop deserves a spot in your rotation.
Crisp Premium Pizza. 7111 East Fifth Avenue Suite F, Scottsdale; 480-874-2747.
Wednesday to Monday 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (approximate); closed Tuesday