When Stefano Fabbri left Italy for the Valley, he wanted to open an eatery. He narrowed things down to a pizzeria or gelateria, then got stuck. Choosing rankled him. Fabbri grew up in his family's gelateria and cafeteria in Emilia-Romagna. He had gone through a program at the University of Gelato in Bologna.
But Fabbri chose to make pizza and today, Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana makes some of the better pies in town.
This leaves us wondering, what if Fabbri had gone gelato?
Last month, Fabbri squashed the hypotheticals and what-ifs by opening Luna Gelateria & Cafeteria in the old Forno Fabbri space that adjoins the Pomo on Scottsdale Road. Like his parents, Fabbri serves gelato and other Italian food. Luna is a cool place to eat, linger, and catch some RAI on the screens above the gelato bar. What makes the shop more exciting than your average purveyor of frozen scoops is Fabbri's willingness to venture into unfamiliar culinary territory. That and some dope flavors.
One of those is mango. His mango is a sorbetto rather than a gelato, meaning there's no dairy. Each sorbetto at Luna is made of just fruit, water, and sugar. The mango is lush and deep and tropical. Its compact, creamy bite and explosive tang are eerily similar to sinking your teeth into a dripping ripe mango.
Twisted gelato mounds come in mostly traditional flavors. Fabbri makes Sicilian pistachio, stracciatella (milk base with chocolate shavings), and fior di latte (cream). He has plans to make gelato rolls using a sweet flatbread, booze-spiked gelato sundaes, and even a ricotta gelato flavor. His gelato uses milk from Danzeisen Dairy, which comes to Luna in throwback glass bottles. There are a handful of sorbetti other than mango, the cold rainbow you typically see in gelato shops.
And there's a second section of gelato, to the left of the lighted glass case. No twisted mounds will be found here. Instead, gelato fills the eight hollows of a chrome machine called a Frigomat GX8 batch freezer.
This machine constantly spins gelato, arms churning what looks like soft serve. Fabbri makes gelato directly in these tins. He pours a gelato base onto the spinning arms, and 15 minutes later gelato is ready.
The gelato that comes out of this sleek baby is unusual. It's much warmer than your typical gelato without being warm. You don't get the density of gelato, the compactness, the ice crystals crunching between your teeth. You get gelato with a consistency more like frozen yogurt.
In this machine, Fabbri makes speciality flavors. He does a yellow vanilla, the color coming from egg yolks that give the vanilla an icing-like finish. He makes Luna, a flavor that is a pistachio base diluted to 50 percent and converted to straciatella, the chocolate shavings formed by drizzling melted chocolate directly into the spinning base. Gianduja, a traditional chocolate hazelnut blend, hits your tongue and soul just like Nutella.
The GX8 gets cleaned every 72 hours. Employees keep a to-the-minute log of when flavors go in. This is a new kind of gelato, one that will likely win both friends and enemies.
Luna has more than gelato. The non-frozen goods can be just as cool.
Fabbri bakes several kinds of focaccia. Most notable among these is three kinds of focaccia in the style of Recco, a coastal Italian town in Liguria near the French-Italian border. For these, he uses dough without yeast. He fills dough with golf balls of Stracchino, a northern Italian cow's milk cheese. When it emerges from an oven bought for the sole purpose of cooking these, the focaccia is less doughy and more like flatbread with snap, shatter, and the airy slightness of a Neapolitan pie. The crisp round oozes melted cheese like mad.
You can get Recco-style focaccia topped with honey (it's excellent) or truffle oil and truffle sauce.
On the menu, too, are panini, Roman-style pizzas, salads, and soup. For the porchetta panini, Fabbri slow-cooks pork belly for 24 hours before finishing it in the oven for five. Fennel and rosemary perfume fatty rounds of the meat, which Fabbri slicks with a salsa verde charged with Fresno chiles.
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You can order Luna items while eating at Pomo. Just which is a question Fabbri is still answering, just as he's still toying with Luna's menu, adding novel and classic touches.
One thing you can order while eating Pomo pizza is Luna gelato. Luckily, unlike Fabbri, you won't have to make a tortured decision between the two.
Luna Gelateria & Cafeteria. 8977 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale; 480-907-5202.
Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.