They say that pizza gets thicker as you make your way south down Italy. This theory is generally true, but has a few holes. A huge one is that Rome, north of Naples, is most linked with pizza al taglio, a style thicker than Neapolitan. But there are thinner Roman styles, too. And by the time you get down to Sicily, pizza crust can seem tall and chewy, more like focaccia.
Another hole is that many pizza makers in Italy are experimenting. They are using heirloom flours (sound familiar?), spreading purees over dough, and tapping new flavor landscapes using ingredients like fruit and toasted nuts. For this reason, generalizing about pizza, whether talking thinness or toppings or whatever, is becoming increasingly thorny.
Stefano Fabbri of Pomo has developed a pizza style that slots nicely into the old theory of Italian geography and pizza thinness, as well as the novel spirit of pizzaioli who experiment, who break free and have fun.
Fabbri’s calls his new style “Rimini” pizza. His Rimini pizza is as thin as the crack under a door. Air bubbles have ballooned on the edges, which show some blistering and blackening. These bubbles, often mountainous, throw the thinness of the central pizza plain into focus.
The crust is as impressively slight, even diaphanous, and as dry as the land we live in. It snaps like a page-thin cracker. It crackles voluminously to small pressure from your teeth. Being so thin, the pizza redirects your focus from the crust to the toppings.
And those toppings get a little weird.
Rimini is a town in northern Italy, a destination right on the Adriatic coast. It is of no special importance in the pizza world. Until Fabbri christened Rimini-style pizza earlier this year, it didn’t exist.
“This is the pizza style we usually have everywhere in the north of Italy,” Fabbri says. “I just decide to call it Rimini-style.”
Fabbri’s Rimini-style pizza is his take on the thin pizzas he has eaten in his homeland, northern Italy. At Pomo, Fabbri has been known for pizza done in the style of Naples, a chief city of southern Italy. Like Fabbri’s Neapolitan pies, his Rimini pies are blazed in tiled beehive ovens at 950 degrees, but not as long, about a minute total. Cooking time, amount of dough (less), and its thinness are the main differences. But in the world of pizza, a small change can make a huge difference.
And these two pies are nothing alike. The Neapolitan is light and spongy, with a dough lip raised on the circumference to keep the sauce and goods dammed up in the middle. The Rimini pushes the pizza into a realm somewhere between flatbread and cracker, with a thinness like pane carasau (leaf-thin Sardinian flatbread) that allows you to fit more slices, physically and spiritually, in your hungry body.
The pizzaiolo himself digs the pie’s thinness. “It’s crispy,” Fabbri says. “It’s more light. We use the same ingredients as the pizza Neapolitan; the only thing that changes is how we toss the pizza.”
There are four Rimini-style pizzas on the menu. Two are bonkers.
One is a carbonara-style pizza, mirroring the Roman pasta of egg, cured pork, cheese, and black pepper. (Fabbri does this in a Neapolitan version. That doesn’t change the fact that a carbonara pizza is pazzo.)
The other is a pie with moonshot ambition, one that unites two of the greatest Italian foods: pizza and porchetta.
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After a 24-hour marinade in salt, pepper, onion, and lemon, after a five-hour morning roast in the pizza oven, the pork belly – now porchetta – is ready to be pizzafied. Fabbri cuts thin slips of porchetta using a deli slicer. The idea with rounds so thin is that only they could be touched with the right heat during the brief period of intense oven magic these pizzas get.
Flag-like porchetta rounds blanket this pizza like cheese does more traditional pies. Carmelized onion provides sweetness and aromatics, jiving with the pork. Garlic and olive oil temper the flavors. Unassuming and visually forgotten, chunks of potato with the texture of cheese loop it all together in a modest but masterful way.
This Rimini-style pizza is thoughtful and more than worth trying. But does it satisfy the craving for pizza? That may depend on what you think of when you think of pizza. What is certain, though, is that pizza artisans are starting to think beyond Neapolitan. And though Naples is the holy birthplace of 'za, considering the wealth of pizza styles out there, this can only be a good thing.
Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana. 8977 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale (plus other locations); 480-998-1366.
Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.