By Marjorie Rice
The thing you need to know about Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana right up front is that the name doesn’t just happen.
To be certified as authentic “Napoletana” pizza, several stringent requirements must be met, said Paola Picchi, manager of Pomo’s downtown Phoenix and Gilbert locations.
“The oven has to be made of bricks from Italy so they can reach 900 degrees and not break,” Picchi said. “The flour has to come from Italy. The tomato sauce has to be made from San Marzano tomatoes. Also the pizza makers have to be trained to make this particular kind of pizza.”
Napoletana pizza is notable for its thin, crispy crust, puffy and blistered and charred in spots from that 900-degree oven (heated with oak and pecan, which impart their own flavors to the pies).
But don’t mistake it for typical thin-crust pizzas that too often have the taste and texture of something close to sardine crackers. This crust has a decidedly yeasty character, crisp but still chewy.
“Some people say it’s not cooked but it has to be that way – moist in the center, puffy and blistered,” Picchi said.
The oven is so hot the pizzas are cooked 60 to 90 seconds – a bit longer if there are several pies in the oven on a busy night.
Pomo is the brainchild of owner Stefano Fabbri. Like many successful entrepreneurs, he saw a need and filled it.
“When Stefano came to Phoenix, he saw there was no certified Napoletana pizzeria,” Picchi said. So he decided to open one.
That was almost 10 years ago at the Borgata (that Pomo since moved to a new Scottsdale location). It was quickly followed by another Pomo in downtown Phoenix, as well as Luna Gelateria & Cafeteria in Scottsdale and a Gilbert location. Just this March, a smaller Pomo – what Fabbri calls a “mini Pomo” – opened in Biltmore Fashion Park.
After pandemic-related closures for all but takeout service, the Scottsdale and downtown locations are open for in-house dining. As of press time, hours and service at the Biltmore restaurant were still to be determined. The Gilbert location was closed for remodeling, but Picchi hoped it would be open by this month.
Napoletana pizza is the specialty of the house at the Scottsdale, downtown and Gilbert locations, along with Pinsa, a fairly new arrival to Phoenix – again thanks to Fabbri – and pizza Romana.
Pinsa is a thin-crust pie made from dough that is proofed over 72 hours to develop an intense flavor and a light airy texture. Pizza Romana’s thick, focaccia-style crust is made with dough proofed 48 hours before baking. Several toppings are available, and a favorite is “Patata” Romana with thinly sliced potato, mozzarella and rosemary (no tomato sauce).
The Biltmore Pomo serves the Pinsa and Romana, along with pizzas, but since there’s no brick oven they’re not labeled “Napoletana.” They’re paired with pastas served at all the Pomos. Strozzapreti salsiccia, with sausage, tomato sauce, cream, parmigiana and rosemary is a favorite, along with gramigna boscaiola, with crimini mushrooms, sausage, cream and parmigiana. And there’s a wide selection of antipasti, soups and salads.
Pomo also developed gluten-free and vegan pizzas, especially popular with Arizona State University students at the downtown location. The gluten-free dough, which can be ordered with any of the toppings, is made with cornstarch and rice and the non-dairy mozzarella is from the Follow Your Heart vegan and vegetarian food company, Picchi said.
“The pizza dough and cheese are so good people ask, ‘Are you sure this is really gluten-free or vegan?’ and we assure them it is,” she added. “Young people especially seem to want vegan and vegetarian options, and we sell a ton of them.”
One popular option is torchio arrabiata, which is a swirled vegan pasta that’s especially good for soaking up sauces, served with tomato sauce, Calabrian chili, garlic and parsley
“We do everything with passion, and heart,” Picchi said. “We put everything we know into it. My grandma, Stefano’s grandma, my husband’s grandma (he’s the general manager of the company) – all we can do to make it authentic Italian. All the pizza dough and pasta – lasasgne, gnocchi, tagliatelle – is freshly made in the house. Every sauce is made here. The tomato and sausage sauce takes 12 hours to reach that flavor — you can get that smell only at grandma’s house. It’s exactly what I want people to feel – you come in here and you say ‘home.’”
Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana, at 705 N. First St. is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for delivery, pickup and in-restaurant dining. Pomo Pizzeria is at the Biltmore, 2502 E. Camelback Road, Suite 148A&B. At presstime, the Biltmore location was closed, but expected to open by July 1, with hours from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for in-house dining and pickup. Hours for both restaurants may change, based on conditions. For more information, visit pomo2go.com.