Austin Skiles and Michelle Marrocco have been living in “pizza madness,” as Skiles calls it. For the last several years, the pair, both restaurant industry veterans, have obsessed over perfecting their own pizza recipes. On October 9, they’re finally going to unveil them to the world at a pop-up at Ludlow Liquors (2959 N. California Ave., Avondale).
Sometimes, a combination of stress and romance can lead to something wonderful. Skiles works behind the bar at Sportsman’s Club and Boeufhaus (and has done time at Barrelhouse Flat and La Sirena Clandestina) and Marrocco, his partner, is a server at Avec (with previous stints at Nico Osteria and La Sirena Clandestina). They have only one overlapping night off per week. So a few years ago, that night became pizza night — first, with just the two of them, and later, with friends.
“We kind of eventually started thinking we could do this for a larger audience,” says Skiles. “And we wanted to test ourselves and the product.” Pizza Di Non was born.
The name refers to the pair’s answer to questions of what “style” of pizza they make. “We kept saying it’s not Detroit, it’s not New York, it’s not tavern-style, it’s not deep dish,” says Marrocco. “Pizza Di Non essentially means 'pizza of not.’” The phrase also plays on the fact that the chefs cook what they call “grandma-style” pizza, and “Non” is close to nonna — Italian for “grandma.”
What makes Pizza Di Non’s pies stand out is the technique Marrocco and Skiles have refined. Rather than using instant yeast (which fuels most pizza dough), they’re baking pizza the slow way. “It’s a long fermentation using a natural starter,” says Marrocco of the team’s dough-making method. “We’re trying to slow the process down and build flavor.” The “grandma-style” of pizza is a little different. It’s cooked in a square pan, sort of like Detroit-style pies, with olive oil on the bottom that, according to Skiles, “almost fries the bottom of the pizza.” The result has an airy crust and a dough that packs a lot of savory flavor.
At the pop-up next Tuesday, which starts at 6 p.m., Skiles and Marrocco will be offering a few different kinds of pizza, including one made with their special blend of cheeses (fontina, grana padano, fresh mozzarella, and more); another with Calabrian chilies and soppressata; and a third with marinara sauce, confit garlic, capers, and anchovies. Attendees can also chow down on grass-fed beef meatballs and top off the meal with affogato for dessert. A Fernet spritz and a slice of pizza — on the menu as a “spritz and a slice” — will also be available for $10.
The eventual goal is to turn Pizza Di Non into a restaurant (Skiles cites Honey Butter Fried Chicken, which initially began with pop-ups, as an inspiration). Skiles and Marrocco want to open a neighborhood pizza joint with a small menu, a great list of Italian wines, and, of course, really good pizza.
“We want it to be very simple and classic,” says Marrocco. “We aren’t trying to reinvent anything.”
So come next Tuesday, you might be getting a taste of the next trendy pizza spot. At the very least, you’ll get a really delicious slice of pizza, made with a lot of love.