TAMPA — Pizza might be the country’s great equalizer. From lovers of the floppy New York slice to fans of the char-pocked Neapolitan pie and Chicago deep-dish aficionados, there is no shortage of affection for the sauce-and-dough genre.
There’s another style making waves across the country: the Roman-style pie, a chewy specimen with a tall crust that’s light and airy, the result of a 72-hour fermentation and a heavily hydrated dough.
Forbici, which means “scissors” in Italian, refers to the traditional method of cutting the pizza into squares straight from the pan. It’s also the name of the new modern Italian restaurant that opened in June in Hyde Park Village, a collaboration between Ciccio Restaurant Group co-founder Jeff Gigante and Jeff Brunetti.
I’d like to think of myself as an equal opportunist when it comes to pizza, but I have to admit, I wasn’t sold on Forbici’s pies at first bite. The Fiore ($19) we ordered on one visit was in dire need of salt, and the dollop of bland ricotta plopped in the middle felt awkward — not big enough to spread around the piece and yet too much for one bite.
I also didn’t taste any of the smokiness advertised in the smoked tomato topping, though the crust’s texture and the intriguing blend of light and crispy edges with a chewy interior made up for some of the pie’s shortcomings.
On another visit, I gave the pizza another shot, this time ordering the Cup and Char ($17), a version topped with spicy rounds of cured pepperoni that curled into tiny cups. Dotted with mozzarella, parsley and a hearty red sauce, it was the perfect blend of spicy, cheesy, crispy and just the tiniest bit sweet.
The square pizzas are served in either 12-inch or 24-inch portions, and when paired with an appetizer or a salad like the Caesar ($10), the 12-inch portion with six square slices easily suffices for two people.
It’s not all pizza here. The rest of the extensive menu winds down a path that’s mostly modern Italian, taking detours to visit dishes with an unapologetically Ciccio vibe — think grain bowls and Impossible meat substitutions. Similar to Gigante’s other restaurants scattered around Tampa Bay (Fresh Kitchen, Ciccio Cali, Taco Dirty), the food here nods to a more health-minded approach.
I’m not completely sold on the Impossible hype, but the “meat”balls here ($14) make a pretty convincing argument. Served in a piping-hot cast iron skillet, the round, soft orbs arrive submerged in a sweet and warming classic pomodoro sauce flecked with parsley.
There are also pizzas made with gluten-free crusts, and with plenty of dishes labeled either as vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, the restaurant does a solid job of accommodating all types of eaters. Vegetarian sides are abundant, ranging from a blistered broccolini ($8), which arrives coated in garlicky olive oil, lemon, Parmesan and chili flakes, to rosemary-roasted fingerling potatoes ($7), slick with olive oil and topped with Maldon salt flakes.
Also included on the antipasti selection are suppli ($12), creamy arborio rice croquettes that arrive crispy and golden, oozing molten mozzarella. A pan of blistered shishito peppers ($6) also makes an appearance: Flecked with fat flakes of sea salt, they benefit from a squeeze of the charred lemon wedge nestled in the pan.
Half portions are available for most of the pastas, and the cacio e pepe ($10/$17) is an exercise in simplicity, with salty, sharp pebbles of Parmesan-Reggiano and bouncy strands of pasta topped with sharp Pecorino Romano and plenty of black pepper. A linguine with clams ($19) is more unassuming, with a briny kick from a handful of salty Cedar Key little neck clams — a mild dish that could have benefited from just a touch of spice or acid to give it more life.
Most of the menu stays safely within the confines of modern Italian-American cooking. For dessert, there are a few twists, like the tiramisu made with Aperol-flavored mascarpone, espresso-flavored cookies and orange zest ($8) or the cannoli, a wickedly sweet take on the classic confection sprinkled with pistachios and decorated with deeply bitter dollops of chocolate ganache ($7).
In keeping with the current trend of designing restaurant spaces with an increasingly Instagram-obsessed clientele in mind, Forbici fits right in. It’s impossible to miss the large anime-like mural designed by local artist Jason Hulfish, or the giant red plastic heart with devil’s horns and fangs.
In a similarly eye-catching move, the bathrooms are plastered with black-and-white photographs of women — some of them in bras and underwear — eating spaghetti. (There are a few men pictured as well, although they’re fully dressed.) It’s a little tacky, and struck me as an odd choice in a post #MeToo world, especially in a restaurant where the design feels so central.
Forbici is anchored by a large, wraparound bar and an extensive communal seating area — a loud, lively and buzzy area. Several of the restaurant’s wines and a few cocktails are served on tap, and there’s a short selection of Italian classics, including an excellent Negroni and a fizzy and refreshing Spagliato.
Behind the bar, a dining room includes more seating, and depending on the time of day and where you sit in the restaurant, service can vary from scattered to inattentive. There’s room for improvement.
With a menu as extensive and varied as the one at Forbici, there is plenty to appease most diners. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that keep you coming back — a glass of wine, a Caesar salad and a slice of that addictive Cup and Char pizza.
What the ratings mean
1-2: Don’t waste your time
3-5: Fair, but could be better
6-8: Pretty darn good
9-10: What are you waiting for?
If you go
1633 W Snow Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-8001
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday
Prices: Antipasti $6 to $14, pastas and entrees $17 to $32, pizzas $15 to $20
Recommended dishes: suppli; Cup and Char pizza; cacio e pepe pasta