You’d think living in Italy, that I get to eat great pizza all the time. Good pizza, yes. But great pizza? Not so much. I have to admit that some of my favorite pizza comes from my own oven up in Todi. It would be wonderful to have a pizza oven here in Rome, but…well, that’s just my dream.
But in the last month I have actually had some extraordinary pizza, here in Rome, so I thought it was time for a pizza update.
I can’t believe I’ve never been here before last month. Well, actually, I can. Gatta Mangiona sort of a pain to get to. I do love pizza, but tend to think of it as a Sunday-night, stay-in-the-neighborhood kind of thing. My friend Edward was in town for one night, so we hopped in the Smart and headed up to Monteverde. Edward is always going on about the new great pizza places in NY, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to try something new.
I’d been hearing about Gatta Mangiona for a while. It opened about 20 years ago and is pretty well-known by pizza cognescenti. From the outside it doesn’t look like much at all. Just another blah-looking, over-lit, neighborhood joint. But walk in the door and it hits you: that great pizza smell, that is a mix of rising dough, singed crust and wood fire. The real thing.
They do have a menu, but better to look on the blackboard for the daily specials. (which are also online, so you can arrive prepared). First we ordered up a suppli of mozzerella di buffala, tomato and basil and a potato crochette filled with mint. Both were light and airy and full of fresh herbs.
Since we were only two people, we really had to limit ourselves to only two pizzas, and it was very hard to choose between all the nightly specials. But we managed: Pizza with creamy gorgonzola, pumpkin, herring and balsamic reduction and the other with cherry tomatoes, cubes of primo sale and puntarella. What a brilliant idea to put puntarella on a pizza! But my favorite was the pumpkin, topped by bright oragne ribbons of thinly sliced, barely cooked pumpkin, with salty bits of herring.
An added bonus: great beer list. Actually, incredible beer list.
This place has become a mecca for foodies in Rome, and it’s creator, Gabriele Bonci, their god. Which would all be pretty weird sounding, except that the pizza he turns out is nothing short of miraculous.
This is not a pizzeria, but a pizza a taglio place. In other words, the pizzas come out in large trays, and you buy slices to eat standing up (or you can take out).
What makes the pizza so great? First of all the dough. Evidently Bonci brought back some ancient yeast starter from Puglia years ago, and has been nuturing it ever since. He honed his pizza and bread making skills under panificio guro Franco Palermo. And he uses only the best flour: Mulino Marino flours (all different kinds, in endless variations). The dough is light, and airy, but a bit sour and chewy. It’s not heavy at all, and – due to it’s very long rising – doesn’t give you that heavy-tummy feeling that pizza a taglio so often does.
And the toppings. When Evan and I were there a few weeks ago, she summed it up: he’s an artist. Both visually and gustatorily. For instance the day we were there a pizza came out that was bursting with colors: purple radicchio and bright pink ribbons of cured pork. Visually a masterpiece. And it tasted even better.
Here’s the drill: order a little slice of as many kinds as you think you can eat. They will heat them up, then place them on a little wooden board, and cut them into bite sized pieces. Since the pizzas are seasonal, and created at the whim of the Bonci, you may never get a chance to try them again. (at least that’s my excuse). Evan and I tried 8. Or was it 9?
To wash it down: they stock a half dozen great beers. But also some really fun craft soft drinks. By the way, it’s located near Via Cirpo metro stop, not far from the Vatican. For more on Bonci see here, here, here and here.
Strange name, I know. It refers both to the type of flour used, “00” and neighborhood’s zip code. Again, this is a pocket sized pizza a taglio place, in the heart of Testaccio. Started up by the owners of Sforno (supposed to be the best pizza in Rome, I’ve never been since it’s way out of the center of things) a little over a year ago.
Besides being known for the quality of their pizza, they also have a reputation for whacky toppings and something called the Trapizzini.
Whacky topping I tried when I visited the other day : campari-soaked mozzerella. I kid you not. It is one of their specialties called Testarossa, On top of a bed of potatoes and orange-flecked coppa from Viterbo, I have to tell you, it was shockingly good. Bitter enough that you could really taste the campari, but just right somehow. The other that I tried, Greenwich, paired Stilton with mozzarella, topped by a port reduction. Pretty great.
The trapizzini thing sounds silly, but is actually pretty cool (and I’m sure will catch on, I hope they copyrighted it). Basically they bake big sheets of pizza dough, then cut it into smaller triangles. (like tramezzini). They then cut a slit into the long side, creating a pocket. The pocket then gets filled with your choice of Roman standby: tripe, coda alla vacinara, lingua a salsa verde, pichiapo, pollo con peperone, or meatballs. Don’t you wish you thought of this? Isn’t this the best idea for street food ever? Kind of like a Roman Knish.
That’s the round up for now. There are a few more places (like Sforno) that I’m hoping to try soon. Let me know if you have any faves.
And remember when I said I like my own pizza the best? Well, it’s about to get even better. I’ve signed up for a pizza making workshop with Bonci (along with my friends Judy, and Semsa in January at Tricolore. So watch out.
Via Ozanam 32
06 534 6702
Via della Meloria 43
06 397 45416
Via Giovanni Branca 99
06 434 19624
UPDATE DEC. 2012: For a complete update on the pizza scene in Rome download my app, Eat Italy, from iTunes.