An old classmate of mine, whom I highly respect, recently shared an article of a pizza crawl in Rome. She is currently living and teaching in Rome and living a wonderfully romantic life.
Could you imagine? A Pizza Crawl! That is an adventure I can get on board for. Next time I’m in Rome, I’m signing up for that one. Much like a pub crawl, one must pace one’s self. This is a day long Pizza Crawl of Rome’s top Pizzerias and bakeries. One needs to be prepared with the essentials. A good pair of comfortable shoes, a refillable water bottle and a good navigator. Depending on the weather, make sure to bring your sun screen and sun glasses. The Lucky Peach article also mentions going Wednesday through Saturday to make sure the venues are open. This challenge is for those who enjoy exploring a city and eating wonderful pizza. Luckily, Rome is a walkable city filled with public drinking fountains where the water is constantly running and therefore safe to drink. It is also laced with cafes should you need a rest or a washroom break. So the basic essentials are covered. The only thing left to do is indulge in the myriad of pizza flavours, shapes and colours.
First stop on the Lucky Peach’s Pizza Crawl is Forno Campo de’ Fiori’s bakery. This little walk-in Bakery at the northwestern corner of the square is one of the good bakeries left in the popular market square. This bakery bakes long, narrow pizza pies that get stacked into an electric oven that seems to be made for the shape of the pizza but more likely the pizza shape was made for the shape of the oven.
Not far away is the second stop at Antico Forno Roscioli. Directly translated means the Historic Oven Roscioli. This stop is another historic bakery that is open for business in the morning hours while the pizzerias do not open until Lunch time. To get there from Campo de’ Fiori take the gently curving Via dei Giubbonari. Antico Forno Roscioli is chalked full of goodies, from Pizza by the slice to breakfast pastries, to fresh breads, to dried pasta ande various wines.
The 3rd stop is a jont across the river Tevere to Panificio Bonci in a residential neighbourhood just outside of the Vatican City walls. This a standard fare kind of bakery that sells bread, prepared food and pizza bianca with Porchetta (some days) along with pizza by the slice. Similar to Panificio Bonci, the pizza bianca (not focaccia), doubles as sandwich bread to be filled in this case by slices of well seasoned porchetta.
The fourth stop takes us to Pizzarium, a short walk away in a newer residential neighbourhood near Cipro Subway Station. This is as small walk-in pizzeria that is barely bigger than its counter. It sells traditional Roman style pizza in square pieces with a thinker crust and a multitude of toppings that change with the seasons. If you click on the links to Panifico Bonci and Pizzarium, you will be directed to the same site. It is not a fluke. These two establishments are owned by the same person, Gabriele Bonci.
Stop Number 5, il Mercato di Testaccio, is a municipal market in Rome that is clear across the city from the last stop. I suppose when you are on a pizza crawl, one needs to make room for more pizza by walking it off. Public Transit works too. Within the multitude of stalls in the Market, Artenio Fanella sells his pizzette out of his stall called Da Artenio. These are hand formed little mini pizzas that make a delicious rustic snack.
Not too far from il Mercato di Testaccio is Trapizzino, a place that takes the corner slice to another level. If the pictures on their website don’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will. Trapizzino serves triangular potions of fluffy pizza bianca stuffed with savory dishes. I’ve shown pollo con peperoni.
Stop Number 7 takes us to Emma Pizzeria con Cucina. To get there you will have to head back towards Campo di Fiori which is a bit of a hike. At this point, you may want to opt for some other form of transportation or your can forge ahead on foot to get your exercise in. After all, a pizza crawl is a carb load and a half. Emma’s is one of the few pizzerias that serve quality personal pizzas at both lunch and dinner. Typically you can only find personal pizzas served at dinner time. Stay tuned for those. The other thing that sets Emma apart is that she used high quality, local ingredients such as milled flour from Molino Iaquone and artisanal mozzarella. Mmmmmmmm…. I wish I had a ticket to Rome right now. It doesn’t hurt that the restaurant is simple yet a gorgeous space.
If you’ve started your pizza crawl first thing in the morning at around 9 am. It would probably be approximately 1:30pm after you have finished Lunch. That was a busy morning of sampling snack sized pizza, with the exception of Emma’s. This also means it is nap time. Depending on the time of year, the shops will either reopen at around 2 or as late as 4 pm in the summer. It is simply much too hot in the summer to do much of anything during midday. Dinner in Italy is typically served a bit later than in North America. I would wait until at least 7 pm to continue with the last few stops on the crawl. in the mean time take a nap, go site seeing or find a scenic cafe to enjoy your afternoon in.
At Dinner Time we are now arriving at destination number 8. La Pratolina, takes us to the residential district of Prati just north of Castello di Santo Angelo previously known as Emperor Hadrian’s Mausoleum before the Vatican took it over. Pratolina serves a unique style of oblong pizza called pinsa. It is believe that this was the precursor to the modern pizza. Due to the unique blend of flours and 48 hour fermentation process, the dough used at Pratolina’s has a structure that can support heavy toppings.
Now we are off to the Nomentana district for the 9th stop of the day to Tonda Pizzeria. The owner of this establishment is also the founder of Sforno and Trapizzino. Along with the unique pairings of wine that go with each pizza, Tonda uses a different method to cook their dough. The pizza is made by shaping the dough, then laying ice on it before putting it in the oven. The ice melts, slowing the cooking process of the top of the dough, leaving it moist, while the bottom becomes crisp.
La Gatta Mangiona is the 10th on the list. The evening is nearly coming to an end. This is a local pizzeria with a specialist beer menu. To get to La Gatta Mangiona from Tonda’s remote location, you will most definitely need a cab ride to get straight across the city, across the river and across Trastevere neighbourhood. But it would seem that the hike is worth it for the specially engineered dough recipe and the extensive list of beer and wine to pair with your personal, crispy Roman style pizza.
At this hour, I would recommend traveling by car or taxi. The evenings get a little tricky if you are traveling from one neighbourhood to another. To go to the next and final destination, you will have to go due east across the river again through some less desirable areas. Don’t let me discourage you from an evening stroll in Rome, it is beautiful. I only caution you to be aware of where you are in the city when you do. There are safe areas and not so safe areas. I’ve been through both at night. Also, I’m talking about petty theft or the odd person that is in a bad mood. You are not likely to be gunning down or anything like that. Remember, safety in numbers or if you are flying solo stick to the more populated ares of the city or take a cab.
The final destination is Pizzeria Ostiense, a fairly new neighbourhood pizza joint serving a quintessential Roman Style pizza with a super thin crust that is slightly chewy and with a barely raised rim.
Now that you are sufficiently full and have satisfied all of your pizza desires while touring one of the World’s most Romantic cities, it’s probably time to go into a much deserved carb loaded, food comma.
Check out Lucky Peache’s article by Katie Parla for more details and addresses for each location. You will also find recipes for Pizza Bianca, Pizza Rossa and Pizza Romana.