Not that it’s a competition, but Roman pizza is just as interesting as Neapolitan (and just as good).
In Rome, pizza is everywhere. It’s rare to go more than two blocks without the smell of yeast and mozzarella wafting from some storefront. Romans eat pizza for lunch, as an afternoon snack, cut into little pieces for an aperitivo, and then as a whole pie for dinner (and maybe a quick slice on the way home from the discoteca). You’d be crazy to come to Rome and not eat pizza at least once, so we’ve put together this list to help you not only find the best pizza in Rome, but how and when to eat it.
Pizza al Taglio
The word pizza in Rome actually refers to a type of bread — flat and bubbly, with a nice ratio of chewy inside and crisp outside. When dressed with just olive and salt, it’s called pizza bianca, a near-perfect food that Romans eat strips of for a snack. It can be embellished in two ways. First, you can stuff it, often con la mortazza, which means packed with piggy slices of mortadella. Or, you can have the pizza base with toppings. This is called pizza al taglio, which means “by the slice.” But these aren’t the pepperoni-topped triangles of American fame. Big, square/oblong pies are cut according to how much the customer wants, and then sold by weight. The toppings can be either baked into the crust, like potatoes, or applied raw on top, like fresh mozzarella. Pizza al taglio is usually for lunch or a snack, and you eat it at a dedicated pizzeria, as well as the many bakeries that make simple pizza for people to buy with their daily bread and cookies. Looking for some pizza al taglio? Here are four of the best places to try.
An small, modern-looking pizzeria and bakery in Monteverde Vecchio, Prelibato takes the art of bread-making and applies it to pizza. The slow-risen dough is chewy and tangy, with a bit of char from the oven, as opposed to the one-note crispness of other places. If you had to get one slice, get it all’amatriciana, with sweet tomato sauce, pecorino cheese, and petals of guanciale that partially-melt in the oven and then fully melt in your mouth.
2. Le Vecchie Tradizioni
Right around the corner from Prelibato is neighborhood bakery Le Vecchie Tradizioni, and one of the best places in the city to try pizza con la mortazza. The pizza bianca is puffy and chewy, a bit like a fresh pita. They can take a piece of that, fresh from the oven, and fill it with mortadella if you want. Better to try their version of the above-mentioned classic. The mortadella is draped over the un-cut pizza, and then sprinkled with finely chopped pistachios (which are traditionally used in mortadella), so that every bite is a mix of warm pizza, cool mortadella and then crunchy, verdant nut.
3. Angelo e Simonetta
Far up in the Nomentana neighborhood (you can get the 90 bus to there from Termini station), is one of the original revolutionary pizzerias of Rome. Angelo e Simonetta was at the forefront, more than thirty years ago, of using dough-fermentation to produce pizza with a thicker, more flavorful crust that would not only support the toppings but also complement them. They’re still going strong at this unassuming pizzeria, with more than a dozen differently-topped behind the counter at any given time. The best ones take a classic — margherita, for example — and give it a twist, as in the pizza with tomato, basil and umami-packed provola cheese instead of mozzarella
4. Antico Forno Roscioli
Located right near the popular Campo de’ Fiori, Roscioli Forno is the oldest (and cheapest) branch of the Roscioli brand. Nominally a bakery, it’s packed at lunch with both tourists and local workers seeking some superlative pizza. Roscioli’s pizzas are made alla pala, meaning the long ovals of dough are cooked directly on the oven floor instead of in a sheet pan. Much thinner and crackly than at the previous places, the pizza here is pure-and-simple Roman al taglio. Sausage, tomato, mushrooms, even burrata and pesto … you can’t go wrong, so get a bit of everything.
The other major style of pizza in Rome is tonda, or “round.” This refers to whole pies, meant to be eaten fork-and-knife by one person as a meal. Roman-style whole pizzas are significantly different than the better-known Neapolitan ones, which are thick and chewy. In Rome, the dough is seriously thin — we’re talking maybe a quarter-inch, if that. The base should be crisp and yet still tender enough to cut, lightly smoky from the wood oven but with a non-nonsense cracker-like flavor that leaves you feeling satisfied rather than stuffed. Because of the size and relative lightness of the crust, the toppings on a pizza tonda tend to be less elaborate than those on al taglio, often just classic margherita dressed some freshly-sliced prosciutto and arugula after the pizza comes out of the oven. Because sit-down pizzerias use big, wood-burning ovens that take a while to heat up, they’re usually open only at dinnertime. The classic Roman thing to do is go out for pizza on Sunday night, with fried snacks to start the meal, and plenty of cold beer throughout. Like that idea? Here are four places for great pizza tonda.
If you thought the pizza al taglio at Roscioli Forno was good, wait to you see what Roscioli does with whole pies at Emma. The crust is sturdy and audibly crisp when you take a bite. Where Emma really sets itself apart is toppings. Roscioli is one of Rome’s premier sourcers of cured meats and cheeses, and you can have them all on a pizza at Emma, from the possibly-over-the-top pizza with Jamon Iberico to the simple, perfect margherita with 30-month-aged parmigiano-reggiano. Current favorite? The “F.Li Di Salvo,” with nutty caciocavallo cheese and coaster-sized disks of pancetta.
2. Pizzeria Ostiense
Opened just three years ago by some young friends, Pizzeria Ostiense is pure Roman joy. The waiters wear t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the neighborhood butcher as they hustle back and forth, balancing two pizzas on each arm. Start your meal with crunchy-creamy crochette di patate (fried mashed potatoes) and a cold draft beer before tucking into a pizza whose charred rim overhangs the plate. The toppings, all locally sourced, are simple yet distinctive-tasting, whether they be fresh sausage or ultra-Roman artichokes. And with a margherita costing only five bucks … this is a place you might find yourself returning to night after night.
3. Ai Marmi
Maybe the most famous pizzeria in Rome, Ai Marmi (known as “the Morgue” for its marble-slab tables) is the place to go for anyone who wants a good, honest pizza, cheap and satisfying, in a place who after 80-plus years in business knows exactly what it’s doing. Marmi’s pizzas are so thin that they crack when you cut a slice off and try to fold it, and with a flavor best described as compulsively edible. Marmi’s about the whole experience, though. The crew of veteran waiters must run a half-marathon every night as they buzz around, empty beer bottles wedged in between their fingers. Snag a seat on the sidewalk, both to stay away from the infernal heat of the pizza oven, and enjoy the crowds of tourists and Romans alike out for the night in Trastevere
4. La Gatta Mangiona
This lively, cat-themed spot is one of Rome’s most popular pizzerias, so be sure to call ahead. La Gatta Mangiona serves a hybrid of the Roman and Neapolitan styles — a thick, risen crust, but crispy rather than floppy. The resulting flavor and texture are great on their own, but only enhanced by the expertly-combined toppings like zucchini and caramelized onions, spicy salami and olives, and even a “lasagna” pizza with ricotta and fresh ham. Great selection of draft beers, and fried appetizers as good as you’ll find anywhere.
Pizza is a pretty big deal in Italy—but not in the way that you may think. Join us for a slice of authentic Roman-style pizza at the market when you join us on our Testaccio Neighborhood Food & Market Tour. You’ll learn how to do pizza the way Romans do pizza—and that’s just one stop on a whole morning full of gastronomic gems. We hope you’re hungry!
Despite the name, Giancarlo was actually born and raised in Boston. He now lives in Rome, where he works as a freelance journalist. Passionate about Rome’s food, history and culture, he can usually be found with a good book and, depending on the time of day, an espresso or an Aperol Spritz. Never Campari.