When in Rome: Dar Poeta
Vicolo del Bologna 45, Rome 00153, Italy; map); 39-06-6830-7769;
Pizza Style: Roman
Oven Type: Wood
The Skinny: Wonderfully prepared Roman-style pizza with a crisp, yeast-free crust and fresh ingredients. The abundance of locals and the Italian-only menu indicate that this is the real deal, not a tourist trap (although they will gladly have you)
Price: €6 to €9
It takes a bit of work to find Dar Poeta, tucked away as it is in one of the winding back alleys of the bustling Trastevere District of Rome. You may be seduced by the more easily accessible restaurants that line the busy, well-lighted streets that lie in stark contrast to the dimly lit narrow walkway that leads to this cramped pizzeria, but hold out. Once you navigate the maze, you'll know you've arrived when you find a crowd—mostly speaking Italian but punctuated with other tongues from other places—amassed in front of Dar Poeta.
Those waiting literally stand over those eating in the tightly packed outdoor seating, but rather than being an imposition, it actually provides a barrier of sorts from street performers preying on a captive audience and from scooters, the only motorized vehicles that can make it down the street, sputtering their way through the crowd, brake lights casting eerie silhouettes on the ancient stone walls.
Waits can be lengthy, even after you are seated. Sit outside and chances are you'll have to ask several people to move so that you can take a seat. Once you do, getting your server's attention can be difficult. Some might consider the service gruff, but I think it is more that they're overburdened; I noted only two waitresses for more than 40 diners. The locals will blow Camel unfiltered smoke in your face, their car keys and drinks will spill on to your table and they will look at you curiously when you struggle to order from the Italian-only menu. But you won't care. The pizza will make the indignity of tourism worth it.
The pizza uses a yeast-free, slow-rise dough cooked in a wood-fired oven. The pizzas are made in the Roman model with a crisp crust. Those with a taste for some heat will enjoy the Lingua de Foco (tongue of fire) a tomato and fior di latte pizza spiked with a spicy salami. The cheese, creamy but with some tang, and the sweet tomato sauce are applied in pleasingly moderate amounts, allowing the smokiness of the crust to assert itself before the heat from the salami sets in.
For a slightly tamer but no less flavorful experience try the Boscaiolo (mozzarella, mushroom, sausage). The cornicione looked far more pronounced than on the Lingua de Foco, and I was half expecting a Neapolitan-style pie, but the crust turned out to be crisp throughout, exhibiting little in the way of tip sag. The earthy mushrooms and creamy cheese provided a pleasing synthesis, and the sausage added a rich texture as it perfumed the pie with fennel.
Dar Poeta may be harder to find than other pizzerias in the neighborhood. Both the Google map on my iPhone and a hand-held GPS unit had trouble locating it as the narrow streets that surround it obscured the satellite signals. But once I found it, I was glad I persevered. The pizza was wonderful—well worth the wait in fact.