It seems as if every week brings word of some new pizzeria opening in the city, and most of those openings follow a similar narrative: oven, chef, ingredients all from Naples, blah blah blah. So it was refreshing to see Pizza Roma open early last week in the long-dormant space once occupied by Zito's Bakery.
Pizza Roma, as the name implies, serves Roman-style pizza — long, rectangular pies, cooked in pans, whose crusts are thicker, crisper, chewier than their round, wood-fired Neapolitan counterparts.
You could be forgiven for mistaking them for grandma slices at first glance, since the configuration and dimensions are similar. But Roman-style pizza (known in Rome as pizza al taglio or pizza al metro — "by the cut" and "by the centimeter," respectively) is topped a little more inventively than most grandma pies, and is thinner and a bit more airy in terms of the crust's hole structure.
At Pizza Roma, business partners Andrea Franchini and Edoardo Sanges serve both take-out slices from the long, narrow front of the shop and sit-down whole pies in a comfortable and bright dining room tucked away in the back. (Trivia: The back dining room used to be the Zito family's living quarters in the early days of their bakery.)
Slice pizzas include the classic Margherita (sauce and mozzarella) and marinara (just sauce), a four cheese option, a potato slice, a veggie-only slice that's good for vegans, and more. Slices are $3 to $3.50 and you'd probably need at least a couple to fill up.
On the classic Margherita whole pie I ordered ($13.50), the mozzarella was amazingly creamy — to the point that I thought there was more on the pizza than was billed. The sauce is thick and flavorful, though the amount of cheese on the Margherita masked it a bit.
Of the slices I tried, my favorite was the porcini mushroom slice. The meatiness of the savory mushrooms added to the creaminess of that cheese — well, that was a satisfying slice on a cold, snowy day.
There's a little sign at Roma in the front that makes much of the 96-hour rising time that chef-partner Sanges puts the dough through. The sign notes that the long rise makes the resulting pizza more digestible.
And he was all too happy to show Slice some of the process in the pizzeria's downstairs kitchen. Above, Sanges shows us the flour he uses — a special formulation for Roman-style pizza al taglio (it's a harder, more durable flour that stands up well to longer rises). The dough in the bin is has been in the fridge for four days and was ready for working up into portions when Slice visited.
Different size doughs go in the various size pans. Here, the two pans shown (small and medium) are for sit-down pizza. An even larger pan (not shown) is used for the to-go slice pizzas, which are about two feet long.
Desserts at Pizza Roma include a tiramisu, crostata, and the now de rigueur Nutella-outfitted "dessert pizza," which was my favorite of the three. Here, the Nutella is stuffed inside a slice of Roma's pizza bianca that's then dusted with powdered sugar.
Of the Roman pizza I've had in NYC (and there are surprisingly many), Pizza Roma holds its own. It's a welcome addition to this neighborhood, which has become something of a pizza hot zone. I'm looking forward to future visits when I'm not in the mood for Neapolitan (Kesté or No. 28), Neapolitan-American (John's), or straight-up NYC slices (Joe's).
287 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10014