Pizza Bianca in Rome: A Head-to-Head Taste Test And Then Some

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Pizza Bianca in Rome: A Head-to-Head Taste Test And Then Some

[Photographs: Ed Levine]

My wife and I have been in Rome, a glorious city full of energy, history, and seriously delicious food, for five days, and I have eaten pizza bianca at least once daily during that time. We're staying in an apartment on Via Giulia, one of the oldest streets in Rome. It's a beautiful street with an old bridge crossing it 25 yards from our apartment, but I must say that its finest attribute is its proximity to Forno Campo de' Fiori, and its rival for pizza bianca supremacy in this burg, Antico Forno Marco Roscioli. It's a five minute walk from our apartment to the former, and an eight minute walk to the latter. How do I know this? Because in matters of this importance I break out my pizza bianca stopwatch (just kidding).

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The road to bianca bliss.

How cool and wonderful is the owner Claudia of this apartment? She had mortadella sandwiches on pizza bianca and a Peroni beer waiting for us when we arrived. Here is a question I have for any sandwich-maker who has access to pizza bianca: Why would you bother to use any other form of bread to make sandwiches? Pizza Bianca is the perfect sandwich bread: crispy, chewy, oily, and salty on the outside, tender and light on the inside. Pastrami needs rye, no doubt about it. But everything else tastes better tucked between the top and bottom of a slice of pizza bianca.

I have learned quite a few things in my daily pizza bianca forays, but most of them I already knew, like the hotter, fresher piece of pizza bianca always tastes better (the same way any slice does). I've seen formidable, not-to-be-trifled-with Roman women who shake their finger AND their heads when the counterman tries to pawn off a slice of pizza bianca that had already been out of the oven for five minutes. So I watched and learned, and I can shake my finger AND my head with the best of them. It's a skill you must master in Rome, but one that will translate well anywhere you are in the world. Who says you have to speak the language to get what you want?

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This morning I ventured out determined to figure out whose pizza bianca reigned supreme: Forno Campo de' Fiori or Antico Forno Marco Roscioli. I went to Roscioli first. I ordered a slice of pizza bianca, a slice of marinara, a slice with mozzarella cheese, and an individually sized potato pizza. I went down the street to Campo de' Fiori and tried to replicate the same order. Its cheese-topped pizza bianca had halved cherry tomatoes on it, its potato slices do come off an oblong pie, but everything else was the same.

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Forno Campo de' Fiori's pizza bianca.

I tried both pizza bianche first. Roscioli's pizza bianca was thicker and not as oily. Campo de' Fiori's was chewier on the outside, more tender on the inside. Fiori's was the clear winner, but I must issue the caveat that since Roscioli's was picked up first, it was out of the oven much longer, so the good folks at Roscioli were clearly operating at a disadvantage in this round.

The mozzarella-topped pizza bianche were a draw. It turns out that pizza bianca is not made to be topped with mozzarella cheese and sauce. It just doesn't work. It's like putting mayonnaise on a hot dog.

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Potato pizza bianca from Campo de' Fiori.

The potato pizza competition was, well, no competition. Campo de' Fiori's was better in every respect: the thinly sliced potatoes on top had slightly browned crisp edges, and the crust was again chewy and crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Roscioli's individual potato pie was under-baked with potatoes that tasted steamed.

Roscioli's marinara pizza edged out de' Fiori's. It was crisper and it had a perfect sauce to crust ratio.

What did I learn? Wait for whatever has just come out of the oven at either place and you will a deliriously happy serious eater. Skip the potato pie at Roscioli, and resist the temptation to get your pizza bianca topped with cheese. Cheese does not in fact make every pizza better. Oh yeah, I learned one more thing. When I die I want a slice of pizza bianca from either Roscioli or de' Fiori put in my casket. One fresh out of the oven slice so that I know my first meal in the hereafter will be seriously delicious.

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