I’ve wanted to come here since this summer, when I was sitting on my couch in Arlington Virginia binge reading blogs about living in Rome. I thought we would get here sooner considering how high it was on our list. But it was on the other side of town, and quite often in this town of pizza, it’s hard to gear yourself up for a twenty minute tram ride plus a fifteen minute walk to find more pizza, even if it is supposed to be the best. But after reading yet another blog post about the establishment and it’s food celebrity owner, Gabriele Bonci, I decided this weekend was the weekend.
If the pictures weren’t already an indicator, I guess I should mention that word is out about Pizzarium. Everyone from the New York Times to Anthony Bourdain has raved for good reason. The shop is in a modest neighborhood, far from tourist crowds. At first we thought we might be lost, and my husband was sure I had lost my mind dragging him out there, until we saw other tourists trying to navigate with cellphones, and then a guy with a pizza box, and finally a crowd waiting outside one of the few establishments in the area. Most people were excited, like they were going to see their favorite band in concert, others were annoyed with the wait but curious to know what it was about.
Though we were starving at this point, we didn’t mind the line much, it gave us time to figure out which beer we wanted in the refrigerator conveniently located next to our knees (we chose Hoppy Cat – delicious!), a chance to contemplate the wall of flour, Bonci’s book and other last minute purchases, choose which suppli we wanted from the chalkboard, and most of all figure out the system.
I should mention that this is Pizza al Taglio, meaning it’s a rectangular pizza, cut with scissors or a knife, and sold by the weight. If you order pizza in a restaurant, then you are ordering Pizza Rustica, which is the traditional, round pizza usually made in a wood fired oven. Pizzarium only serves Pizza al Taglio, so you are able to try lots of flavors.
We don’t speak functional Italian yet, so this had the potential to be yet another nerve-wracking, hand-gesturing experience. But we were lucky, the nice man behind the counter spoke English, and patiently helped us through the colorful combinations. There were pizzas with arugula, anchovies, pancetta, chickpeas, potatoes, or completely plain. To make things a little more interesting, new flavors were being introduced about every 30 seconds, and the rectangles were being shuffled like Tetris pieces with each new introduction. Not feeling pressured, but feeling obliged to keep the line moving we chose a few safe options, and one a little outside our box. The nice man weighed our pizza, gave us a receipt, and took it to be warmed in the oven while we paid. When it was ready, we presented the paid receipt and he handed over the pizza.
We lucked out and got a street side standing table that opened up right as we walked out. I should alsio mention there is no seating available outside of a single bench on the sidewalk. There are a few standing counters and tables, but that is it, so be prepared to eat while balancing a tray. Starving, we dove into our selections of marinara, tomato and mozzarella w/ herbs, and ham with chick peas. I don’t know the Italian names for these because the server only told us the English descriptions. We got settled and took our first bites, and we finally understood what all of the fuss is about. It’s mostly about the crust.
It’s thick, but airy, chewy, but not tough, full of flavor, but not oily, firm, but not crunchy. The toppings are fresh and have a lot of flavor, but they don’t out-perform the star, which is the crust. I get it, I’d make the trek across town and wait in line again today if possible, it’s that good. And the suppli (a fried ball of rice, cheese, and in this case tomato sauce and magic) was amazing as well. I could have made a meal of just the suppli, and I noticed that some people were.
I get it, I might post about it again now that I know what’s up and try more flavors. When friends come and visit us, I’ll probably make the suggestion to make a detour here. I recommend combining it with a Vatican trip. It’s about a fifteen minute walk from there and waaay better than the tourist traps you’re likely to find right outside the walls. It’s also right across from the Cipro exit on the metro.
Here’s the address and info:
Via della Meloria 43
Open Mon-Sat 11:00-22:00 & Sun 13:00-22:00