Gabriele Bonci is the dubbed the ‘Michelangelo of pizza,’ in Rome and owner of the legendary Pizzarium, one place where you can find the best pizza in Rome. Here is what Gabriele shared with The Roman Food Tour.
Where does the pizza originate from?
The word pizza, is believed to to have originated from the Latin word “pinsa”, meaning flatbread. The flatbread can be traced back to the Egyptians, who cooked them in mud ovens, with the Romans and Greeks later applying spices and olive oil to the bread.
Once the introduction of the tomato, became influencial in Italian cuisine in the 18 th century, the popularity of pizza really began to increase. Despite tomatoes arriving in Italy in the 1530’s, they were believed to be poisonous and were mainly used for decoration. It was the peasants of Naples that were the first to discover that they were not, as they used wooden plates, rather than the lead with would leak into the tomato causing the poisonous rumours. The popularity of pizza throughtout Naples flourished with street food vendors, until the first true pizzeria “ Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba” was opened in 1830.
Where does the name Margherita come from?
The pizza Margherita is named after the Queen Margherita of Italy, who visited the Brandi Pizzeria in Naples in 1889. She like most others, fell in love with the popular garnished flatbreads being sold to the poor. She asked the pizza maker named Rafaele Esposito to bake her a selection of pizzas to try. Her favourite one, consisted of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, to honor the colours of the Italian flag and was named after her. Napolitan style pizza, began to spread throughout Italy, with each region designing their own versions, depending on the fresh ingredients they had at their disposal. By the 1990’s pizza made its way to the United States, due to the Italian immigrants, especially New York and Chicago, which have large Italian populations.
Are there different types of pizza?
There are three types of pizza
Pizza a taglio
Pizza a taglio, literally translates as pizza by the cut. Unlike traditional round pizza, this is a square shaped pizza sold by weight, precooked and usually considered a lunchtime version. The pizza a taglio became popular in the 1970’s and started to be seen on every corner by the year 2000. Most pizza a taglio establishments do not provide seating area, and customers usually find a nearby bench to eat or simply on the street. Gabriel insists there must be a maximum of three topping used, so that the flavours do not overwealm each other.
The made to order pizza, mostly served as an evening meal, in pizzerias across the country. Best served if it made using a wood burning over.
Unlike traditional tomato based pizza, the pizza bianca is a white pizza
What makes your pizza so special?
Pizza for more than 100 years made little progress, mostly because it had always been considered a food for poor people. Therefore there has never been a great deal of attention paid to the ingredients, especially the flour, which is mostly industrial flour. It is important to use the highest quality flour, yeast and fresh ingredients, but the secret is in the rising of the dough. Rather than a few hours at a warm temp, it is better 24 hours in the cold. This allows the flour time to ripen and so final pizza will be airier, lighter and easier to digest. Once the dough has risen, the toppings are applied, but only a maximum of 3 per pizza. This ensures that the crust isn’t burdened with heavy toppings, and so remains crisp, airy and light.
Here is a list of where to find the best pizza in Rome.
Pizza a taglio
Via della Meloria 43 (metro Cipro)
Rome’s favourite pizzeria, owned by the famous Gabriele Bonci, known as the ‘Michelangelo of Pizza’ is recommended by CNN, Anthony Bourdain and many International food bloggers. Toppings change daily and in an average day more than 80 types of pizzas, using ingredients locally sourced, may grace Pizzarium’s countertop. He also offer the tastiest suppli (fried Roman rice balls) as well as a selection of delicious organic fruit juices.
Via Giovanni Branca 88 (Testaccio)
Daily 12 – 11pm.
00100 is another excellent and very popular pizza a taglio located just off Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice in Testaccio. The toppings are quite consistent, with the favourite named “Greenwich” consisting of Mozzarella, stilton and port. They also offer delicious trapizzino, which are triangular shaped balls of dough, filled with traditional Roman ingredients, including oxtail, meatballs as well as vegetarian options.
Viale Trastevere 53 (Trastevere)
Dinner only. Closed Wednesday.
The most popular pizzeria in Trastevere has been serving the locals for over 60 years with its super thin crust delicious pizzas. Always busy so be prepared for a bit of waiting unless you go after 10 pm, however the tables turn fast. We recommend the Capricciosa as well as the 4 formaggi, consisting of mozzarella, groviera, parmesan and gorgonzola.
Via del Governo Vecchio, 114 (Piazza Navona)
Steps from the Piazza Navona, along a cobblestone street lies the famous Da Baffetto pizzeria. Known for its fanatastic pizza, great prices and Roman service . Expect thin, crispy pizzas, a little burned on the edges, which is the sign of a wooburning oven. You will not be pampered here but you will eat unforgettably good pizza. A favourite choice the is the diavola, tomato sauce, mozzarella and spicy salami. Be prepared for a line to wait in, but be assured that once you are presented with your pizza, the wait will be worth it. There is also Baffetto 2, located near to Campo di Fiori, at Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo, 18.
Via Statilio Ottato 110-116(Tuscolana)
Sforno is considered the place to go if you are looking for an authentic neapolitan pizza, with a thicker puffy crusts and elastic body. The only disadvantage is the location of this pizzeria, being out of the center in the Tuscolana neighborhood. However for everyone who goes there, it adds to the suspense and will leave you happy you made the trip. The Cacio e Pepe is the most popular choice, cooked using ice to prevent the pecorino cheese from melting completely. Another great option is the Napoletana, which is covered in delicious anchovies.
Via della Meloria 56 (Prati)
Falcone is one of the most authentic pizzerias, located close to the Vatican City. The owner Angelo has been running it with a smile on his face for over 40 years. As you enter, you will notice a selection of photographs of celebrities, who have visited this hidden gem. There is also a letter of thanks from the Pope who has ordered the pizza margherita from Falcone, to be delivered back to his residence the Vatican.