>> Wednesday, June 13, 2012
This is the first post in the Spontaneous Weekend Trip to Rome Series.
I am seriously in love with Roman pizza.
Yes, yes, I know pizza was originally invented in Naples. And the people in Naples do take their pizza very, very seriously. I'm sure it's delicious as well.
However, I just have a weakness for that super thin, almost cracker-like crust. Even in the US, I much prefer the paper thin pizzas from places like Emma's or The Upper Crust than thick Chicago-style pizzas from Giordano's or Gino's East. The softer Naples-style crust (from places like Gran Gusto and Antico Forno) is still fantastic, but in the end, what I love most is the ultra-thin crispy crust from Rome.
One popular and famous pizza place in Rome is called Pizzeria Baffetto. It always has a line out the door and has been mentioned in way too many publications. Hardly a hidden find, it still gets fantastic reviews, so we decided to try going for lunch.
Alas, I should have done my homework. Many many restaurants are closed on Sundays. After walking all way to the neighborhood around Piazza Navona (which, coincidentally, is where a lot of the good food in Rome is), we were just a wee bit disappointed to see the CLOSED sign.
Thankfully, there was this little, handwritten note on the front door that said, "Pizzeria dal Paino is open - Baffetto son." I kid you not, it was written in English.
Bryan and I looked at each other.
"Well, if it's recommended by Baffetto himself, it can't be that bad, right?"
It was just around the corner, so we decided to check it out.
Within about 2 minutes of walking, we stumbled upon this humble looking restaurant.
They had a real wood burning brick oven, which we took to be a good sign.
It was so hard to decide what to get! Of course we were there for pizza, but other fun things on the menu kept tempting us.
We finally decided to try two starters, which were both pretty fun to eat. Fiori di Zucca is a breaded and fried zucchini flower that's filled with cheese. Suppli is the Roman version of arancini, a breaded and deep fried rice ball filled with cheese and tomatoes.
These were fun and tasty, though they did not stand out to me in any particular way. The rice inside the suppli was mushier than the risotto-based arancinis I've sampled in the States. The zucchini flower had a nice balance of vegetable and breading, delicately crispy on the outside yet spongy and moist on the inside. It had excellent flavor and was pretty enjoyable to eat.
And then the pizzas arrived.
They were piping hot, gorgeously crispy, and super, super thin.
It was sooooo good.
Bryan got the signature pizza - the Dal Paino, which had tomatoes, mozzarella, mushrooms, artichokes, sausage, peppers, onions, and a barely cooked egg on top. (10 Euros).
I got the classic Margherita, a simple but perfectly executed pie topped with tomatoes and mozzarella (6 Euros).
The pizzas were fantastic. I loved the thin, crispy, crust. I loved how I could almost eat an entire pizza because it was so light. I loved the simple flavors of the high quality ingredients on top. I usually don't eat that much pizza, but I nearly ate my whole pizza (Bryan finished maybe my final 1/8 that I didn't eat).
But then we saw gnocchi on the menu.
And we hadn't had gnocchi in Italy yet.
And it was our last day in Rome.
I can't believe we did this, but we ordered yet another entree.
The waiter recommended that we get the Gnocchi Alla Amatriciana (guanciale, tomato, Pecorino, Parmesan) which was an excellent choice. Even though the gnocchi was not made in-house, it still had fantastic texture and the sauce was quite tasty (though we did have even better alla Amatriciana sauces at other restaurants in Rome).
We thought we were getting the plate of gnocchi "just for a taste" (well, that's what Bryan told me). Instead, we finished that whole dish too!!
And then the waiter brought over some MORE bread.
He smiled and said, "in Italy, you scoop up the delicious leftover sauce with bread."
We almost groaned from the weight of the food in our stomachs but we obliged. Frankly, the bread was a bit dry. However, the sauce was so tasty that we ended up eating the bread as well!
At the end of the meal, the waiter calculated our bill, whipped out a simple ball point pen, and wrote a number on the table. Yep, that's the bill right there. Can you imagine trying to ask for a receipt? [Jen attempts to rip up the paper tablecloth].
33 Euros is quite reasonable considering the crazy amounts of food that we ordered.
So what can I say?
I only tried one pizza place in Rome and I loved it. If it's really Baffetto's son who opened this place, then Baffetto trained his son well.
Or maybe most Roman pizza is like this, and I'm just impressed because it's so much better than most of the pizza I've had in the U.S.
In any event, I highly recommend visiting at least one traditional Roman pizzeria. The gorgeous thin-crust alone makes it well worth it.