September 1, 2014

Respecting the Craft: Pizza Romana

One of my favorite styles of pizza is pizza Romana. Some people can get confused because, like New York-style, there are sub-categories. For example, there’s Pizza in Teglia (pizza in the pan), Pizza al Taglio (pizza by the slice), Pizza a Etro (pizza by the meter), Pizza Focaccia and Pizza in Pala (pizza on wood peel). All of these styles can be thick or thin.

Over the years I have been back to Rome several times. My recent trip was to do even more research on the Roman craft. I stopped by Pizzarium for a short visit. There, pizza maker Gabrielle Bonci uses a 00 and/or 0 Stone Ground Ancient Grain and blends his flour making an amazing crust that’s light, airy and digestible. This type of flour and method will become very popular in the U.S. and I am already using the same flour today in my San Francisco location.

I visited several other Roman pizzerias such as Boccacia, Garden Pizza, Roscioli Forno and Pizza Pazza. All of them have different methods using a type 00 flour with no added blending. Some of the more popular ingredients used are squash blossoms, Romanesco, basil, Pecorino Romano, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, Bufala mozzarella, tomato, arugula, eggplant, sausage and cured meats.

Roman-style pizzas can be cooked in several different types of ovens such as electric, gas and wood-burning brick ovens. They could be cooked directly on the brick or in a pan, but either way is “right.” I tend to see a higher hydration and a lack of salt in the dough, which is typical for most Roman-style dough recipes.

Pizza Romana is one of the most popular pizzas in my restaurants. I use an Italian oven and a German electric brick oven in five of my locations. Both work great. The Roman pizzas I make are nearly three feet long. What’s great about these ovens are they are very versatile and deep with a stone bottom, have multiple chambers and you can control the heat source at the bottom and top unlike any oven with added convection. They are great for cooking in the pan or on the stone and make amazing thin-crust pizzas.

The size of this pizza is great for a family of four and can range from $25 to $40. It’s communal and sits well without getting soggy. Typically, I have seen more white pizzas (no sauce) than sauced — and several of the preferred ingredients tend to go on after the bake. This method of more finishing ingredients rather than cooked makes a stronger pie. Finding a box for to-go orders is sometimes a challenge depending on the length of your pizza, but some box companies do make a long rectangular box.

I know you probably want to try it after the brief introduction. So next month I’ll feature a basic Romana dough recipe and will offer step-by-step instructions on how to make this great pizza.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.