New York City has been riding a gourmet pizza wave for a while now. The popularity stock on artisinal pizza peaked just as the housing bubble popped and while the housing market continues to straddle signs of hopefulness and teetering on the edge of kaboom, the pizza moment is perpetuated with vigor and in colorful and creative new guises.
Until recently, the main purveyors of artisinal pizza in New York have been pizzaioli, certified by Neapolitan pizza guilds. Keste‘, Motorino, Pizza Totale an pizza fresca are but a handful of places that boast this honorable gastronomic distinction and a slamming Pizza Margherita D.O.C. to boot. Until now, the only competition vying for the spotlight along with the Neapolitans had been coming from a new crop of plucky New York pizzaioli, showcasing New York style pizza as evidenced by popular spots like Paulie Gees and Torrisi’s. It’s a case of apples and pomegranates, but the latter are worthy contenders, just this same.
Pizza Roma’s authentic Roman-style “pizza al taglio” (pizza that is cut on request) brings an exciting alternative to the pizzascape. By the look of things alone, pizza al taglio resembles a home-style grandma square. Standard individual-sized squares are cut upon request with a sure-handed sliding motion of a pair of shears. At Pizza Roma, pizza is served at the counter, for those on the go, or in its charming and rustic dining room tastefully adorned with paintings of brightly-hued Fiats by Pop artist, Monica Casali. When weather permits, their newly opened outdoor garden will also provide a pleasing setting for a relaxing meal. While this place offers a hip, laid-back, authentically Roman experience, replete with young, hip, fresh-off-the-boat sounding servers and a stand-up wine list. These pleasant perks aside accentuate the real attraction here which is a savory, pizza made from high-quality ingredients at moderate-for-Manhattan-pricing (starting at $13 for a medium-size). Individual dinner pizzas come in two sizes, medium or large-sized rectangles, served on wooden cutting boards. But it isn’t the shape or the look of the pizza, that makes it unlike anything else that can be currently had in New York. It’s how it’s the science of how it’s made that makes the difference. Pizza Roma’s dough has a 96 hour fermentation period, that’s right: 4 day-aged dough. The result is that it makes for a much lighter, less yeastier-tasting dough and a strikingly more digestible slice of pizza. I can testify to this when during a recent weekend evening, after waiting 30 minutes for a table, I had a 10pm pizza Margherita followed by a walk and no trouble getting to sleep, which is typically an issue for me after dining late, especially if it’s pizza. The Margherita had the perfect texture and a good tomato to mozzarella ratio. The sauce was sweet, tasted natural and had a pleasing, mild tang. The mozzarella was tasty, mildly fragrant and properly melted without being overly runny. The crust was light and crisp, with moderate chewiness and was subtle blisters and chars which gave it an enjoyable smoky flavor.
My dining companion ordered the Pizza Tartufina. This was topped with large slices of glistening truffles and meaty oyster mushrooms. A feast of flavors on a well-executed crust!
If the stomach can withstand it, order a slice of the crostata ($5) for dessert. This light and crusty, fruit-preserve-topped tart will further boost the experience of Italian home-style pleasures.
For appetizer, go for the charcuterie or a caprese. Many of the salads are made with iceberg lettuce. For smaller appetites, skip the foccaccia crisps and go straight for a rectangle of stuffed pizza. The crimes of double-carbing aside, the potato stuffed pizza is a delectable expenditure of calories.