You've Had Enough Pizza Napoletana. Time To Check Out Pizza Romana

Most self-described pizza purists praise the Neapolitan style: thin, chewy, bubbled dough, nicely charred and topped with the simplest of ingredients — marinara sauce, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. It's your classic Margherita à la Napoletana, repping the colors of Italy with its red, white and green toppings. But some 120 miles north of Naples, another style of pizza dominates, and we're seeing more and more of it around these parts.

Pizza Romana is made using a completely different technique, resulting in a very different-looking and tasting pie. For one, it's typically rectangular instead of round and is moister, thicker and heartier — all the better to support the myriad toppings Roman pizzaioli like to work with. But the differences start with the dough preparation.

Roman-style pies use a more refined flour for the dough, which requires three separate fermentation stages instead of Napoletana's one. Then, while Neapolitan-style dough rises at room temperature and is used the same day, Roman-style undergoes a 60- to 90-hour rise at a cool 41 degrees. Once the dough is finally ready, Romanas bake at 500-600 degrees instead of the much hotter fires used for Neapolitan pies.

"Pizza Romana is my favorite style right now," says Bruno DiFabio, master pizzaiolo and owner of ReNapoli in Old Greenwich, CT. "I love the complexity of the technique, feeling that it is well-worth the trouble. The flavor of the crust is really amazing and could be easily enjoyed with a little rope of olive oil and some coarse sea salt."

ReNapoli is a pizza-lover's mecca, serving up every kind of pie imaginable. As the name suggests, it dishes up the sorts of pies you'd find in Naples, but also authentic New York-style pizza as well as Pizza Romana. DiFabio learned how to make Roman-style pizza from a well-respected pizzaiolo in Rome, who sells slices by the weight near the Spanish Steps. DiFabio's shop pays homage to his mentor's pizzeria, offering several Roman-style pies, with generous toppings like sweet fig preserve, prosciutto, gorgonzola and balsamic glaze; or ricotta, garlic, prosciutto crudo and piquante peppers. He says he likes to use a flour that is aged three to five months, as it stands up better to the long dough-proofing time.

"I love how the crust stands up to the multitude of toppings that can be distributed on a Romana," says DiFabio. "I love to eat well-seasoned sauce on pizza and I like a lot of cheese on my pizza. This is what Romana is all about. Big, bold flavors... cheeses that are more sharp in taste... a medley of garden-grown veggies... or even heavier meats, like salami, or sausage. And it goes great with red wine."

Maybe that's why Duane Sorenson, founder of Stumptown Coffee, has shifted his attention from roasting beans for the moment to focus on opening a new Roman-style pizzeria in Portland, aptly called Roman Candle. Here are five other places to find Pizza Romana now:

  1. ReNapoli Pizzeria & Chicago Italian Beef: Pies are 24 inches long, perfect for sharing and divided into three parts, each with its own toppings. 216 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich, CT., 203-698-9300

  2. Pizza Roma: Setting itself apart from the other pizzerias on this strip with its Roman-style pies by the slice, this place proofs its dough for a whopping 96 hours. 259 Bleecker Street, New York, 212-924-1970

  3. Numero 28 Pizzeria Napoletana: Per the name, this pizzeria specializes in the Neapolitan-style, but also has an authentic Pizza Romana on the menu. 176 Second Avenue, New York, 212-777-1555

  4. Tony's Pizza Napoletana: Bruno DiFabio is a partner in this pizzeria where the pizzaiolo, Tony Gemignani, has won Naples' World Pizza Championships in the Roman-style category. 1570 Stockton Street, San Francisco, 415-835-9888

  5. Avalanche Pizza: With names like Crouching Kimchi, Hidden Chicken and the Bacon Cheeseburger Pie, this pizzeria is not afraid of topping its thick Romanas with all sorts of bold, batty toppings. 329 East State Street, Athens, OH, 740-594-4664

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