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An Easy Guide To Making Roman Style Pizza

Whole Roman style Pizza al taglio with various toppings
Dale Cruse/Flickr

Pizza culture in Italy is enormous and filled with endless regional variations. While the Neapolitan pizza might be Italy’s best known pizza export, there are many other pizza varieties enjoyed throughout the country. Second to none are the pizza styles of Rome. From focaccia street food pizzas sold by the slice to round pizzas with thin and crispy crusts, Roman style pizzas are a culinary powerhouse in their own right.

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What is Roman Style Pizza?

Historically, pizza in Rome was available at commercial bread ovens. These pizzas, called pizzette, were small and topped with simple ingredients like olive oil, cheese, and vegetables. Tomatoes, the iconic topping of most modern pizzas, would not be an ingredient until after the 18th century. These early pizzas were peasant food, designed to be a cheap and filling lunch and a far cry from the artisanal treatment given to many modern pizzas.

Unlike the strict rules of Neapolitan pizza, Roman-style pizzas do not have the same level of exacting regulations. However, there is a clear difference in dough between the two regional styles. Roman pizza dough has smaller air pockets (known as honeycomb) compared to Neapolitanis , and is cooked at a lower temperature. Finally, there are two main variations of pizza in Rome — pizza al taglio and pizza romana tonda.

Pizza Al Taglio

Pizza al Taglio Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia.
Alpha/Flickr

With a thick focaccia-like dough, pizza al taglio is ubiquitous in Rome. Cut into squares and sold by the slice, this style of pizza is affordable and enjoyed across socioeconomic classes from students to families and to tourists. To make pizza al taglio, flatbread is cooked in large oblong dishes with a variety of toppings. Some popular combinations include the ever-present margherita to fresh burrata cheese or mortadella. This style gained prominence in the 1960s and has become the street food of Rome.

Pizza Romana Tonda

Margherita pizza tonda at Pizzeria Remo A Testaccio.
"pizzeria Remo" a testaccio/facebook

Although the Neapolitan is the most infamous round pizza of Italy, there’s another round pizza that’s incredibly popular in Rome— pizza romana tonda. This style was created in Rome in the 1950s and unlike pizza al taglio, pizza romana tonda is enjoyed in sit-down restaurants. When compared to the Neapolitan style, there are several critical differences. For starters, the crust of Neapolitan pizza is thick on the edge and turns gradually thinner toward the center. Texturally, Neapolitan pizza will be floppy with a soft and fluffy mouthfeel.

While pizza romana tonda is round, the texture is completely different. First, the crust on the entire pizza is the same thickness with no discernible crust, allowing toppings to be filled to the edge. Unlike the soft Neapolitan texture, pizza roman tonda is crispy, making it easier to eat by hand versus Neapolitan. This texture is achieved by the addition of olive oil into the dough. This added oil helps gives pizza romana tonda a heartier taste, bearing a resemblance to American-style thin crust pizza.

Pinsa – The Other Roman Pizza

Recently, another style of pizza has been gaining popularity in Rome — pinsa. Although it resembles other types of thin Roman pizzas, pinsa dough is very different. Made from a combination of wheat, soy, and rice flour with lievito madre (a natural yeast, the kind used in sourdough bread), pinsa is lighter, airy, and easier to digest (according to pinsa makers) when compared to standard pizza. In recent years, pinsa restaurants have grown in popularity in Italy.

Pinsa Romana Dough

Pinsa Romana from Donato.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

(By Chef Stefano Scotti of Donato Enoteca)

Growing up in the small town of Bergamo, Italy, Chef Donato Scotti saw a childhood filled with fresh, seasonal, farm-to-table cooking. As the executive chef of Donato Enoteca in Redwood City, California, Scotti now uses that heritage to create his own style of contemporary Italian cuisine. The restaurant’s menu changes often, using artisanal ingredients, seasonal California farmer’s market produce and authentic Italian hospitality. Scotti’s approach is to keep dishes simple and delicious, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves. Dishes from his native Lombardia region are exhibited on the menu, such as Risotto Milanese and Ossobuco, all updated with a modern twist.

This pinsa dough recipe (enough to make 6-8 pizzas) is meant to be par-baked and frozen for later use. To make a complete pizza, simply add your choice of tomato sauce and toppings to the par-baked pinsa dough and bake. Remember — this is a time-consuming recipe but well worth the effort.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of pizza flour
  • 4 tablespoons soy flour
  • 8 tablespoons rice flour
  • 8 tablespoons primitiva flour
  • 8 tablespoons farro flour
  • .75 teaspoon yeast
  • 2 1/3 tablespoons salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/3 cup cold water

Method: 

For Dough: 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all flour and yeast for 3 minutes.
  2. Add 3/4 of the water for 3 minutes.
  3. Add salt and olive oil and the rest of the water in small amounts to the dough. Mix for 3-4 minutes. Wrap and rest the dough for 72 hours.
  4. Every 10-12 hours, you will need to fold the dough. To fold dough: Spread on a table and fold multiple times. Place back into bowl to rest until 72 hours is up.

For Par-baking the Crust:

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide the dough into 6-8 equal balls. Let rest for at least 3 hours.
  2. Stretch dough into desired pizza shape. A classic pinsa romana is shaped into an oval.
  3. Par bake for 2-3 minutes. Cool on a tray, then freeze.

For Making the Pizza:

  1. When desired, remove pizza from freezer. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Let pizza thaw out for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Place toppings on pizza.
  3. Bake at 450 degrees for 4 minutes. Serve when ready.

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Hunter Lu
Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
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