Roman Perfection to Go
Editor's note: We're excited to introduce the following author to you today—though you may already be familiar with her work. Gina DePalma is the pastry chef at Mario Batali restaurant Babbo and the author of Dolce Italiano. She's now in Rome, doing research for a new cookbook, and will be posting weekly here on Serious Eats as her journey there unfolds.
I engage in a specific eating ritual immediately upon my arrival in Rome; it is a personal affirmation to my heart and stomach that I am really, truly here. Other Roma regulars may want to run to the nearest bar for a perfectly pulled espresso, sit down to a steaming plate of spaghetti alla carbonara, or indulge in crispy carciofi alla giudea. But for me, it is a visit to Forno Marco Roscioli, on Via dei Chiavari near the Campo de’Fiori, which sends me headfirst into Roman mode with a sensory jolt.
Tourists and Romans alike are mad for Roscioli’s famous pizza bianca, a sublime symphony of dough, olive oil and sea salt. And as dang good as that is, I am instead drawn like a magnet to the oft-overlooked pizza rossa, which isn’t like pizza in the familiar sense at all. It’s better. Point to how much you want and it is portioned with the satisfying whack of a very big knife, folded in half and wrapped in brown paper for easy portability. Striking a perfect balance between chewy and crispy, the bread is just sturdy enough to support a thorough coating of richly concentrated tomato and a glistening, golden slick of extra-virgin olive oil. I prefer the version without cheese so as not to disturb the taste triumvirate of bread, tomato and olive oil, purposely served at room temperature to harmonize the flavors. This is the most reliably perfect Roman food offering I can think of, always consistently excellent and completely addictive.
Getting a pizza rossa fix at Roscioli is half the fun for us masochistic, obsessive types. One must be savvy enough to navigate the typical Italian anti-queue, an everyone-for-himself tangle of people with no sense of organization or patience. Prepare to be stomped on, pushed around and repeatedly ignored by seemingly blind counter people and aggressive line-jumpers. And take it from personal experience: try not to stand outside in a daze, munching away in the middle of the street. Those scooters come outta nowhere.
Note: In addition to the bakery, the Roscioli family also have an excellent restaurant and specialty shop that sells handmade salumi, artisan cheeses and a vast collection of Italian wines. It is a few steps away from the bakery at Via dei Giubbonari, 21.
Gina DePalma is the pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo restaurant in New York City and the author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. She is currently in Rome researching for her next book and further exploring her passions for Italian food.