While the state of on-the-go pizza in Rome never reached the abysmal lows of New York's postrecession dollar-slice years, the city has enjoyed a similar boom period of exciting, modern, and delicious pizza al taglio over the past 15 years. Thanks to pizzaioli, such as Gabriele Bonci and Stefano Callegari—who share many of the values of New York's pizza revivalists (the use of slow and natural fermentation, high-quality ingredients, and freshly milled flour)—Rome's equivalent of pizza by the slice has exploded in popularity. Both Bonci and Callegari now have outposts in the United States, and this has meant that one of the best pizza-related innovations of the past few decades has crossed the Atlantic: the trapizzino.
The trapizzino, invented by Callegari at his original pizza shop 00100 in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome, is a hybrid of Roman pizza bianca and a sandwich. The name is a mashup of the words "pizza" and "tramezzino," a style of sandwich in Italy that's made with crustless white bread and is cut into triangles (because Italians also know triangles taste better). For his trapizzini, Callegari bakes up puffy squares of pizza bianca that he then cuts into triangles, slits open to form a pocket, and fills with riffs on traditional Roman dishes, like braised oxtail and meatballs.
During a recent game-day foods brainstorming session, I realized these pizza pockets would make a perfect sport-viewing snack: They can be baked in advance and stuffed with any number of tailgate-friendly fillings. Who needs a soggy sub roll when you can make sandwiches out of pizza dough? I set off to recreate the magic of the trapizzino, the Platonic ideal of pizza pockets.
As I mentioned earlier, the trapizzino dough is a variation of pizza bianca, which is sold at both bread bakeries and pizza al taglio shops (the Roman equivalent of a New York slice joint). Bakery pizza bianca, like the one from Forno Campo de' Fiori that inspired Kenji's no-knead, at-home version, is usually baked directly on the bakery's oven deck in long pieces. This yields a thinner and crunchier product than the puffier and doughier al taglio versions, which are baked in black steel pans called teglie, similar to the trays used to make Sicilian-style pizza here in the States.
Trapizzino dough ups the ante on the puffiness of al taglio pizza bianca. It needs to have enough height and structure that it can be split open and stuffed with saucy fillings without falling apart, but it also needs to be light and airy so that it doesn't just become a heavy gut bomb.
Callegari's proprietary trapizzino dough recipe is leavened with a natural sourdough starter, which makes for delicious pizza but not an easy at-home, game-day-friendly recipe. To make a more user-friendly version, I decided to adapt Kenji's pizza bianca recipe, which gets its rise from instant yeast, while also incorporating the cold-fermentation and dough-folding techniques used by Bonci. I started by scaling up Kenji's recipe in order to yield a full 13-by-18-inch baking sheet of pizza.
I whisk together bread flour, salt, and instant yeast to make sure the yeast and salt are evenly distributed. Next goes in the water, which gets stirred into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until a lumpy dough forms, with no visible dry flour remaining. To make sure the dough wouldn't end up being too dense when baked as a thicker piece, I increased the hydration slightly (up to 80 percent) to make it more extensible and give it a more open crumb.
After the water, I incorporate a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil into the dough itself. While the bottom and top crusts will be coated with plenty of olive oil before baking, adding oil to the dough ensures its flavor isn't just on the surface but is carried all the way through this thicker pizza bianca. The dough is placed in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and allowed to rise for one hour at room temperature.
Doughrigami: Folding the Dough
Once the first rise is complete, the dough is turned out onto a floured work surface and gets folded to incorporate air into the dough and strengthen the dough's gluten network. This step also eliminates excess carbon dioxide produced during the initial rise, which can end up inhibiting yeast activity during the longer bulk fermentation.
To fold the dough, pat it into a rectangle, and then gently pull the upper and lower edges of the dough into the center of the rectangle and pinch them together to form a seam running parallel to the countertop's edge. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, so the seam is perpendicular to the counter edge, and repeat the folding and pinching motion. Repeat the rotation and folding step once more before covering the dough with a clean kitchen towel, allowing it to relax for 15 minutes.
Repeat the entire folding and rotating sequence once more, giving you a total of six folds. Strengthening the dough and incorporating air into it with this folding process gives the interior of the finished pizza an airy lightness that still has plenty of chew. As you can see in the photo below, the folded dough enjoys a more even rise and is less dense with more uniform air pockets in its crumb.
On the left: cold-fermented, folded dough. On the right: room temperature-fermented, no-knead dough.
For the bulk fermentation, the dough is placed in a large bowl, which is wrapped in plastic and transferred to the fridge for at least 18 hours and up to three days. Cold fermentation causes yeast to produce carbon dioxide at a slower rate, which creates a more uniform rise as well more complex flavor compounds than doughs fermented at room temperature.
The next day I turn the dough out onto a well-oiled rimmed baking sheet, and gently stretch the dough to fill the pan before covering it up to allow it to proof and rise one final time. While the dough rises, I set a Baking Steel or pizza stone in the oven and crank up the oven as high as it will go. This is also a great time to put together or, better yet, reheat your trapizzino fillings. During testing, I kept my fillings pretty classic Italian: pulled chicken cacciatore, sautéed broccoli rabe, and a batch of Daniel's Italian-American meatballs. They all worked beautifully, but that's not to say you can't branch out and stuff your pizza pockets with something decidedly different, like Texas-style chili or braised lamb shoulder. For stress-free game-day entertaining, I would recommend braised meat or vegetable dishes that can be kept warm in a Dutch oven on your stovetop or in a slow cooker, if that's something you have in your kitchen.
Before baking the pizza, I divide the dough in the pan into eight rectangles using a bench scraper. Olive oil gets drizzled around the edges of each rectangle and over the entire surface of the dough, before all of it gets a final sprinkling of coarse sea salt. Each rectangle will make two pizza pockets, for a total of 16 portions—perfect for a crowd.
While you're making the magic happen in the kitchen, get some help with the finishing trapizzino touches. If you have any industrious little ones around the house, or some crafty adults who haven't been put off of paper boats for life by Pennywise, have them fashion some pizza pocket holsters out of parchment paper. I am in no way accomplished in the dark arts of paper-folding and even I managed to make some passable paper cones, thanks to a step-by-step online tutorial. The internet comes through once in a while.
I found that these pizza pockets need the same twice-baked treatment that Kenji gave his pizza bianca in order to properly crisp and brown the bottom crust. After baking the pizza in the rimmed baking sheet until the dough is cooked through and the top is a burnished golden brown, I remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly.
I then pop the rectangles out of the baking sheet and place them back in the oven, directly on the Baking Steel. After a few minutes the bottom crust will be crisp and well browned, and your trapizzini are ready to be portioned and filled. You can hold off on this step until you are ready to start eating, so that the trapizzini can be enjoyed warm.
Cut 'Em and Stuff 'Em
All that's left to do is cut each rectangle in half diagonally to form triangles, and then cut a slit down the middle of the cut side to open up a pocket. Nestle pockets in their parchment wrappers, and pile them up with fillings of your choice. Grab a beverage, a seat on the couch, and bask in the glorious union of pizza and sandwich.