The pizza al taglio is a major staple of the roman culinary tradition. In Naples people during the day usually munch on a piece of fried pizza or a panzerotto. In Rome between a meal and the other, or to have a cheap lunch, people of all ages usually enjoy a good piece of tasty pizza al taglio.
Romans generally eat pizza al taglio walking or seated on a stool in one of many rosticcerias or pizzarias spread all over the city. They are easily detected because of their sign that usually says plain and simple “pizza e polli” (because, besides pizza, they sell roasted chickens). Romans usually eat pizza al taglio at lunch or at dinner, generally with friends for example while watching a football match on tv.
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In other cities “street pizza” is usually cut in slices of various sizes. In Rome it’s a different story. The street version of the pizza in Rome is the pizza al taglio.
Pizza al taglio has a dough and a “format” that is different from the traditional round pizza. The dough is richer, thick and crunchy. The shape is squared. The pizza is made in big rectangular metal trays from which the pizza is cut in different sizes depending on the customer request.
Unlike the sliced pizza sold in other cities, you pay pizza al taglio by its weight and its toppings. The marinara has a different price than the one with ham and porcini mushrooms for instance. And of course a small piece costs less than a big piece. That’s obvious. So much that usually the youngest customers go for the plain “white” pizza that is the cheapest so that they can eat it a larger quantity.
The most popular types of pizza al taglio are margherita, crostino (white, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and ham) and white with potatoes on top. Recently, pizzerias have become more creative and come up with several kinds that can surprise even the more demanding customers.
When you get your pizza al taglio, if cold, ask them to heat it up for you. Then before handing you the pizza the pizza maker more often than not will ask you the decisive question “Shall I fold it in two or I shall I leave it like this?”. The answer is a tough one and basically divides the entire population in two major “parties”. It’s an argument so hot that could even put an end to a marriage!
Folding the pizza in two means that the piece is cut in two smaller pieces that then are folded and touch each other by the mozzarella cheese side. The whole thing is then wrapped in paper. Needless to say that if the mozzarella is very hot, the toppings basically glue themselves to each other forming a stretching mix.
You either love the result or hate it. Whoever eats the pizza this way says they wouldn’t eat it any other way. The other “party” just hate folding the pizza. I belong to the latter way of thinking. I usually break a sweat when I see a pizza maker pick up a knife and cut a beautiful piece of pizza in two. Because when the pizza is folded you basically eat the mozzarella cheese apart from the dough not to mention the olive oil that leaks from all over the wrapping paper. That’s stuff for tough people.
When having pizza al taglio you always have to fear the “ambush” of the grease. The only defense is the technique that has been fine tuned with time and transferred from one generation to the next. People that like their pizza folded in two are well aware that you need to seal the low end of the paper by folding it upwards so that you won’t have any mozzarella or olive oil leaks. People that eat their pizza whole is not immune from the risks either. The olive oil may run from both sides. So be cautious and grab extra paper towel.
Every neighborhood features several rosticcerias and pizzerias “al taglio”. So you won’t have a hard time spotting the good ones: the dough must be crunchy. The mozzarella cheese has to be stretchy. If the pizza and the toppings look “whithered” odds are that the pizza is not good and even heating it up won’t do.
A reasonable way to tell if the pizza is good is the queue. If the place is crowded then probably they make a good pizza.
In Rome there’s really plenty to choose from. Every neighborhoods has its pizza “landmarks” when it comes to pizza al taglio. And sometimes in the same neighborhood there’s more than one pizzerias fighting for the top customer choice. A franchising that is coming up big and satisfies pretty much everyone is Alice Pizza. They make a fragrant, light but tasty pizza. The prices are a little above average but it’s worth a shot.
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