Among many of its food specialties, Rome is also known for the pizza al taglio – which literally translates to ‘pizza by the cut’. These pizzas are long and narrow and served by the slice. They are typically found at quick-serve pizza shops; which are located on just about every street.
Strolling with a Pizza Bianca
One of my favorite quick bites in Rome is the afternoon strolling snack – specifically the pizza bianca. I discovered this delicious ritual back in 2001 while researching food finds for my freelance writing gig. Around mid-day, and just after school lets out, some local Romans leave their offices to have late lunch at a restaurant or at home. On their way, they typically enjoy a simple strolling snack (or merenda).
The most popular is the pizza bianca (white pizza); which is commonly found at a fornaio (baker) – look for the word forno (oven) on the sign.
Pizza bianca is a pizza a taglio; which has a slightly thicker crust than restaurant pizza. This is because it is made with a different dough – closer to a focaccia or bread dough.
HISTORY: It is said that the pizza bianca was created in ancient times by bread bakers as an indicator of the temperature of the wood-burning ovens. They created a simple dough and placed it in the oven, no baking tin, to test if the oven temperature was hot enough for baking bread. Today, the pizza bianca is served coated with a light lather of olive oil and sea salt.
Today, the pizza bianca has a light lather of olive oil. An alternative version called the pizza rossa (red pizza) includes a light layer of tomato sauce. Some ask the baker to some freshly sliced mortadella in between the two slivers of bread. Also, look for an alternative version called the pizza rossa (red pizza); which includes a light layer of tomato sauce.
Depending on the time of day, you will notice the attendants preparing large trays of mini pizza bianca panini – filled with mortadella, salami or prosciutto. These trays are usually ordered ahead of time – typically for a party or a quick gathering.
How to order Pizza Al Taglio
I’ve included detailed instructions on how to order your pizza a taglio below.
First you decide what pizza you would like. The attendant behind the counter will indicate with a knife the size of the pizza. After agreeing to a size, the attendant will cut and weigh it, then punch the price into the machine. The attendant will then slice the pizza in half, between the crust.
After confirming that was all you wanted, the attendant will then print out a receipt with the total cost for you to hand to cashier to pay (before taking your pizza). To confirm proper packaging, the attendant will also ask if you will eat it on site (mangiare qua) or take it away (portare via) – let’s break that down:
- Mangiare Qua (Eat Here): After heating up your slice, the attendant will slice it in half and place it on a tray and hand it to you.
- Portare Via (Take Away): After heating up your slice, the attendant will slice it half, fold it over like a sandwich, wrap the bottom half in wax paper and hand it to you to eat as you stroll.
- Portare Via, Mangiare Dopo (Take Away, Eat Later): Without heating, the attendant will slice in half, fold it over like a sandwich and wrap it up in wax paper.
How To Order Pizza Bianca (or Pizza Rossa)
Pizza bianca and pizza rossa are available at bread bakeries (fornaio) around the city. And are ordered just like one would order a pizza al taglio. (See above). But because this is typically a strolling snack, unless specified, these specific pizzas (bianca or rossa) are served wrapped in paper for easy handling while wandering home, keeping your appetite at bay.
Pizza con Mortazza
Alternative: Go full Roman and order pizza con mortazza; which is pizza bianca with mortadella. (Note: mortazza is the Roman dialect for mortadella).
The mortadella is ordered and weighed separately because it is offered at a different cost per weight. The attendant will punch in the numbers and then place the 2-3 slices in between the pizza bianca – like a panino (sandwich).
- Suggested fornaio (bread baker): Antico Forno Roscioli – Via dei Chiavari, 34, Roma
- Suggested pizza al taglio: Pizzarium – Via della Meloria, 43, 00136 Roma
NOTE: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on October 2011 on a previous blog I ran called Modern Culture: Italy. The article was part of a series called Adventures in Rome. The blog no longer exists; however, I am pulling and updating some of the articles that I found to be interesting enough to have a life here on Magnusmade.com.