The History of Roman Pizza

Roman pizza has many names. Mostly it is called pizza al metro (pizza by the meter) or pizza al taglio (pizza by the cut/slice). The common characteristic is that Roman pizza is baked in long rectangular trays about a meter (3 feet) long. That is why it is also referred to as pizza in teglia (pan pizza or baking tray pizza). With origins dating back to ancient Roman times, pizza making has gone through many transformations since.

A mosaic of an ancient Roman pizza maker

A mosaic of an ancient Roman pizza maker

Today, the real and authentic Roman pizza is crispy on the outside and soft with large bubbles on the inside of the dough and is baked in electric ovens, rather that wood fired ones. It may be served plain or dressed with a vast variety of toppings and is undoubtedly the most eaten and loved street food in Rome and many other cities in Italy. Its popularity is such that it is now even being made abroad, with an increasing amount of success.

A side view of a pizza cross-section

A side view of a Roman pizza cross-section

The dough is what makes Roman pizza so different from other types, such as the Neapolitan one for example. It has a different structure. A thin to medium crust made up of flour, water, yeast, olive oil and salt. The olive oil, which is missing from Neapolitan dough, gives the Roman pizza crust more weight, flavour and crispness. Olive oil helps to stretch the dough thinner also. Roman pizza goes through three separate fermentation stages whereas the Neapolitan only requires one and can be used the same day. Roman pizza undergoes a 60-90 hour rise. The dough is very hydrated and is baked at a lower temperature. As for the toppings, Roman pizza can be generously topped or not at all. Because it is crisper and more rigid that the Neapolitan one, it can take heavier toppings.

A collection of pizza flour

A collection of pizza flour

Roman pizza has been perfected over time. It is now a more fragrant, crumblier and digestible product than ever before. It has a lower crispy layer covered with a well-risen and soft crumb with the typical pronounced holes. The recipes for the toppings have also evolved. Years ago, people had more classic tastes, whereas now they are more adventurous and sophisticated. Thanks to its crunchiness and the dough high hydration, Roman pizza is a suitable base for all recipes and they abound, appealing to all tastes, from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan.

Bubbling Roman pizza dough

Bubbling Roman pizza dough

On a typical menu in a Roman pizza shop you will find simple recipes to include pizza bianca (olive oil, rosemary and salt), pizza rossa (tomato sauce only) and pizza Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil). But not just these. Other popular toppings include spicy tomato sauce, artichokes, asparagus, eggplant, peppers, courgettes, spinach, onions, potatoes, prosciutto crudo or cotto, salami, mortadella, coppa, pancetta, sausage, ground truffles, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola, fontina, parmigiano, ground meat, anchovies, black or green olives and raw fresh ingredients like cherry tomatoes, rocket, fresh parsley and basil. And many more.

With ancient origins, Roman pizza is a humble product which has now transformed itself into a gourmet dish which is being served with such a variety of flavours to appeal to a global audience.

Once you have selected your slice (or slices!), all that is left for the pizzaiolo to say is: buon appetito!

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