Rome's pizza al taglio is having a bicoastal moment.
Neapolitan-style has long been a pizza staple in the United States, but pizza al taglio – otherwise known as Roman pizza by the slice – only recently entered the American public consciousness. Although a few pioneers have been selling these rectangular slices stateside for a while, we largely have one Anthony Bourdain-endorsed pizzaiolo to thank for broadening our pizza landscape: Gabriele Bonci.
Known across Rome as “the Michelangelo of dough,” Bonci opened his first U.S. restaurant in Chicago, itself a hotly contested pizza town, last August. Since then, pizza al taglio places have been popping up all over the country, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
While each of these new spots has their own processes and flavor combinations, they all specialize in a Roman street food that is as ubiquitous in the Italian capital as dollar slice shops are in New York City. What differentiates pizza al taglio from other styles is its airiness. It’s light and fluffy yet thick enough to be topped with cheese, vegetables and meats without fear of crumbling apart.
This texture is achieved with a technique called cold fermentation, in which the dough is refrigerated for an elongated period of time – typically up to 72 hours – in order to slow the yeast fermentation process. When chilled, yeast takes longer to produce carbon dioxide and gluten has more time to develop. The more complex the gluten network, the more carbon dioxide can be locked in while baking, leading to an airy-er, more flavorful bread.
Gabriele Bonci's innovative approach to pizza al taglio — first perfected at his shop, Pizzarium, in Rome — is what propelled him to international pizza superstar. Bonci has created 1,500 different pizza recipes, and the menu changes daily at the first Bonci USA outpost in Chicago's West Loop. The pizzaiolo also recently announced expansion plans and will open a second location in Wicker Park.
Located in Center City, this shop is the love child of an Italian and a Pennsylvanian. Rome-born Francesco Crovetti, who trained at the Scuola Nazionale di Pizza in Rome, met his wife, Alison, while she was studying abroad. The couple shares a passion for pizza as well as the workload at the shop: he bakes and she tastes.
Il Romanista (Los Angeles):
Chef-owner Luigi Roditis grew up in L.A. but spent summers visiting family in Italy. "I consider Rome my second home," Roditis writes on his website. He wanted to bring his favorite part of his second home to friends and family back in California.
Rock Pizza Scissors (New York City):
Gadi Peleg, the partner behind New York City restaurants like Breads Bakery and Nur, was inspired by none other than Gabriele Bonci to create his own pizza al taglio. Cleverly named after the childhood handgame, Rock Pizza Scissors is located in Times Square and utilizes a stone deck oven. Daily flavors include shakshuka, made with housemade tomato matbucha and fried egg, and summer pie with fresh berries, ricotta, mascarpone, and Nutella.
Domenico Giovannini opened the first Alice in Via Delle Grazie in 1990. He has since opened several locations throughout Rome, and Philly is the franchise’s first U.S. outpost.
Triple Beam (Los Angeles):
In her first project since 2007, James Beard Award-winning chef Nancy Silverton has created her own version of Rome's pizza in conjunction with another Beard winner, Matt Molina. Perhaps in an effort to help educate us mere mortals on the ins and outs of Roman pizza, the duo refers to their shop as "The place where they weigh the pizza."
Check out this story for more on the best pizzas throughout Italy.