There is almost no pizza that we wouldn’t like: we’ve enjoyed any from frozen tiles served in school lunchrooms, all the way to the finest Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified pizzerias across the country. Sure, we’d prefer every ingredient to be of the highest quality—a fine crust, robust red sauce, fresh cheeses and toppings—but admittedly, we’ve rarely pushed aside the classic trio of crust, sauce, and cheese, baked until crispy and melty. But is American pizza better than its Italian cousin (since they are related but not part of the same immediate family)? We spent a week in Rome, Italy to figure out this issue between leisurely sightseeing.
Not surprisingly, pizza is very popular among Romans, and both tourists and locals enjoy it equally. It’s sold in bakeries, restaurants and take-out stands. After climbing to the top of the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, these pies (above) from L’Insalata Ricca, a local chain around Rome, looked particularly tasty. My pizza capricciosa (translated in my phrase book as “the cook’s specialty,” though the Italian adjective means “whimsical or peculiar”) featured mushrooms, ham, olives, artichoke hearts, and a hard-boiled egg. The toppings certainly resembled something given to whimsy, and the taste was fabulous: very thin crust, chewy ends, flavorful cheese, and fragrant mushrooms:
Though L’Insalata Ricca was good, Osteria dell'Anima was better. Located just off the Piazza Navona, this charming restaurant also served world-class pasta, but this pizza with funghi e salciccia (mushrooms and coarse sausage) was quite wonderful. Roman pizza leans toward a cracker-thin crust, and this pie met every expectation:
Just over the Tiber River from the Castel Sant’Angelo, however, was the best pizza of our trip: Pizzeria O Pazzariello. The wood-fired oven ensured that each pie would be something extra special, and the freshness of the tomato sauce and cheese practically leapt off the pie. The rugged sausage and chewy crust were simply magnificent:
Of course, there was plenty of average pizza, too. Despite its proximity to Naples, the birthplace of pizza, the cafés around ancient Pompeii are no place to sample the pride of this region. However, we didn’t scoff too much at this sausage pizza:
Clearly, this slice from the same stall was better, with fresh cherry tomatoes and provolone cheese and a soft, chewy crust:
I even found a sandwich with a pizza on top at the Autogrill take-out counter at Termini Station—the best of both worlds! Who was the genius that invented this delectable beauty?
Next: the best pasta in the universe!